Omicron wowed ER doctors in New York in the face of tidal waves

Dr. Matthew Harris has seen 30 patients at New York urban area Pediatrics the emergency room the next night Christmas.

12 of them — 12 children — tested positive for COVID-19.

Harris told The Daily Beast: “Every kid I see with a fever has COVID. “Each child includes, I can tell you, a number of babies.”

He wouldn’t have expected a case two months ago.

“It could be one if they are immunocompromised,” the pediatric emergency physician told The Daily Beast of the lull earlier this fall. “That’s a huge difference.”

The New York State Department of Health reported that 157 of the 7,536 children age 4 and younger who tested positive for the coronavirus came back positive on November 3, but the same statistics show. shows 546 out of 7,056 tested positive on December 20 — a rate nearly four times that. The state is further away report that the number of children (18 years and younger) hospitalized with COVID in New York quadrupled in two weeks.

“This is the first major mutation in pediatrics that we’ve experienced during the pandemic,” Harris said. “The number of children who test positive is skyrocketing. It is like a tidal wave.”

As Harris passes the news from parent to parent, he’s grateful to be able to tell them that the kids with COVID-19 are “doing well.” He reported that most of the children admitted to the hospital had underlying illnesses such as leukemia complicated by COVID. Only a handful of the otherwise healthy children he is treating have become seriously ill just because of the coronavirus.

But Harris says it’s too early to say whether the new Omicron variant leads to Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), as has sometimes happened with the Alpha variant and to a lesser extent with Delta.

“What worries me is what will happen three weeks from now,” Harris told The Daily Beast. “Are we going to see a high MIS-C ratio? … I think we just have to hold our breath and see what happens.”

Whatever the ratio, the absolute number of infections can translate into more MIS-C cases.

“These are some of the sickest kids I have ever seen in my career,” he says of COVID pediatric patients who later fall victim to a syndrome that can attack the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, eyes. and digestive system.

Whatever happens long-term, even if the majority of childhood COVID infections continue to be relatively mild, each patient needs appropriate care.

“The short-term issue is if my emergency department is overworked with COVID patients, how am I supposed to take care of the others?” he asks. “I mean, we’re a primary trauma center for kids in the state. And we had kids who were seriously injured, and I had to have a bed to put them in. “

As Northwell’s chief medical officer for emergency management, Harris has worked with his colleagues there and in other health care systems to expand and strengthen their capacity to handle whatever happens in the best possible way in this new wave.

“I think we are as prepared as possible for a major pediatric surgery for the patient,” he said. “But it kept me up at night.”

The challenge his establishment faces will likely soon be shared by his partners around the country.

“I think every children’s hospital is trying to think about: How do we get the kids home to make room for the next or the next child, or the next 10?” he say.

Meanwhile, the pandemic will continue to drag on into the next year.

“The inpatient burden has increased dramatically, but really here it remains the biggest threat to public health,” Harris said. “These children will continue to spread it. And they got it from someone. The most common place where children get COVID is still at home. “

At the end of a shift where dozens of patients test positive, he’ll do all he can to make sure he doesn’t bring the virus home to his three children.

Two of them are of school age. The third baby just turned 10 weeks old.

“I came home and I wanted to burn my clothes,” he said.

He performed a ritual many frontline medical workers followed when the first wave hit New York in the spring of 2020.

“I didn’t touch anything. I went upstairs, sat in the bathroom for 20 minutes, and I just hoped that I didn’t bring this home to my kids,” he recounted.

He speaks more as a father than as a doctor.

“They’re very vulnerable, and again, most kids will do just fine, I don’t want my kids to be in that denominator,” he said.

Harris himself contracted COVID-19 near the start of the pandemic, and became very ill.

“Wondering if I would ever see my children again,” he recalls. “You only have to have that feeling once in your life.”

He has also become Northwell’s director of vaccine deployment. He was social distancing in the next room when Registered Nurse Sandra Lindsey of that system became the first person in the country to receive the COVID-19 vaccine many of us hope will end. end the pandemic. His two older children were immunized on the first day they were eligible. And he advises the parents of his patients to make sure everyone in the family who hasn’t been hit does the same.

He certainly doesn’t accept the notion — which is becoming commonplace as Omicron spreads — that we too can accept that we’ll all get COVID anyway.

“Complacency can be dangerous,” he says. “Because there’s a risk, no matter what you get, you know, it’s always a risk… COVID broke all the rules.”

Early evidence suggests that this new variant may be less likely to cause severe disease than some earlier variants. But Harris knew that another mutation could change what was already bad into something much worse in just a few weeks.

“The other thing that caught my eye was that we were a variant without a type [virus], “I said.

He added: “It will make 2020 like a walk in the park. Omicron wowed ER doctors in New York in the face of tidal waves


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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