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Pediatrics Cases Concern Kootenai Health Officials

Courtesy of Kootenai Health

[This story first aired on the radio on September 10.]

Kootenai Health in Coeur d'Alene is seeing so many patients with Covid that providers are rationing care. The pediatrics department there is projecting that the high number of serious Covid cases will soon have an effect on children who need care.

Since the pandemic began, Kootenai Health has cared for more than two dozen children with Covid, from babies through age 18.

"Some have been pulmonary or respiratory, meaning they came in with cough, the difficulty breathing, the low oxygen," says Dr. Vanessa Carroll, the hospital's medical director of pediatrics. "We've had some of these patients with risk factors or co-morbidities that we give extra consideratin. But we've also had some without risk factors that are just normal children."

Carroll says there have been no fatal cases of Covid in children at Kootenai (as of September 10), but she says the projections for new pediatric cases over the next few months don't look good. She says the projections were developed using national case number trends. She says they also factored in the local vaccination rate (around 40%), including about 15% for youth aged 12-17.

"You figure those variables in with the lack of masking in schools, really no attention to ventilation and no contact tracing and that's how the number of roughly 200 children from the Coeur d'Alene School District will be impacted significantly by Covid and potentially require hospitalization," she said.

Carroll says perhaps a third of those could require intensive care, but Kootenai doesn't have a pediatrics ICU to place them. She says the hospital has designated 15 beds for young patients and is making efforts to prepare staff who are used to caring for adults.

"We have started training to ensure that our physicians, nurse and respiratory therapists are all proficient in being able to intubate a child, ensure that the vent settings are matched for their age and weight and make sure the medicatino they need are safely administered," she said.

Carooll believes masking in school classrooms, something not currently required in Kootenai County, could be the difference in reducing the number of serious pediatric cases.