NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Tennessee emergency room physician warns of darker days ahead in the fight against COVID-19, if nothing is done to slow the virus.
Dr. Katrina Green, a rural Tennessee Emergency Physician, said kids including teenagers eligible for the vaccine, are being hospitalized.
Nearly 94,000 pediatric cases have been reported Nationwide in the last week, and children are hospitalized at a rate nearly four times higher than a month ago.
With students back in the classroom, emergency physicians are calling for measures to be taken to ensure their safety, and emphasize politics must be left out of it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging the FDA to grant emergency use authorization of vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds as soon as possible.
“Just three weeks ago, I wasn’t seeing any COVID cases in my ER,” Dr. Green told News 2.
Kids are returning back to school with low vaccinations for those eligible, and no vaccinations for kids under 12.
“Just a couple nights ago, I had a night shift that was pretty busy with a lot of sick COVID patients,” Dr. Green continued, “Luckily, none were sick enough to need to be in the hospital.”
The Delta COVID-19 variant is proving to be more contagious.
“I diagnosed my very first pediatric COVID patients that night – both of whom were teenagers. What’s concerning to me was that both of them were due to start school the following day,” Dr. Green said.
Governor Bill Lee’s office released a statement in response to Tennessee’s rising COVID-19 pediatric cases Tuesday. “The Governor spoke to this issue during his media availability yesterday.”
On Monday, Gov. Lee said in part, “One of the things we’re doing is we’re providing more information and data about the pandemic with regard to children.” He continued, “The department of health is delivering more widespread information on not just hospitalizations but data around children… we care deeply about our kids and their future and their health and well being.”
Rep. Gloria Johnson, Democrat Knoxville, said she has met with teachers in her district who are “extremely” concerned. “There’s a meeting in Knox County, the school board, tomorrow. These teachers really want a mask mandate in school buildings and on buses.”
Johnson, who is a former teacher, said threats against school districts and employees coming from legislative leaders and politicians are risking the health of kids.
“We know what’s happening with this Delta variant, and we don’t have anybody who is willing to step up and lead or at least let locals make their own decision,” Johnson said.
When asked if he would recommend schools instituting a mask mandate Monday, Gov. Lee responded, “I would recommend that school districts listen to their parents.” He added, “The way our state laws are set up, school districts have the authority to make those decisions. Those school board members are elected locally in those communities and should listen to their parents.”
Dr. Green said there should be clear masking guidelines in all Tennessee schools.
“Optional masking or no mask requirements for schools with cases going up is just a recipe for disaster for Tennessee’s children,” Dr. Green said. “What we’re going to see, if schools don’t reverse course and institute universal mask requirements, is that cases will continue to go up, and this will lead to more children needing to be hospitalized from COVID.”
8 percent of ICU beds are available in the state. That is about 170 beds out of about 2,000 ICU beds.
There’s a total of 36 children infected with COVID-19 currently hospitalized in Tennessee with 13 in the ICU and 5 being treated with a ventilator.