Dr. Diane Arnaout, a pediatrician at Cook Children's Forest Park clinic in Fort Worth, published an essay Thursday sharing what doctors are seeing inside area children's hospitals as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Arnaout avoided the much-publicized need of adding staff via travel nurses, and instead focused on the number of people seeking medical help at area hospitals and urgent care centers. In conversations with her peers, Arnaout confirmed what has been reported in recent days and weeks -- that there is an influx of patients at area hospitals, including pediatric hospitals, that is untenable but that can be mitigated.
On Tuesday, Arnaout's employer said that due to a record number of patients they were making changes at area Urgent Care Centers related to hours and online check-ins. Arnaout talked to Dr. Kara Starnes, medical director for the company's urgent care centers, who said they had been seeing more patients each day than they did in a week during the pandemic last summer.
"This is indicative of the impact that the delta variant of SARS-CoV2 is having on our children. We are doing our very best in the UCCs to fulfill the promise of Cook Children’s to every patient that enters our doors, but there are more patients than we can handle and our staff is exhausted," Starnes told Arnaout.
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The hospital said in a statement Tuesday that patient volume at urgent care centers was surging, with more than 900 patients seen on Sunday and another 1,000 patients recorded on Monday. The average number of patients normally seen at the urgent care locations was about 600.
Arnaout said she also spoke with Dr. Corwin Warmink, director of the emergency department at the main hospital in downtown Fort Worth, who said they saw 587 patients in the ER on Monday -- or 24 hours straight of a new patient every 2.5 minutes.
It's not just COVID-19 that is driving parents to bring their children to the hospital. Arnaout said, "capacity has been stretched thin the past few weeks with RSV, COVID-19 as well as other illnesses and injuries."
If your child has been exposed to COVID-19 but is asymptomatic, Arnaout shared some practical advice for parents.
"If your child is exposed to COVID, but is feeling fine – there is no need to panic. I wouldn’t run to the urgent care or ER," Arnaout wrote. "I’d look into setting up an appointment with your pediatrician, either in-person or virtually, and scheduling a test 3-5 days after the exposure. You can also consider at-home testing."
If your child is COVID-19 positive, but is drinking well, urinating and breathing normally, and has not had a fever for more than five days and seems to be feeling OK, Arnaout said to watch them closely and notify your pediatrician of any changes.
Arnaout then reiterated the message that so many health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have shared for more than a year -- wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of the virus and is recommended for everyone who is unvaccinated.
"Masking your child protects others – absolutely. But it also protects your child. I highly recommend sending your kiddos to school in a mask," Arnaout said.
Arnaout's message was published on Checkup Newsroom, Cook Children's Health Care System's public site for sharing news concerning the health and wellbeing of children. To read the doctor's essay and see other recommended, small changes that can be made to keep children safe, click here.