U.S. children covid hospitalizations hit ‘highest levels we’ve ever seen’: Doctor

Dr. Cedric Dark, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine & Board Member with Doctors for America, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US just hit a record high as the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to spread. Joining me now is Dr. Cedric Dark, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and board member with Doctors for America. Dr. Dark, it's always good to see you.

I know that you are there in Houston, and Texas is right now a hotbed. You've got surge in cases of COVID-19. Hospitals are stretched thin. Kids are going back to school, and the Texas Supreme Court has blocked mask mandates that two of the counties there in Texas were fighting for. Tell us what you are seeing right now in your area on the ground.

CEDRIC DARK: Well, right now in the hospitals, it's pretty packed. There's a very difficult time trying to get patients from the waiting room, from the front door into hospital beds. A colleague of mine just last night told me that he had heard word that we-- or a hospital in Texas had tried to transfer a patient to him. He lives all the way on the East Coast, 1,500 miles away. And I've heard stories like this from other doctors in other parts of the country, where they're trying to get patients out of the Deep South and into places that have open beds. We just don't have that available.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And what is the situation in terms of children in your area right now? I mean, we're hearing these really disturbing reports of the number of children getting sick and children now being hospitalized on the rise, something we didn't see with this virus months ago. But it seems to be what's happening with this new variant. And of course, doctor, we know these are the most vulnerable among us at the moment because children under 12 cannot yet get the vaccine.

CEDRIC DARK: Right. Exactly right. We're at a point where this is one of the highest levels we've ever seen children being hospitalized in this country as a result of this. Over the weekend, there were about four ICU beds available in our pediatric hospital for children in a nine-county region that covers about 6.6 million people here in Texas. And when you think about it, children under 12 can't protect themselves from this.

They can't get vaccinated. It's up to our leaders to act like adults and actually protect our kids. And the only way you can do that, especially as kids are going to school, is to make sure that not only are they wearing masks, but their teachers are wearing masks. And if you're an employer, if you run the schools, make sure that your employees are vaccinated. Teachers' jobs are to protect their students and to educate their students. They should be vaccinated, as well.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Speaking of that, Live Nation, which runs a bunch of different concerts and concert venues across the country, announced that they're going to mandate that anyone going to a concert, working behind the scenes at a concert needs to show proof of vaccination beginning October 4th. I heard that, and I thought, hm, that sounds a little late, given the situation we're in right now. What do you make of this mandate by Live Nation? Should we be seeing more organizations do this?

And is October 4th too late? Because I know there are concerts scheduled-- I mean, we had Lollapalooza just recently in Chicago take place, although they did require vaccinations there. But what do you make of what they're doing there at Live Nation?

CEDRIC DARK: Well, better late than never. I'd rather see it moved up. There's no reason it couldn't be moved up right now. Pretty much anybody over the age of 12 is eligible to be vaccinated at this point in time anyway. And if you're going to have an event like that, an event like Lollapalooza, thankfully it was outdoors, thankfully there was a vaccine mandate so that you had about 90% of the people in attendance, from what I've seen, were actually vaccinated.

And hopefully, that will keep their numbers down in terms of spreading COVID. But you know, again, if private industry, private businesses don't implement these mandates because, in some places, the states are not allowing them, it's really up to individuals to take care of themselves by vaccinating, by wearing masks. It's up to private businesses to make sure that their employees and their customers are protected, as well, because otherwise, what will happen inevitably is you'll wind up seeing me in an emergency department.

And I worked over the weekend on what we call an MSE shift. It's a shift where I'm out in the triage, in the waiting room seeing patients. And I can see them in a chair. You know, a chair is still a chair, and I can see patients sitting there. But a chair is not a bed, and a bed is not a staffed bed when there's no nurse there to staff it, right? So what I'm saying is people need to do what they can, be a part of the solution, instead of part of the problem so that we don't wind up seeing the overflow and the onslaught of patients coming to see us in the emergency department.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Mhm. You know, in terms of Lollapalooza, I read that about 12% of the attendees admitted they got the vaccine so that they could attend Lollapalooza. So I guess there's some evidence that mandating these things is helping get more people vaccinated. If you want to do that particular thing badly enough and you need to get vaccinated, you will. Do you think that we're just going to be seeing more and more of that until we reach herd immunity? And by the way, doctor, what do we consider herd immunity these days? Because I had heard early on it would be 70% to 75%. It seems like it needs to be much higher than that now.

CEDRIC DARK: Yeah, the Herd immunity question is something that would be very difficult for me to answer. You said it right, I think we were thinking around 75% to 80% might be the way to go, but we really don't know. Every virus is going to be different, to figure out how many people need to be vaccinated to stop the transmission from person to person. You know, ultimately, incentives are what is going to get us out of this. And if we can't do mandates at the federal or state level, it's going to be the incentives that our private industry partners put up.

If you want to fly on an airplane on United Airlines, you need to be vaccinated. And as a frequent flyer of United Airlines, I'm very happy that they do that. If you want to go to a movie theater or to a concert, if those private businesses want to implement mandates, that's great, because then you can create a safe space for people during this pandemic where the risk of them becoming infected from another customer or from an employee of that business is as low as possible.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Real quick, Doctor, hearing anything about boosters? When might we see them, and who might get them first?

CEDRIC DARK: So let's think a little bit about this in terms of boosters versus third shots. So right now, the guidance is, if you are immunocompromised, those patients need to get a third shot. Let's not misinterpret that as a booster shot, which would be something for people that are already in a what we would call immunocompetent state, where they would be getting a shot later on, you know, something akin to an annual flu shot. We're not at that point yet. The data is still out. We're waiting to figure those pieces of data out, and we'll let you know as soon as we find out about the information.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: We know you will, and we always appreciate it. Dr. Cedric Dark, always good to see you. Thanks so much.