Pediatric hospitals in Florida have become “completely overwhelmed” with young patients battling COVID-19 amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, a doctor says.
The grim development comes as Florida on Sunday reported having the highest number of children — 172 — hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
“The numbers of cases in our hospitals in children and our children’s hospitals are completely overwhelmed,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious-disease expert at Florida International University, to CNN late Friday.
“Our pediatricians, the nursing, the staff are exhausted, and the children are suffering. And it is absolutely devastating … Our children are very much affected. We’ve never seen numbers like this before,” she said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has faced criticism for forbidding school districts from requiring masks for students and school workers amid the crisis, saying it should be up the parents and employees to decide.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana on Sunday blasted DeSantis for standing in the way of mask mandates.
“The local officials should have control here,” said Cassidy, who is also a physician, CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Whenever politicians mess with public health, usually it doesn’t work out well for public health.’’
Cassidy said the Republican governor’s approach went against conservative values.
“I’m a conservative. I think you govern best when you govern closest to the people being governed,” Cassidy said.
“And if a local community is [seeing] their ICU is full and the people at the local schools see that they’ve got to make sure they stay open because otherwise children miss out for another year of school and they put in policy, then the local officials should be listened to. That is a conservative principle.”
Surging case numbers have been recorded in the state amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Florida broke a new record over the weekend for COVID-19 cases — recording 134,506 infections Friday for the first time since the pandemic began.
The state’s hospitalizations also reached their highest point in the pandemic last week, with more than 12,864 confirmed COVID-19 patients as of Friday.