RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. - An infant died after contracting COVID-19, becoming the youngest person in Riverside County to die from the virus, according to the county’s public health department.
The infant, who is less than a year old, died this week at the hospital after becoming ill. Health officials are trying to determine if there were underlying health conditions that may have played a part in the baby's death.
"This loss reminds us that this virus does not discriminate between the young and old," said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, public health officer for Riverside County.
Health officials say infants under the age of one might be at a higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 than older children. They say this is likely due to their immature immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more likely to develop breathing issues with respiratory virus infections.
It’s a sad milestone for a community that is dealing with a surge in hospitalizations and overwhelmed emergency rooms. But this surge is different from last year’s, with the majority of patients being admitted, not for COVID, but for other diseases.
"A lot of people were not able to go to doctors or deal with health issues during the last couple of years" explains Dr. Bruce Weng, an infectious disease expert at Riverside Community Hospital in Moreno Valley.
They’ve seen a 77% increase in COVID-19 cases where people need treatment, but only 28% of those actually admitted are in the hospital because of COVID.
From diabetic shock to strokes, and yes, some influenza cases – those are the types of emergencies they are dealing with.
But with a large number of staffers quarantining after testing positive for COVID, medical facilities are overwhelmed. Many people are showing up at emergency rooms to get tested even when they are not sick, explains Jose Arballo Jr, with Riverside County Health.
That slows down the system even more so they are adding more testing sites and extending operating hours from 8 to 12 hours.
Again, the majority of seriously-ill COVID patients, 90% of those admitted to hospitals, are not vaccinated, so there is a push for people to get vaccines and boosters. Omicron is proving to be less lethal than its predecessor variant, Delta, but it’s highly transmissible.
Positivity rates are increasing since more people are testing for work and school. Health officials are hoping this surge will peak in the next couple of weeks, as cases from people gathering for the holidays start making their way through the system.
A 4-year-old child also from Riverside County who died after contracting COVID in August. And a child under the age of five died in Orange County last week from the virus.
Currently in the U.S., no COVID vaccine has been authorized for use in children under five years old. Last week, the CDC recommended a third dose of a primary vaccine series for certain immunocompromised children aged 5-11.
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