Child in Travis County dies from COVID-19

Austin Public Health officials have announced that the first pediatric death from COVID-19 in Travis County occurred over the weekend.

Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes spoke about the child’s death during a joint meeting of Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning.

"That individual was a child who had co-morbidities and had been on a ventilator for over a month," Walkes said.  

Doctors at Austin Regional Clinic said they are also seeing more children test positive for COVID-19 this year and believe the increase is because of the more contagious Delta variant circulating in the community.

"It's pretty rare that a child gets very sick with COVID," said Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, an Austin Regional Clinic pediatrician.

However, Knapp said it’s more common this year than last.

"Because the Delta variant is so much more contagious. It is affecting all people in our community who are at risk for getting coronavirus, including our young children. We've had lots of infants who have been infected, as well as toddlers and school aged children," said Knapp.

Walkes told city and county leaders there has been an increase in pediatric hospital admissions in recent months. Since July 1, 108 children have been hospitalized and 33 of them have treated in ICUs according to the public health authority.

"Unfortunately, our pediatric patients don't have the protection, or are not eligible to have the protection of a vaccine. And so we are seeing more cases of children with COVID. And more cases of it spreading throughout classrooms, or in families, more than it was a year ago," Knapp said.

With vaccines only available to children 12 and older, doctors said other precautions can make all the difference for kids right now, especially when it comes to children with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, like diabetes.

"So, of course, the only way we can protect our babies and our children in our community, is to make sure that everybody is wearing their mask when they're around people who are not people they live with. Anybody outside of their household- please wear a mask when you're around them. And everybody who is eligible for a vaccine, everybody who can get a vaccine, we urge everybody to go ahead and do that to be vaccinated and protect our children and those who cannot yet get their vaccines," said Knapp.

Austin Regional Clinic is currently involved in a study of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, the next age group that will likely be eligible to be vaccinated. Knapp said the belief is that will happen later this fall. 

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