BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – According to Ochsner health officials, the average age of pediatric patients hospitalized is getting younger.

The average age of children admitted in July 2021 was 12 years old while the average age in the month of June 2021 was 16.

“There is clearly a lot more virus in the pediatric community than there has been in the past,” said Dr. William Lennarz, the Chair of Pediatrics at Ochsner.

Lennarz said the Delta variant does not infect children more, however, it is impacting children at a greater rate due to the low vaccination rates in the age group.

A few weeks ago Ochsner had zero children admitted to their Covid unit. On Wednesday, the hospital had 11 patients under the age of 19 hospitalized for Covid-19 when last week that number was seven.

Oschner health leaders say they are concerned with unvaccinated children going back to school in-person.

“The bright point here’s that children 12 and above can be vaccinated and that will impact the spread of Covid within schools,” said Lennarz.

Dr. Jill West, the Head of Child Psychology at Ochsner, said it’s crucial for kids to return to the classroom because of the stress and anxiety from the pandemic.

“Typically between the ages of 13 and 18 we might see some physical complaints headaches, stomach aches,” said West. “All these things are common behavioral changes when there are high-level changes of stressors.” 

Over the last week, Ochsner has seen a 23.6% positivity rate for children, which is an increase of about 11% from the start of July.  

Information on the COVID-19 vaccine is available here.