Children’s National in DC nearing capacity amid surge in respiratory illnesses

Children’s National Hospital in D.C. is nearing full capacity amid a surge in respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and another viral disease usually seen in the winter months.

The hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Wessel, said that as the hospital reaches capacity, its priorities are patient safety, the efficacy of treatment and the support of hospital staff.

There has been an increase in the number of patients across the country that need to be hospitalized, and Wessel said two factors seem to be involved.

“One is an early and large peak in what we would usually see as a winter respiratory viral illness pattern. The other factor here is that we’re also seeing more COVID patients,” Wessel said.

Last year, the hospital did not see any cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. And this year, Wessel said, cases are cropping up early in the season — in the late summer rather than the usual late fall and winter.

During a surge several months ago, the hospital saw up to 18 COVID patients, a number that Wessel said was small compared with the cases of adults and also compared with the number of COVID-positive children in the community.

Currently, however, the hospital is seeing more cases.

“In the past week, we’ve seen inpatients that have been, in the numbers in the low 20s, so 22 to 24 patients. Right now, today, we have 22 patients in the hospital with COVID-related illness,” Wessel said.

The surge is likely going to continue for at least a few weeks, and Wessel said the hospital is prepared to adapt to even further surges to accommodate the sick children.

Children’s National spokeswoman Diana Troese said that although the hospital is lingering around full capacity, “our team and hospital remain ready to serve the families who need us. The doors are open. It’s just very busy.”

For parents who may be worried about their children getting COVID-19, Wessel said children in general do well, even with COVID-19 illness.

“Yes, some require hospitalization but not nearly at the same rate that adults do. Some children do get critically ill, but again, not nearly in the same proportions as we’ve seen in adults,” Wessel said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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