ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Department of Health (DOH) said there has been an alarming increase in the number of kids hospitalized with COVID-19. This is being seen in New York City and surrounding areas where the omicron variant was first detected.

The DOH said omicron is spreading rapidly in New York City and surrounding cities. Eventually, that spread could make its way to other parts of the state as well.

“The risks of COVID-19 for children are real,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. We are alerting New Yorkers to this recent striking increase in pediatric COVID-19 admissions so that pediatricians, parents, and guardians can take urgent action to protect our youngest New Yorkers.”

The DOH is calling on parents to get children aged five or older vaccinated. They are also asking parents or guardians to get vaccinated or booster shots, wear a mask and practice social distancing. They said this is the best defense for kids under the age of five, who are not eligible to get vaccinated.

“We must use all available safe and effective infection control, prevention, and mitigation strategies,” Bassett said. “Protect your children who are five years and older by getting them fully vaccinated and protect children under five by making sure all of those around them have protection through vaccination, boosters, mask-wearing, avoiding crowds, and testing.” 

There have been four times as many reports of kids/teens 18 years old and younger in New York City hospitalized with COVID beginning the week of December 5, according to the DOH. They said the week of December 19, all kids ages 5-11 hospitalized were not vaccinated, while two-third of kids ages 12-17 were unvaccinated. “These startling trends underscore the critical importance of protecting our children from COVID-19,” the DOH said.

Common symptoms of COVID in kids include fatigue, headache, trouble sleeping, muscle aches, cough that becomes productive, sore throat, chills, nasal congestion, and new loss of taste or smell. As of December 24, 16.1% of kids aged 5-11 are fully vaccinated and 64.1% of kids/teens aged 12-17 are fully vaccinated, said the DOH.