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In-person learning impacting rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases

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According to state data, there’s currently only three staffed pediatric intensive care unit beds available in the Rio Grande Valley. Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez says children physically going back to school is contributing to the rise in pediatric cases.

On Thursday, Hidalgo County reported 15 deaths due to COVID-19, the youngest of which was a woman in her 20's from Alamo. Of the 356 new positive cases reported, the bulk of them, 96, are in children 11 years old or younger.

READ ALSO: Hidalgo County reports 15 coronavirus-related deaths, 356 positive cases  

Dr. Melendez says cases of pediatric deaths due to COVID-19 are also rising.

“Last week, we had one child who died that was nine; the day before yesterday we had a child day that was 14 months,” Dr. Melendez said. “So we’ve almost doubled our pediatric deaths in the last two weeks.”

RELATED: ‘No one is immune:’ 9-year-old Mercedes girl dies of COVID complications, Hidalgo County health authority confirms  

Melendez also says the region is seeing a stark difference from a year ago when schools were online compared to this year, when most children have returned to in-person learning.

“This year, in the three weeks that we’ve been open, we have over 1,000 kids who have tested positive in schools,” Melendez said.

It’s yet another reason why health experts, including Dr. Melendez, are urging Valley residents to get their shot.

“So currently, as of today, out of all the thousands of people that have died in Hidalgo County, 0.63 have been fully vaccinated,” Dr. Melendez said.

Dr. Melendez adds that people who have died even after getting the vaccine were extremely sick.

“I’m not talking about your routine obesity, diabetes, and hypertension that most of us have here in the Valley,” Dr. Melendez said. “I’m talking about people who had stage four metastatic cancers.”

A UTRGV pediatrician says, vaccinated or unvaccinated, everyone needs to mask up, because you can spread the virus without knowing it.

"Even if you’re vaccinated, and even if you have decreased viral loads, so that means you have less virus in your particles, you can still get others sick, which is why it’s so important to still wear masks,” said Dr. Keila Rodriguez.

Both doctors say it’s important to take steps to prevent yourself from getting COVID-19 because the virus can and likely will continue to mutate, leading to more variants like delta down the road.

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