Two children, including newborn, die of COVID-19 at north Florida hospital

Doctors at a Jacksonville hospital said a two-week-old baby was one of two children to die of COVID-19 complications this week.

Dr. Michael Gayle, the medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Wolfson Children's Hospital, made the announcement during an online webinar Wednesday, News4Jax reports.

"Yes, children will get less problems with COVID, but they do get severe conditions, and we will see more and more of those in the intensive care unit," Gayle said, adding that the recent surge due to the delta variant has also dramatically increased the number of children who have been hospitalized. "We are averaging about five to six children in intensive care with respiratory failure, kidney failure."

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While pediatric hospitalizations and deaths remain a small fraction of Florida's overall numbers, which have skyrocketed since June, they are exponentially higher than they were during previous waves of the disease.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported approximately 470 pediatric deaths between the ages of 0 and 18 since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. 

About 60 children are being admitted per day to Florida hospitals for COVID-19, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from about five per day throughout much of the pandemic — even previous surges.

Overall, about 230 children are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19, compared to 20 in late June when the disease appeared to be waning, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 15,000 patients of all ages are currently hospitalized in Florida, up from about 1,800 in June.

RELATED: Central Florida hospitals add portable morgues to handle COVID-19 deaths

The pediatric increase has come as schools have reopened and DeSantis has battled with districts over whether masks should be required in classrooms. Twelve of the state’s 67 districts, representing about half of the state’s 2.8 million public school students, have now defied DeSantis’ executive order. It bars schools from requiring masks over parent objections — an order that a judge threw out on Friday, saying the governor did not have the authority.

DeSantis has said he will appeal, saying there is no scientific evidence or medical consensus that universal school masking prevents the spread of COVID-19 among children. He believes the decision on whether a child wears a mask in class should be left to families and not school boards.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.