Friday, January 21, 2022

Rising COVID-19 pediatric infections creating domino effect for staffing


 Hospitals report record-high COVID-19 pediatric cases during ongoing staffing shortage

The omicron variant presents a new challenge for our community – widespread infections among children. It’s had a domino effect throughout the area, from schools to businesses to health care facilities. It’s more important than ever to have children vaccinated and boosted when eligible, and make sure they wear well-fitting masks when they’re around others. 

Getting our children vaccinated is important. In the past two weeks, 91% of the children admitted to our pediatric hospitals were unvaccinated. 

“In the omicron surge we are seeing more pediatric cases than ever before,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “This spike in pediatric infections and hospitalizations is happening as hospitals operate with an ever-shrinking workforce. We must protect our children and our entire community by wearing masks and getting vaccinated.” 

Staffing shortages extend to industries beyond health care. Parents and caretakers must stay home with sick children and may require additional time off if/when the virus spreads within the home. Our community continues to see a sky-high Community Transmission Rate, currently at 1,896 cases per 100,000 in the past 7 days. At this level, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance suggests schools cancel or hold high-risk sports and extracurricular activities virtually to protect in-person learning.  

Read updated CDC guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools 

Read Texas Education Agency public health guidance published Jan. 7 

Per Health Authority Rules, students, staff, and visitors over the age of two are required to wear a face covering while on school property or school buses during Stages 3, 4, and 5. Austin Public Health works with local school districts to provide additional vaccine opportunities for families. 

“Child care programs are caring for our youngest community members who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated,” said Donna Sundstrom, Austin Public Health Assistant Director of Community Services. “Working families need our whole community to take the steps we know work to lower community transmission, so that child care programs can remain staffed and open, and parents can continue to work.” 

Everyone 5 and older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. People 12 and older may get a booster shot five months after their initial doses. Right now, more than 70 percent of people in Austin-Travis County are fully vaccinated. Children 5-11 have been eligible to receive vaccines since November 2021. However, only 26% of them have been fully vaccinated, putting the unvaccinated in this age group at higher risk of infection, severe disease and hospitalization.  

“Austin Public Health continues to work with our local school districts to make pediatric vaccines readily available,” said Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “We’re asking the community to answer our call to get vaccinated so we can get a handle on this outbreak.” 

APH vaccine and testing information 

People can find vaccine providers using ( in Spanish) or by texting their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.  

APH clinics offer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing without appointment, although creating an account online in advance saves time. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 or visit    

To help reserve our emergency rooms for medical emergencies, people who are asymptomatic or experiencing minor symptoms may inquire about testing options by calling 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905, or by visiting Please don’t call 9-1-1 for testing information.