Allegheny County ran out of pediatric ICU beds and added tents to increase bed capacity

COVID cases in Allegheny County among people under 18 years old were 148 in June, 277 in July, and jumped exponentially to 1,127 in August

By: - September 21, 2021 12:03 pm

(Pittsburgh City Paper photo).

By Ryan Deto 

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Allegheny County, and the Delta variant continues to spread through all populations — including children —  in the region, the county recently ran out of pediatric ICU beds, according to state data. The shortage of beds for children who needed to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in Allegheny County even prompted UPMC Children’s Hospital to set up a tent outside to increase capacity.

On Sept. 17, UPMC announced the opening of a medical tent for the hospital’s Emergency Department in a tweet that called the number of children coming in as “historic.” Children’s hospital is the only pediatric hospital in the Pittsburgh region.

COVID cases among children have been increasing quickly in Allegheny County over the last few months. Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, told reporters that children ages 12 and under made up 12 percent of the county’s cases in August. COVID cases in Allegheny County among people under 18 years old were 148 in June, 277 in July, and jumped exponentially to 1,127 in August.

And it’s not just children. COVID cases among adults have also been increasing. Over the last week, Allegheny County has been averaging about 400 daily COVID cases. In June, the county was averaging about a dozen daily COVID cases.

Additionally, with the Delta variant  — which is more contagious than other variants — spreading, even more vaccinated people are catching COVID (although hospitalization and death rates remain very small among the vaccinated.) Bogen said that about 23 percent of Allegheny County’s new cases in August were “breakthrough” cases, which is the term used for a fully vaccinated person who contracts COVID.

However, only 10 percent of hospitalizations in Allegheny County were breakthrough cases, with the vast majority of COVID hospitalizations in the county being people who haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“In other words, the vaccines continue to do their job: protect from serious illness, hospitalization, and death,” said Bogen, according to PublicSource.

After seeing relatively fast rates of people getting the vaccine, the vaccination rates in Allegheny County have plateaued. As of Sept. 15, about 71 percent of Allegheny County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ryan Deto is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared. 

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