The highly contagious omicron variant has been surging for weeks in New Jersey and an increasing number of children are being hospitalized.

During the COVID update in Trenton on Monday, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said while most kids who test positive don’t need to be hospitalized, “the number of pediatric patients in our hospitalized with confirmed COVID is currently at the highest level since the pandemic began.”

She said 82 children in the hospital have tested positive for the virus, but only 27 were hospitalized because of symptoms caused by COVID.

Keeping our kids safe

She stressed vaccination remains the strongest weapon we have to prevent serious illness in kids.

“In New Jersey, more than 90% of the children who are currently hospitalized with COVID have not received a single shot. Less than 3% have been fully vaccinated,” she said.

She also noted two children recently died from COVID.

State epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan said because of privacy considerations, specific information about the ages and medical histories of the children who have been hospitalized with COVID is not being shared. But some of them have not had previous underlying issues, and many are too young to be vaccinated.

Upper respiratory symptoms

Since the start of the pandemic, a thousand children across the nation have died from COVID, one of the top causes of deaths among children 5-11.

In New Jersey, 10 children under the age of 18 have died from COVID over the past 22 months.

A much higher risk

“Data from the CDC indicates unvaccinated adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than children who have been vaccinated,” Persichilli said.

She said for those too young to be vaccinated, “it’s really important that they be surrounded with people who are vaccinated. Approximately 520,000 children under the age of 5 are not yet eligible for any COVID-19 vaccination — they are all at risk.”

She pointed out kids who test positive for COVID are also at risk of developing Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, a condition that can result in widespread inflammation, including inflammation of the heart.

“There’s been a total of 156 cases of MIS-C here in New Jersey,” she said.

While the overall number of children who develop serious COVID symptoms remains quite small, Persichilli said we have no way to know who they will be so it’s vitally important to get as many kids vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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