COVID cases rising locally for young children. Medical leaders talk about response.

Published 12:34 am Saturday, January 15, 2022

COVID in young children is the current concern as positive cases continue to rise in those under 5 who are unable to be vaccinated.

“Nationally there is a large number of children being reported,” said Judith Smith, director of the Port Arthur Health Department. “I think even the hospitalizations nationally has increased. I don’t think in our area we’ve seen a lot of pediatric hospitalizations but we are seeing the cases.”

Smith said Friday alone the department was reporting 12 new cases in children under 5 — nine in Port Arthur, one in Groves and two in Nederland. Most, Smith said, were infants.

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But because they’re unable to receive vaccinations, Smith said the best way to protect those under 5 is to ensure all eligible household members have been vaccinated.

“Sadly, we are seeing the rates of hospitalizations increasing for children zero to four, children who are not yet currently eligible for COVID 19 vaccination,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control, said during a recent news conference.

“This is the highest number of pediatrics hospitalizations we’ve seen throughout this pandemic.”

Smith said another issue the local health department has recently faced is parents wanting to vaccinate their children after finding out they’ve been exposed to a COVID-positive person.

“At the beginning of the week we saw a lot of parents bringing their children in, but they had gotten a letter from the school that they had been exposed,” she said. “And we don’t want to vaccinate then because if the child comes down with COVID, their symptoms could be worse.”

Smith said in such a situation, parents should allow the child to wait the advised quarantine time and then seek vaccination.

But children aren’t the only ones with concerning numbers as the health department reported two local deaths Thursday — one a white female from 65-70 from Port Arthur, and the second a white female between 70-75 in Port Neches. Both had underlying conditions.

There were also 136 new cases that day.

The day before (Wednesday), the department reported 144 positive cases.

In order to help with vaccinations among those who working during business hours, the department will host an extended-hour clinic this coming Thursday (June 20).

The goal, Smith said, is to do so every other Thursday for the immediate future.

According to Texas Health and Human Services, Jefferson County as of Friday was reporting full vaccinations in 50.93 percent of residents 5 and older.


While rapid tests have become the standard for those experiencing symptoms, health officials say they may not always be the way to go.

“Some people go and they have symptoms and the rapid test is negative, and then they get the PCR results and they’re positive,” Smith said.

“The PCR is the test that actually confirms. People want to find out quickly so they go have the rapid test, and that may not be accurate. Still, it’s better than nothing.”

PCR tests are molecular tests sent to a lab, according to information from the Mayo Clinic. While results typically aren’t available for 24 or more hours, these tests examine the sample while a rapid test is only designed to detect certain proteins within the virus.

PCR tests can be ordered through most physician offices and other testing locations.

Free rapid tests are available at 2600 Nederland Avenue in Nederland and 1708 Jefferson Drive in Port Arthur.