By Peter D'Oench

FORT LAUDERDALE(CBSMiami) – A teenager with COVID, who is in the intensive care, is speaking out as another hospital is seeing a huge increase in pediatric cases.

Dr. Ronald Ford, the chief medical officer at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “The number is increased tenfold from June to July. Most patients presenting with symptoms have respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID infections. We are seeing a lot of children with COVID pneumonia. Now most children are able to be treated and released and not admitted to the hospital.”

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A spokeswoman for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital said the number of pediatric patients with COVID increased from 23 in June to 241 in July.

Dr. Ford said, “The first thing that concerns me about the last couple of weeks is the rate of rise. Even if you look at last year during the Pandemic we did not see such a steep increase in such a short period of time. I think we can attribute this to being such a contagious strain of the variant. Because it is so contagious we are seeing a lot more children infected over a short period of time.”

From his hospital bed in the ICU at Broward Health, 17-year-old David Espino told D’Oench, “I believe COVID is nowhere near gone. I believe we should keep masks in place and that will keep things safer in school.”

“What I think is that this is just another stepping stone in life with so many things going on in this world and all this COVID. I believe people should stop doing big events,” he said.

Espino said he is looking forward to playing football again at Western High School.

His mother Maricel Espino said her son had a headache and tightness in his chest starting 12 days ago and that’s when she took him for a COVID test that was positive. She said she took him to Coral Springs Medical Center and he was transferred to Broward Health Medical Center on Monday.

She said, “I thought it wasn’t as severe in kids but when I saw him every day, it was getting worse and worse. At one point it got very scary when his oxygen started to decrease but you know thankfully we are in the hospital and they were able to address that.”

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She said she is now an advocate for face masks and getting vaccinated.

“I think masks should be in place,” she said, “especially in schools. My relatives have not gotten vaccinated and I am encouraging them to do it. It can be a life changer.”

She said she had been vaccinated but her son was not.

That prompted David’s physician, Dr. Jennifer Davis, to note, “The vaccination is absolutely critical. If you are of the age and you are able to get vaccinated you should be getting vaccinated. So everybody 12 and above should get vaccinated and they are readily available. What we are seeing is that most people who are vaccinated are able to avoid hospitalizations.”

Dr. Ford also had some potentially life-saving advice.

“I think parents should continue to educate themselves about what’s going on in the community and the prevalence of the virus,” he said. “Also they should continue to educate themselves on ways to prevent the spread. Parents have the most power to do that by encouraging social distancing, good hygiene and mask wearing.”

Dr. Ford said, “I think parents should develop a contingency plan if their children get sick.”

He did say he was concerned with youngsters in Broward returning to school on August 18 and students in Miami-Dade returning to classes on August 23.

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He said, “You take a very infectious virus like this and you put in a susceptible population in a confined area and there’s only one outcome. You can expect from that that it is going to spread.”

Peter D'Oench