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NEW YORK — New York health officials sounded the alarm on Monday over the increasing number of children being hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York City.

The state Health Department on Friday issued a health advisory to pediatricians and parents regarding the “startling” uptick in pediatric hospitalizations.

The near-fivefold increase in hospitalizations began around Dec. 5, when there were 22 children under the age of 18 hospitalized with COVID in New York City (70 statewide), according to the state Department of Health. By Dec. 23, 109 children were hospitalized (184 statewide). 

While the number of hospitalizations is relatively small compared to the state’s population, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said on Monday the spike over a short period of time — amid a wave of new cases spurred by the highly transmissible omicron variant — was cause for concern.

Dr. Roberto Posada, professor in the divisions of infectious diseases and medical education in the Jack and Lucy Clark Department of Pediatrics, told PIX11 News on Monday doctors at Mount Sinai hospitals are seeing the same trend.

“Mostly we’re seeing children that have high fevers and difficulty breathing so that they have a need for oxygen or respiratory support,” Posada said.

Bassett also encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated.

For the week of Dec. 19, none of the children between the ages of 5 and 11 who were admitted to the hospital with COVID were fully vaccinated. During the same week, a quarter of the 12- to 17-year-olds who were admitted were fully vaccinated, according to DOH.

However, the child vaccination rate remains “disappointingly low,” Bassett said.

As of Monday, 27% of 5- to 11-year-olds have received at least one dose and a little over 16% were fully vaccinated.