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Shelby County leaders tour Le Bonheur Children's Hospital amid COVID-19 surge

"Some really hard facts were laid out around the stress on this hospital and the hospital systems in our community," said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Friday morning, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor, and Shelby County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eddie Jones toured Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

In addition to the tour, they met with Dr. Nick Hysmith, Director of Infection Control, and Dr. Sandy Arnold, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the hospital.

Le Bonheur has seen a rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. In addition to COVID, RSV and other illness are causing admissions to surge.

Friday, there were 20 children admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Seven of them are in critical care. 

After the tour, Mayor Lee Harris spoke to reporters.

"Some really hard facts were laid out around the stress on this hospital and the hospital systems in our community," said Harris.

A Le Bonheur spokesperson said in the past nine days, the number of children with COVID in the hospital has tripled.

"I would say overall we have seen in the last two weeks, we have seen kids that have been sicker. I don’t think there has been a change in the last several days to the severity of the illnesses that they present with," said Dr. Hysmith.

Hysmith said pediatric COVID cases may be plateauing right now, but they need to wait and see what happens. He added there are many unknowns with this disease when it comes to kids.

"Obviously we don’t have a lot of experience with COVID-19 in the pediatric population. This is something everyone is having to grapple with across the country. Seeing the complications these kids have, saying how long these kids are going to stay in our hospital is something we just don’t know," said Dr. Hysmith. 

Hysmith hopes more people masking up and getting the vaccine will help decrease the strain on the hospital system. He added the big unknown is what will happen with kids back in the classroom. It is believed that reducing the overall community spread will help reduce cases in schools. 

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"Everything adults do really should be done with the thought towards, 'how do I keep my child, how do I keep my neighbor's child, in school.' Because our behavior definitely affects whether or not children can stay in school," said Dr. Arnold.

After touring the hospital, the Chairman of the Shelby County Commission stressed getting vaccinated and masking up.

"For those nonbelievers who don’t want to take it, then this place where we are standing today - then you may be here with your child," said Eddie Jones.