HONOLULU (KHON2) — Though there is a growing belief among health professionals that the omicron variant of COVID-19 is less severe, there is a group of people being hit particularly hard right now in the United States — children.

According to CDC data, average pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up 48% from the week before across the U.S.

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Hawaii has had 2,095 pediatric cases in the last two weeks alone. That’s more than all of the pediatric cases in the prior 10 weeks combined (2.030).

Still, pediatric hospitalizations have only increased by one in the past week locally, and pediatricians haven’t seen more severity.

“What I’m in the office children are either having no symptoms or just minor cold symptoms but we’re going ahead and testing them,” pediatrician Dr. Theresa Wee said.

Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Lee says what’s just beginning on the mainland will most likely make it’s way here.

“It’s going to repeat like we’ve seen with original surge with delta, omicron,” Lee said. “It’s a matter of time before we see those same trends bear out in our state population.”

This has been particularly difficult for children who are too young to be vaccinated.

“More concerning is the zero to four-year-olds. We’re seeing an increase in severity and health outcomes,” Lee said. “That same age population is zero to four compared to delta compared to the original strain, across those three variants for that same age group. They are doing worse with omicron.”

For those young kids, especially ones in preschool, Dr. Wee recommends upgrading masks if possible, although comfort and wear-ability are still key.

“They are saying those homemade cloth masks may not be the best,” Wee said. “If you can get the surgical masks, the thing is though we have to have a mask that the child is willing to wear.”

Many parents struggle with decision-making when it comes to managing risk. Dr. Wee recommends to take your children into account and try to avoid settings with a multitude of people.

“I do believe that if you have younger children under 5 you have to alter your behavior slightly,” Wee explained. “I’m not saying live in fear and not go out but maybe you can go to Costco on a weekday morning or just be a little more selective.”

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Dr. Wee also recommends kids who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine do so, but for those aged 2-4 years old Pfizer’s clinical trials failed to create an immune response. A new trial with a third dose isn’t expected to be approved until the second quarter of 2022.