father daughter christmas tree

A child gives her dad a big hug in front of a Christmas tree.

Like many children’s care facilities nationwide, Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital and our pediatric outpatient clinics have been at or near capacity since September.

Two key issues are at play. The first is fewer pediatric inpatient beds in other hospitals. The second is the unprecedented early and lasting surge in viral illness in our children, particularly due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a 15% to 20% reduction in pediatric hospital beds nationwide. Because Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, we don’t intend to reduce pediatric services. But we need help from our community to keep children out of the hospital.

First, if your child is feeling sick, keep them at home. By having them avoid close contact with family members and friends, you can limit the spread of germs. Practicing social distancing and masking are effective ways to help contain viral illness.

Second, wash your hands frequently and wipe down toys and often-touched surfaces with disinfecting wipes. Because viruses — notably RSV and rhinovirus — can live on surfaces, they can be passed on by touching things such as doorknobs, countertops or other household items.

Third, although there isn’t an approved vaccine for RSV yet, there are safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 and influenza. We expect a surge in flu cases this winter, and it’s not too late to protect your family and children against it. Having your child vaccinated against respiratory illnesses can keep them out of the doctor’s office or hospital. So please protect them with flu and COVID shots — and protect yourself, as well!

This viral season has already affected many families in our region. We anticipate that the winter months will strain our pediatric services to the limit. Together, let’s work to prevent the spread of germs, treat the ill and keep our children safe and home for the holidays. With your help, our children’s hospital can continue caring for all the kids in all our communities.

stacey cummings geisinger thumb

Stacey Cummings, MD, Chair of Geisinger Pediatrics

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