A prominent local pediatrician says she is seeing more young patients with COVID-19 than at any time during the pandemic. However, Dr. Sharon Robinson, of NorthShore University HealthSystem, says “the numbers are still small, and none of the patients have required hospital care.”

Robinson is also with the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance, made up of NorthShore, Advocate Children’s Hospital, and Comer Children’s (University of Chicago).

Robinson says a couple of her patients per week are now being diagnosed with COVID, a very low number, but still an increase over the usual zero.

The pediatrician says “the symptoms have been mild, and the children recover within a couple of days.” Those contracting the virus, she adds, are all unvaccinated and too young to get the vaccine.

While kids younger than 12 are not yet eligible for coronavirus shots, Robinson says Evanston’s high percentage of those 12 and up who are fully vaccinated (79%) is a good sign for whenever younger children do become eligible.

She also says Evanston and Illinois are different than places like “Florida and Texas, with so many unvaccinated people and governors who are not willing to protect their constituents” with mask mandates for school children.

Thousands of youngsters, primarily in the South, are already on COVID-related quarantine — 20,000 of those kids are in Mississippi.

However, Robinson believes that in Evanston, COVID numbers for children “might actually go down” once school begins. That’s because District 202 and District 65 are following strict mitigation measures, such as mandatory mask wearing.

Once back in school here, Robinson says, the youngsters “will be in a controlled environment,” unlike over the summer when they may have traveled to higher-COVID areas, or been less strict about putting on a mask or washing hands.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, 18% of COVID cases nationwide in the week ending Aug. 12 were among children (121,427), a steady increase since the beginning of July.

However, the hospitalization rate remains extremely low, 0.8 per 100,000 cases in Illinois, according to Advocate Children’s Hospital.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, 22 children in Illinois have died from COVID-19 out of 23,551 total fatalities, or 0.01%.

Robinson urges anyone who has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shots as soon as possible, particularly with the spread of the Delta variant.

“We need to do everything we can before the kids become eligible” for vaccination, she adds.

To that end, the City of Evanston and School District 65 are holding a free vaccination clinic on Aug. 28 at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

The event is open to all Evanston residents including school children ages 12 and older, as well as District 65 students over 12 who live in Skokie. Unvaccinated school employees are also eligible.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.