GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the omicron variant surges in Michigan, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is seeing a record number of patients with COVID-19.

“During the first three waves with delta and the other variants, we did not see the significant impact on the pediatric population. That has definitely changed with omicron,” said Dr. Hossain Marandi, the president of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

The hospital currently has 22 kids — ranging in age from babies to 17 years old — with COVID-19, the hospital said Wednesday. Eleven are in the ICU.

Helen DeVos is also seeing more cases of MIS-C — a disease associated with COVID-19 that can take a devastating toll — every week than it previously saw during the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, the hospital has admitted 478 kids with COIVD-19 as of last week. Half of those cases came after August 2021. Only 11 were fully vaccinated, health officials say.

The hospital has had three COVID-19 related pediatric deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Marandi said most of the patients with COVID-19 were admitted because of symptoms directly related to their COVID-19 infection.

He asked the community to do what it can to protect kids from COVID-19, like getting vaccinated and wearing masks, especially since kids younger than 5 cannot get vaccinated.

“What is the life of a child worth?” Marandi asked. “We have a child that is infected with COVID and ends up in the ICU, such as the 11 that I mentioned: Is that really worth the risk that we want to take as responsible adults?”

While many kids who contract COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms, it’s impossible to tell which kids will see a turn for the worse, Marandi said.

“We are here to take care of pediatric patients, this is what we do, this is what we’re good at. And we will always be there to support our communities and our patients and our families, to be able to be healthy and to be able to be safe. We just ask to please do what you can do to help us keep those kids safe,” Marandi said. “We need you. We need you to be vaccinated, we need you to protect them, and in the case that you need us we’re always there to be able to take care of it.”

Marandi encouraged parents to get their kids vaccinated. Dr. Del DeHart, an infectious disease specialist with U-M Health West, has a similar message.

“We know enough now to know that it’s safe,” DeHart said. “Certainly, we know it’s safer than the infection itself.”

He pointed out that if kids aren’t vaccinated and get infected with COVID-19, it can impact the family and disrupt work and school for weeks, as they could pass it on to their sibling.

DeHart also said we don’t yet know the long-term effects COVID-19 has in children.

The state reported 86,009 new cases over five days on Wednesday, and 501 new COVID-19 related deaths. In total, Michigan has seen 28,980 COVID-19 related deaths.

Testing rates over the last five days have been in the 33% range, with a 33.9% positivity rate on Tuesday.