ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — A new study by Rochester Regional Health looked at the delta variant of COVID-19 compared to the omicron variant in children under 5.

During the omicron outbreak, the hospital system said they definitely saw more kids in the hospital. As we are seeing yet another uptick in cases across the area, doctors say this data matters.

According to Dr. Steven Schultz with Rochester Regional Health, this study looked at three different cohorts: kids in the delta phase from September through November, then a ‘delta two’ phase mid-November through December, and then an omicron phase by January.

They compared a few different factors: one thing they found was that omicron was six to eight times more contagious, but the severity was less when compared to other strains, so kids were less likely to go to the ER, end up hospitalized, or go to the ICU. 

The study showed the omicron variant to be 6-8 times more infectious than delta. However, the clinical outcomes, while still significant, were less severe. Those infected with omicron were 16% less likely to go to the emergency room, and 85% less likely to need a ventilator

Dr. Schultz says that’s certainly reassuring, but it doesn’t mean it’s risk-free to have omicron, especially in this young age group. He is telling parents with kids ages 5 and up, to get the COVID vaccine.

He also said masking indeed works… he says it’s no surprise that since mask mandates have been taken away, the rates of COVID and the flu have gone up.

He says seemingly healthy children can have severe outcomes from coronavirus. Dr. Schultz says it’s never a bad idea to rule out COVID if your child is sick. 

“That’s another important point that there’s not really any way to tell COVID from any other viral illness based on symptoms alone. So runny nose, cough, fever, congestion, even GI symptoms — they can happen with a variety of viral illnesses. Sometimes, we can test to name those viruses whether it’s COVID, the flu or one of the other ones,” Dr. Schultz said. “So, if there’s a suspicion, a question — especially if you have a child going to school or daycare, or a large family gathering coming up where there’s a high risk of transmission between people, it’s important to have your child seen by a health care provider to make sure it’s not COVID in those situations.”

Schultz says to keep in mind, 1,300 children have died of COVID-19 since 2020, divided in half over two years, that’s still far worse than any flu season on record.