Ivinson Memorial Hospital on a cold, sunny day
Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie is one of the many facilities across Wyoming that have experienced an earlier-then-usual surge in respiratory illnesses this year. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

Hospitals across the country are reportedly filling up with young patients suffering from the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Wyoming is no exception.

Levi Keener is director of clinical operations at Community Hospital in Torrington. He said last week was a bad one.

“Monday we were at a critical surge,” he said. “We had over 20 inpatients, and we are a 25-bed licensed hospital.”

Maintaining care at the packed facility was complicated by the blizzard that hit the state, he added. 

While the hospital’s patient load wasn’t as high as during the height of a COVID-19 delta variant surge, Keener said, COVID is still playing a role. Several patients tested positive for a combination of RSV, flu and COVID, he said. 

Many medical professionals theorize RSV and respiratory illnesses are widespread and intense this year because people, especially kids, were not as exposed to certain infections due to pandemic-era precautions. Now that much of the U.S. has emerged from the pandemic, the illnesses are roaring back to reach those who hadn’t been infected over the last few years. 

At the same time, science has shown that distancing and masking slowed down COVID infections, likely saving the lives of vulnerable individuals, especially before vaccines were available. 

At Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie, Pediatrician Brahmananda K. Koduri said the staff has been busy for about two months with young patients, and RSV is a main reason. The hospital has three rooms for children, but they’re only usable “depending on nurse availability,” Koduri said. 

Despite the increased number of kids and long hours, he said, so far, “we’re doing OK.” 

Koduri noted that the hospital sends certain patients elsewhere, like the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. 

“We continue to operate at very high levels and above any other previous respiratory surge in the history of our hospital system.”

Sarah Davis, spokesperson with Children’s Hospital Colorado

Erin McKinney is a clinical director for women and children’s services at that Cheyenne hospital. The facility has 14 rooms for kids, she said, though two rooms can accommodate two beds. 

Still, she said, occasionally kids have had to wait in the emergency department for spaces to open in the children’s area, and the hospital tries to avoid putting two beds in a single room to limit disease spread. 

“The majority of ours has been RSV,” she said. “Not as much COVID and some flu, but definitely RSV.”

While the winter season is generally busy because of respiratory illnesses, McKinney said it’s lasting much longer than usual.

“It’s not just two weeks” of high rates, she said. Instead, it’s been closer to five weeks there so far. 

And it’s not just lasting longer, but started earlier. 

McKinney said their facility often sends kids to Children’s Hospital Colorado. A spokesperson with that facility, Sarah Davis, said in an email: “Through November, the number of patients seeking care was on average 30% higher than the busiest of days in a typical respiratory season, which has historically been from January to March.”

That hospital organization — which has facilities in northern and southern Colorado — has seen its RSV numbers starting to decrease, Davis said, but flu cases have started ticking up. 

“We continue to operate at very high levels and above any other previous respiratory surge in the history of our hospital system,” she said. 

That facility is encouraging anyone who is eligible for the flu or COVID vaccines to get them. Beyond that, Davis reiterated that people remember the basics: wash hands and stay home if you’re sick.

“While our children were not as affected by the pandemic a year ago, this year is very different,” she said. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado also has a chart on its website detailing the symptom differences parents can watch for between RSV, COVID and the flu. 

Dr. Koduri in Laramie considers this surge in children’s illnesses as an inevitability.

After a few years of caution around COVID-19 suppressing some children’s outbreaks, he sees an early, intense season for pediatric illnesses as a natural progression. 

“This is part of what children go through,” he said. “It’s going to happen no matter what. It is what it is.”

Madelyn Beck

Madelyn Beck reports from Laramie on health and public safety. Before working with WyoFile, she was a public radio journalist reporting for NPR stations across the Mountain West, covering regional issues...

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  1. Madelyn,
    Thank you for your diligence in trying to ferret all this out.
    May I suggest that you also look at the website of the doctors of the FLCCC.NET for additional facts and figures as well as the web site for Trial Site News (who like you and your organization are trying to sort out the facts from fiction as a result of censorship.

    that now might just now be causing more injuries and deaths than the Pandemic it’s self. as well as destroying our freedoms as well which might even be more deadly in the long term.
    worse than the deaths caused by diseases and especially illegally man made ones in bio-labs around the world in so many different countries as well as our own.
    You might find Dr. Robert Malone (MD, M of science) latest book highly informative as well.
    Dr. Mallone holds the first 9 patents on the mRNA technology, took “the jab” and now more than regrets it and now says it should never be given to children and that if will cause more deaths and diseases than it will every cure in children especially.
    Thank you and your origination are trying to stop censorship and discover that truth.

    Rod

  2. The article states “science” showed masking slowed Covid. The link is a June 2021 Nature article. Remember that after June 2021 omicron hit and states with strict masking actually had cases in excess (cases per thousand or deaths per 1000) of states like Florida and Georgia without mandates. Facts show mask did nothing. Spending time in Asia and the US recently I assure you non-n95 masking for viruses is a religious like political question and not an evidence based solution.