By Brooke Katz

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth say they’re being stretched to the limit.

With COVID-19 cases rising among children and the hospital experiencing staffing shortages, they are now asking everyone to do what they can to stop the spread.

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On Monday, August 30, Cook Children’s opened a third COVID-19 unit to make room for nine more patients, but they were full within 24 hours. They have 39 COVID-19 beds and doctors say they may need more.

During a news conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, the heads of several departments said they’re dealing with unprecedented volumes.

“We need some compassion from the community,” said Dr. Kara Starnes, the Medical Director of Urgent Care Services. “We need people to understand that this is an illness that absolutely is affecting our children, and we’re hitting a crisis mode when our children’s hospital is having trouble seeing all the patients presenting to us.”

“For us the January surge was nothing compared to what we’re dealing with now,” said Dr. Mary Whitworth, the Medical Director of Infectious Diseases.

The doctors asked for everyone to only use the emergency department for actual emergencies. Families are having to wait hours to be seen.

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“We’re getting inundated with such minor things that we’re having a hard time seeing the kid that has appendicitis,” said Dr. Corwin Warmink, the Medical Director of Emergency Services.

They also asked for everyone to take precautions, including masking.

“If you want your child to get sick, send them to school without a mask. Bottom line,” Dr. Warmink said.

The doctors said while most children have mild illness with COVID-19, that’s not the case for everyone.

Since the start of the pandemic, they’ve treated 1,129 kids with COVID-19 and 241 of those children had to be admitted to the ICU.

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Seven children have died, including two in the last week.