Weeks before schools are scheduled to reopen in Florida, hospitalizations among children have skyrocketed nearly 25 percent
Early on in the pandemic, health experts said that children were not only at a lower risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, but if infected, were significantly less likely to suffer from a serious infection, end up in the hospital, and die as a result of it. This has been one of the biggest arguments used by proponents of reopening schools in the fall. However, as infections continue to increase in certain parts of the country, more children are falling victim to the virus and hospitalization rates among children are increasing. In fact, in Florida the number of children ending up in the hospital with coronavirus has been increasing so quickly that along with the infection positivity rate, the number of new pediatric cases and hospitalizations have majorly surged.
Just weeks before Florida children in are set to go back to school, the state is experiencing a record-breaking increase in coronavirus cases in children ages 17 and under. According to CNN, the Florida Department of Health reported on July 16 that 23,170 children ages 17 and under had tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. However, by July 24, that number had increased to 31,150 — a whopping 34% increase in new pediatric cases in just eight days.
The test positivity rate for children also increased from 13.4% to 14.4% between July 16 and 24. As for child hospitalizations, those are increasing too. As of July 16, 246 children had been hospitalized with coronavirus, the number jumping up by 23 percent to 303 by July 24. The death toll has also increased during the same time period, increasing from four to five with the July 16 death of 9-year-old Kimora “Kimmie” Lynum. According to her family, the girl had no known pre-existing conditions.
CNN points out that these statistics directly contradict US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ claims that children are “stoppers of the disease” who “don’t get it and transmit it themselves.”
Florida, who opened earlier than most other states and is currently the epicenter of the pandemic, is still planning on physically opening school in August. Teachers are so adamantly against reopening, that the Florida Education Association has filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to block Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s emergency order requiring their schools to reopen and hold in-person classes. The lawsuit demands that the state’s top officials shouldn’t be able to force schools to reopen, unless protective measures — like drastically reducing class sizes and providing educators with adequate personal protective equipment — are taken to protect teachers and kids.
“It is nonsensical to think that we are ready to open brick and mortar and begin teaching in just two weeks,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram told the Today show. “2.8 million children are depending on us to get this right.”