Pediatric cases of COVID-19 now account for 11% of all cases in the U.S. — up from 2% in April
More than 61,000 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with COVID-19 during the one-week period ending on Oct. 29, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reported Monday. That’s more than any other week since the onset of the pandemic.
The drastic spike in COVID-19 cases across the country is affecting children more than initially predicted, according to the data compiled from state health departments by the AAP and Children’s Hospital Association.
As of Oct. 29, more than 853,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. This includes nearly 200,000 new cases in children just during the month of October. Pediatric cases now represent 11.1% of the total number of U.S. cases. The percentage of pediatric cases has risen steadily since mid-April, when children accounted for just 2% of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“This is a stark reminder of the impact this pandemic is having on everyone — including our children and adolescents,” Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a news release. “This virus is highly contagious, and as we see spikes in many communities, children are more likely to be infected, too. We can help protect everyone in our communities by keeping our physical distance, wearing masks, and following other recommendations from our doctors and public health experts.”
The AAP said it believes the true number of children with COVID-19 is higher because the illness tends to be mild in kids and because they may not always be tested. A large group of parents in Utah, for example, are choosing to not get their sick children tested in order to keep state numbers “low” so schools can remain open.
Prior to the reopening of schools, reliable U.S.-based data on children and the virus did not exist because schools were shut down at the onset of the pandemic and remained closed for approximately five months. Now that schools have been open for more than two months, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that COVID-19 cases among children are surging dramatically.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children,” the AAP news release states. “However, the AAP notes an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
This highlights two crucial points to remember when it comes to children and this virus. One, they may not be as severely impacted as the adult population is physically, but they can and do spread it as easily as adults do — to family members and other people they come in contact with, even if they are largely asymptomatic. And two, we have no idea what the long-term effects will be for anyone, even very young, very healthy people.
The AAP reports that children account for less than 3.5% of current COVID-19 hospitalizations, the report found. As of this week, 122 children have died from the virus.