Wed | Oct 21, 2020

COVID-19 cases rising among US children as schools reopen

Published:Tuesday | September 29, 2020 | 2:39 PM
A teacher leads her students into an elementary school in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, as hundreds of thousands of elementary school students are heading back to classrooms in the city, resuming in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

After preying heavily on the elderly in the spring, the coronavirus is increasingly infecting American children and teens in a trend authorities say appears driven by school reopenings and the resumption of sports, playdates and other activities.

Children of all ages now make up 10% of all US cases, up from 2% in April, the American Academy of Paediatrics reported Tuesday.

And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the incidence of COVID-19 in school-age children began rising in early September as many youngsters returned to their classrooms.

About two times more teens were infected than younger children, the CDC report said. Most infected children have mild cases; hospitalisations and death rates are much lower than in adults.

Dr Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Paediatrics, said the rising numbers are a big concern and underscore the importance of masks, hand-washing, social distancing and other precautions.

“While children generally don’t get as sick with the coronavirus as adults, they are not immune and there is much to learn about how easily they can transmit it to others,” she said in a statement.

The CDC report did not indicate where or how the children became infected.

Public health experts say the uptick probably reflects an increasing spread of the virus in the larger community.

And they say many school-age children who are getting sick may not be getting infected in classrooms, where face coverings and other preventive measures are often in place.

New York City, the nation’s largest school district, with over one million students, resumed classroom learning Tuesday for elementary school children. Higher grades will resume on Thursday.

The CDC report said more than 277,000 children ages 5 to 17 were confirmed infected between March and September 19, with an increase in September after a peak and a decline over the summer.

The agency acknowledged that may be an underestimate, in part because testing is most often done on people with symptoms, and children with the coronavirus often have none.

The CDC reported 51 deaths in school-age kids, most in them ages 12 to 17.

Less than two percent of infected children were hospitalised, and youngsters who are Black, Hispanic or have underlying conditions fared worse than white children.

The findings add to other data showing the pandemic is increasingly affecting younger age groups after initially hitting older Americans hard.

In a separate report Tuesday, the CDC said weekly COVID-19 cases among people ages 18 to 22 increased 55% nationally.

The increases were greatest in the Northeast and Midwest and were not solely attributable to increased testing, the CDC said.

About one-third of US cases are in adults 50 and older, while one-quarter are in 18-to-29-year-olds.

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