Since the coronavirus pandemic first began in March, more than half a million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States alone, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). While the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases represents only a small fraction of the United States' total coronavirus case count, the report is still a daunting reminder of the impact the virus can have on children.
"These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously," AAP President Dr. Sara Goza said in a statement released Tuesday. "While much remains unknown about COVID-19, we do know that the spread among children reflects what is happening in the broader communities. A disproportionate number of cases are reported in Black and Hispanic children and in places where there is high poverty. We must work harder to address societal inequities that contribute to these disparities."
The AAAP has collaborated with the Children's Hospital Association to collect and share all publicly related state-level data regarding child COVID-19 cases. In a report released Tuesday, they noted their research had found that states saw 70,630 new child COVID-19 cases between Aug. 20 and Sept. 3, which represented a 16% increase in the span of just two weeks.
Those cases also tipped the nation's total number of child COVID-19 cases over half a million to 513,415. That means that for every 100,000 children in the United States, 680 have tested positive for COVID-19. The largest percentage increase in child COVID-19 cases occurred in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky, according to the report.
Overall, however, children represent roughly 9.8% of the nation's total COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, the United States had more than 6.3 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to John Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center. And why the overall number of child COVID-19 cases has risen, children continue to be less likely to experience severe illness as a result of the virus.
In the 23 states with available hospitalization data, children accounted for 0.7% to 3.7% of reported hospitalization. What's more, somewhere between 0.3% and 8.3% of all child COVID-19 cases required hospitalization, the AAP noted. "At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children," their report read. "However, states should continue to provide detailed reports on COVID-19 cases, testing, hospitalizations, and mortality by age and race/ethnicity so that the effects of COVID-19 on children’s health can be documented and monitored."
On Tuesday, the AAP's Committee on Infectious Diseases vice chair Dr. Sean O'Leary urged parents and caregivers to observe all recommended health and safety precautions. "We are heading into flu season," O'Leary said in a statement released by the organization. "We must take this seriously and implement the public health measures we know can help; that includes wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, and maintaining social distance. In addition, it will be really important for everyone to get an influenza vaccine this year. These measures will help protect everyone, including children."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.