Weeks before Florida is set to reopen schools for in-person learning, coronavirus cases appear to be rising among children. Recent data from the Florida Department of Health has shown the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state has risen 23% in less than two weeks. During that same period, the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections among children under the age of 18 rose 34%.
At least 7,980 children under the age of 18 contracted COVID-19 in Florida between July 16 and July 24, according to data from the state's health department. While Florida had a total of 23,170 pediatric COVID-19 cases as of July 16, that number jumped to 31,150 by July 24, signaling a 34% jump in cases among children under the age of 18.
Although the majority of Florida's pediatric COVID-19 cases have occurred in children aged 14 to 17, data from the Florida Department of Health has shown that children aged 5 to 10 also make up a large number of the state's pediatric cases. As of July 24, 36% of the state's total pediatric COVID-19 cases were reported to have occurred in children aged 14 to 17. Children aged 5 to 10 made up 26% of the state's pediatric COVID-19 cases while those aged 1 to 4 and 11 to 13 both made up 16% of the state's pediatric cases. Infants younger than a year old made up just 6% of Florida's total pediatric COVID-19 cases.
But while coronavirus cases have surged among children in Florida, so too have hospitalization rates. Data from Florida's Department of Health shows the number of children hospitalized because of COVID-19 jumped from 246 to 303 — representing a 23% increase — between July 16 and July 24. Roughly 34% of the state's hospitalized pediatric COVID-19 cases involve children between the ages of 14 and 17. However, infants under the age of 1 account for 22% of hospitalizations, followed closely by children between the ages of 1 and 4 at 20%.
According to HuffPost, Florida health officials have said the overall rate of positive COVID-19 cases among children in the state is currently around 14.4%. Since the pandemic began in March, Florida's Department of Health has reported that a total of five children have died in the state as a result of the novel coronavirus.
Reports of coronavirus cases rising among Florida's youth come as Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to push for children to return to in-person learning next month. As a result, the Florida Education Association (FEA) has sued DeSantis and other state leaders to stop what they feel is the "reckless and unsafe reopening of public school campuses as coronavirus infections surge statewide."
"The governor needs to accept the reality of the situation here in Florida, where the virus is surging out of control," FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement released last week. "He needs to accept the evolving science. It now appears that kids 10 and older may pass along the coronavirus as easily as adults. Everyone wants schools to reopen, but we don’t want to begin in-person teaching, face an explosion of cases and sickness, then be forced to return to distance learning."
Earlier this month, Florida's education commissioner issued an emergency order mandating public schools across the state reopen for full-time in-person learning in August. While DeSantis has continued to push for students to return to in-person learning, the governor recently urged schools to give parents the ability to choose between remote and in-person learning.
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.