Pediatrics group says the number of cases is “staggering and tragic.”
More than 1 million children in the United States have contracted the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The data includes infants, children, and adolescents who have tested positive for the coronavirus, but experts expect the actual total to be much higher. Some cases of COVID-19 are very mild or go unnoticed, so it’s likely the actual number of children who have had the virus could be much higher. The data was compiled through a collaboration between AAP and the Children’s Hospital Association using state health department data.
“As a pediatrician who has practiced medicine for over three decades, I find this number staggering and tragic. We haven’t seen a virus flash through our communities in this way since before we had vaccines for measles and polio,” said AAP President Sally Goza in a statement.
The United States is in the midst of another surge of coronavirus infections, one that is perhaps even larger than the first initial spike the country saw last spring. In fact the uptick in cases has prompted some states like Michigan, California, Oregon and Washington to reimpose lockdown restrictions.
In order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, local officials have been asking their residents to use caution, stay home, and engage in frequent handwashing. But President Donald Trump has not addressed the incredible rise in cases in recent weeks.
The uptick in spread has included pediatric cases of the virus. Just last week nearly 112,000 children were diagnosed with COVID-19. States like Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota have all reported more than 25,000 cases since the pandemic began. More states in the southeast have also reached that grim threshold.
“We must do more now to protect everyone in our communities,” Goza said. “This is even more important as we approach winter, when people will naturally spend more time indoors where it is easier for the virus to be transmitted.”
In general, children seem to be spared the more severe cases of COVID-19. There have only been 133 coronavirus-related deaths among children, which is much lower than the total number of deaths across the country.
That is not to say that children are immune from tragic outcomes. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than a thousand children have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a condition linked to COVID-19. Twenty children diagnosed with the syndrome have died.
The AAP also raised concerns over the mental health impacts for children living through the pandemic.
“We know from research on the impact of natural disasters on the mental health of children that prolonged exposure to this kind of toxic stress is damaging,” Goza said. “Most natural disasters have an end, but this pandemic has gone on for over eight months, and is likely to continue to disrupt our lives for many more.”
Goza noted that she is specially concerned about young children and toddlers who are missing important education through socialization.
“We’re very concerned about how this will impact all children, including toddlers who are missing key educational opportunities, as well as adolescents who may be at higher risk for anxiety and depression,” Goza said.