Over 61,000 American children infected by Covid-19 last week, report says it is highest since pandemic started

A total of 853,635 coronavirus cases among children have been reported as of October 29

                            Over 61,000 American children infected by Covid-19 last week, report says it is highest since pandemic started
(Getty Images)

The spike in coronavirus cases across the US is impacting children at "unprecedented levels", according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA). As of October 29, 853,635 children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, including nearly 200,000 new cases in children during October.

In the one-week period ending October 29, there were more than 61,000 new cases in children, which is the highest single-week increase in child cases in the US since the pandemic began. 

Researchers suggest that while at this time, it appears that severe illness due to coronavirus is rare among children, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on children. This should include ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects, they add. 

"This is a stark reminder of the impact this pandemic is having on everyone – including our children and adolescents. 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," recommends AAP president Dr Sally Goza.

Dr Goza emphasizes that not only are children feeling the direct effects of the virus and becoming ill but the pandemic has transformed their lives at critical stages of development and education. "I'm very concerned about the long-term harms that children may suffer, particularly Black and Hispanic children, who are suffering a higher number of infections. This includes not only children who test positive for the virus but everyone in these communities who are suffering disproportionate emotional and mental health harms," she adds. 

The data is compiled each week by AAP and CHA from reports by public health departments of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Overall, children represent 11.1% (853,635 out of 7,669,038) of all cases reported as of October 29. From October 22 to October 29, 61,447 new child coronavirus cases were reported, "larger than any previous week in the pandemic". The overall rate is 1,134 cases per 100,000 children in the population currently. An estimated 16 states reported more than 1,500 cases per 100,000. 

Case data available on October 29, 2020 (AAP, CHA)

The analysis further reveals that 111,744 new child cases were reported from October 15 to October 29, which is a 15% increase in child cases over two weeks. Children made up between 5%-16.9% of total state tests and between 3.6%-14.6% of children tested were tested positive. Children comprised 1%-3.5% of total reported hospitalizations, and between 0.5%-6.7% of all child coronavirus cases resulted in hospitalization.

"Children were 0%-0.20% of all Covid-19 deaths, and 16 states reported zero child deaths. In states reporting, 0%-0.14% of all child Covid-19 cases resulted in death," says the report. 

The AAP believes the number of reported coronavirus cases in children is likely an undercount because children’s symptoms are often mild and they may not be tested for every illness. "On every measure – new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths – the US is headed in the wrong direction. We urge policymakers to listen to doctors and public health experts rather than level baseless accusations against them," says Dr Goza.

13-year-old dies from Covid-19 in Missouri

An eighth-grade student of Washington Middle School in Missouri died from complications caused by the coronavirus, which is reportedly the state's youngest death from the disease. Peyton Baumgarth, 13, was a resident of Franklin County. The AAP report does not include his death.

Peyton Baumgarth was an eight-grade student and a resident of Franklin County
(Image courtesy Peyton’s GoFundMe page)

While Peyton’s last day of school was October 22, he began to quarantine on October 26. His symptoms worsened and he was hospitalized at Cardinal Glennon Hospital, where he died on October 31. 

Peyton’s mother, Stephanie Franek, also tested positive for Covid-19. "This is just something that no parent should ever have to do, and I don’t even know how to take a breath, let alone get through the next days and weeks and months and years without him," she said. 

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to cover his funeral and medical expenses. "Peyton was a wonderful young man, who always had a smile to share with you. He was so very sweet and caring and fun. He loved Christmas, video games, and enjoyed making YouTube videos, playing Pokemon GO, playing football, and being with his family. Peyton is the youngest person in the state of Missouri to pass away from Covid-19. This is a devastating loss that leaves a tremendous hole in the heart of every person that knew Peyton," they wrote on the page. 

The school sent an email to parents and staff, which said, “We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family. Because we know this will impact our school community emotionally, we encourage you to be especially sensitive and prepare to offer support to your child(ren) during this difficult time.”

According to CNN, in a statement that was sent to families, Dr Lori VanLeer, superintendent of Missouri’s Washington School District, said: "We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family and ask that the public respect their privacy. His family deserves nothing less. The family also asks that we all remember to wear masks, wash hands frequently, and follow guidelines. Covid-19 is real and they want to remind students and parents to take these precautions in and outside of school."

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