COVID-19 cases rising among US children as schools reopen
NEW YORK, United States (AP) — 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 per cent of all US cases, up from two per cent in April, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported yesterday. 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 Pediatrics, 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.
Just as cases in college students have been linked to partying and bars, children may be contracting the virus at playdates, sleepovers, sports and other activities where precautions aren’t being taken, said Dr Leana Wen, a public health specialist at George Washington University.
“Understandably, there is quarantine fatigue,’’ Wen said. Many people have a sense that if schools are reopening, then other activities can resume too, “but actually the opposite is true”.
Global school studies suggest in-person learning can be safe when transmission rates in the
larger community are low, the CDC report said.
Mississippi is among states where several outbreaks among students and teachers have been reported since in-person classes resumed in August.
Kathy Willard said she had mixed feelings when her grandson’s fourth grade class in Oxford was sent home for two weeks after several teachers and one student tested positive for the virus. The family doesn’t have internet access at home, making remote learning a challenge.
“It was a hardship. There’s always a worry about him falling behind or not getting access to what he needs for school,” Willard said. “But at the same time, I’m glad the school is doing what they can to protect our kids.”