Coronavirus Infections Among School-Age Kids Rose in September After Classes Resumed

September 30, 2020by Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
A lab technician sorts blood samples for COVID-19 vaccination study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida on Aug. 13, 2020. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Keen to send the nation’s kids back to reopened schools, President Donald Trump has called children “virtually immune,” “essentially immune” and “almost immune” to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

But a new report by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores how wrong those assertions are.

Children can catch, suffer and die from the coronavirus, according to the report. Between March 1 and Sept. 19, at least 277,285 schoolchildren in 38 states tested positive for the virus.

And 51 of them — including 20 youngsters 5 to 11 years old — died of COVID-19. In all, 3,189 children ages 5 to 17 were hospitalized.

With more than 56 million U.S. kids attending primary and secondary schools this fall, understanding how the coronavirus affects school-age children “might inform decisions about in-person learning and the timing and scaling of community mitigation measures,” the CDC researchers wrote.

For instance, throughout the spring and summer, the incidence of coronavirus infections was about twice as high among middle and high schoolers as it was for elementary school students.

School-age children with asthma and other chronic lung diseases accounted for roughly 55% of those who tested positive, and almost 10% had some kind of disability.

As with adults, Latino children far outpaced their share of the population in testing positive, accounting for 46% of those who tested positive during the 6 1/2-month period studied by the CDC.

And although Trump has said he does not believe school-age children get sick from the virus, at least 58% of those who tested positive had COVID-19 symptoms at the time they were tested, the CDC researchers reported.

The new research, published Monday in the CDC‘s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is one of the public health agency’s first efforts to count and characterize coronavirus infections in the nation’s school-age population. As a new school year gets underway and some schools reopen to students, it will be “critical to have a baseline for monitoring trends in COVID-19 infection among school-aged children,” the authors wrote.

William Hanage, an infectious diseases researcher at Harvard‘s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said it’s no surprise that adolescents, who are more independent and less likely to maintain social distance, would have higher rates of infection. At the same time, he added, the report “almost certainly underestimates cases in the younger age group.”

When and where schools reopen and students return to classrooms, opportunities for transmission will escalate. And this report “underlines that kids do transmit,” said Hanage. The result — a rise in cases among young learners — is predictable, he suggested.

Already, a few of those trends were clear. Others will require further data and closer dissection.

The CDC researchers tallied a weekly average of 37.4 cases for every 100,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17, compared with a weekly average of 19 cases per 100,000 children ages 5 to 11. The younger kids were slightly less likely than their older peers to have recorded the presence of symptoms at the time they were tested, by a margin of 56.1% vs. 59.6%. But in 37% of all cases cited, symptom status was “missing or unknown.”

The summer months brought spikes in infections among school-age children as a whole, and especially among adolescents, the CDC team found. But as classes have resumed across the nation — some remotely, some in person — a summer-long run-up in positive coronavirus tests may have begun to reverse itself.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the incidence of weekly infections went on a wild roller-coaster ride, reaching a peak of nearly 38 cases per 100,000 school-age children in mid-July before leveling off at about 34 cases per 100,000 kids in late August. By the first full week of September, cases fell to 22.6 per 100,000.

However, as the school year got going in earnest, the first hints of spread became apparent. By the week that ended Sept. 19, the incidence of weekly cases was back up to 26.3 per 100,000 children. The incubation period for the coronavirus is typically four to five days, though it could be as long as two weeks, according to the CDC.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease and preventive medicine expert at Vanderbilt University, said that despite the unresolved details, the thrust of the report is clear: Children are not invulnerable.

“This stands in stark contrast to what we’ve heard time and time again from politicians: that this disease does not affect children. Really? Here, we see there are at least 51 families who will be grieving for a very long time,” Schaffner said.

More than 3,000 other children have been hospitalized, he added, “putting their families in agony.”

———

©2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Health

CDC Issues 'Strong' Call for Wearing Masks on Airplanes, Trains
Health
CDC Issues 'Strong' Call for Wearing Masks on Airplanes, Trains

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a "strong recommendation" for mask-wearing by both passengers and operators on planes, trains, buses and taxis to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Masks should cover a person's nose and mouth and be worn while traveling... Read More

One More Day for Coronavirus Relief Talks, Pelosi Says
Congress
One More Day for Coronavirus Relief Talks, Pelosi Says

WASHINGTON -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to decide by Tuesday evening whether a bipartisan deal on COVID-19 relief can pass before the Nov. 3 elections, her spokesman said Monday. The announcement, made in a tweet, came after a nearly hourlong phone call between the Democratic leader and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who... Read More

Trump Targets Fauci Instead of COVID-19 as Cases and Deaths Rise
Political News
Trump Targets Fauci Instead of COVID-19 as Cases and Deaths Rise

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump reignited his feud with the nation's top infectious disease expert Monday as U.S. deaths from COVID-19 topped 220,000 and coronavirus hospitalizations rose across the country, raising fears of a deadly third wave of infections as winter approaches. In a call intended to rally his beleaguered campaign... Read More

In Election's Homestretch, Coronavirus Surge Underscores the Parties' Contrasts
2020 Elections
In Election's Homestretch, Coronavirus Surge Underscores the Parties' Contrasts

WASHINGTON -- In the homestretch of the presidential campaign, with the U.S. coronavirus caseload trending ominously upward, the rival campaigns of President Donald Trump and Joe Biden more than ever are providing a clash of contrasts on how to contain COVID-19 and tend to the virus-battered economy. That was evident in their own... Read More

COVID-19 'Long-haulers' Worry About Coverage, Costs
Health
COVID-19 'Long-haulers' Worry About Coverage, Costs

Andrea Ceresa has been through three gastroenterologists already and now is moving on to her fourth. She's seen an infectious disease specialist, a hematologist, a cardiologist, an ear, nose and throat specialist, a physiatrist and an integrative doctor. She has an appointment coming up with a neuropsychologist... Read More

Repeal Obamacare? Once GOP Dogma, It's Now the Party's Albatross
Health
Repeal Obamacare? Once GOP Dogma, It's Now the Party's Albatross

WASHINGTON - Contempt for the Affordable Care Act Obamacare was so central to Sen. Joni Ernst's 2014 election campaign that the Iowa Republican, in a TV ad promising she'd "unload" on the law, pulled out a handgun and fired repeatedly. "Give me a shot," she asked voters. Six years later, the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top