As many schools across the country prepare to start the new school year, newly released data shows a staggering number of cases of children with coronavirus — 97,000 kids have reportedly tested positive for the virus over the past two weeks. The report from The American Academy of Pediatrics shows positive tests were reported from July 16 to July 30. The report indicates that the number could be even higher because of incomplete data from Texas and New York.
What the New Numbers Mean
The 97,000 new cases represent a 40% surge in the number of childhood cases in the United States. Currently, at least 340,000 kids have tested positive for coronavirus, which equals about 9% of the total cases in the U.S.
Many in the medical field say that this reinforces the point that children are not immune to the virus. According to the report, the rise in child cases was largely attributed to states in the South and West. These include Florida, Georgia, Montana, and Missouri.
It’s important to note that the age where patients are considered children varies from state to state. Some states consider children to be anyone under 17 or 19. In Florida and Utah, that age limit is capped at 14. In Alabama, anyone under 24 was counted as a child.
Despite the recent spike, the report showed that of the children who did test positive, most children do not get critically ill. Among the states that reported hospitalization numbers, the current rate of children hospitalized remains at 2%.
As back-to-school time creeps up, there is concern about how children would spread the virus in a classroom setting.
A study in Germany of children between the ages of 1 and 11 who were infected with coronavirus found that asymptomatic kids had viral loads that were comparable to adults, some even higher. A French study found that asymptomatic kids had viral loads similar to those of kids showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“In places where there is really good control of the virus, with mitigation measures in place, I think it’s reasonably safe to open schools,” Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado and vice-chair of the Committee on Infectious Disease for the American Academy of Pediatrics recently told NPR. “We’re never going to get to zero risk.”
But, he adds that if the coronavirus is circulating in a community, “it is inevitable it will follow students and staff to school.”
Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent recently told MarketWatch “We don’t know that they’re spreading it, but we need to be cautious. It doesn’t mean schools can’t open; we just need to be safe about it.”
A Georgia high school came under fire earlier this month after students posted photos of crowded hallways that went viral (above image). There was little social distancing and very few face masks. At least two students were suspended for violating the school’s code of conduct after posting the photos. Since the photos surfaced, 6 students and 3 staff members have tested positive for the virus. The building was closed temporarily for deep cleaning. As of this writing, students were waiting to see when in-person instruction was going to resume.
There are some school districts across the country that have decided not to resume in-person classes when the school year starts while others have yet to release their plans.