Less than a week after Donald Trump claimed children are “almost immune” to COVID-19, we get this sobering news: 97,000 children tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks of July. That’s not near-immunity.
As ways to prove that Trump was yet again wrong go, 97,000 kids with coronavirus is really not the best. What was happening in the last two weeks of July? In some places, camps were opening for an abbreviated summer. In other places, schools were starting to reopen. The spike in coronavirus cases in many states was continuing, but so was the move back to something approaching “normal” life. And the result was that one in four diagnoses of children since the pandemic hit the U.S. back in March was crammed into one two-week period.
The report, from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, has data from 49 states, New York City, Washington, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Most defined children as younger than 19, but some defined the category as young as 14 or as old as 24.
The new pediatric cases were clustered in the South and West, with seven out of 10 in those regions. But how much of that is because southern and western states go back to school earlier than in the Northeast, where there are still relatively few cases among children (for now)?
The good news is that children remain less likely than adults to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, but, continuing the racial disparities seen among adults, Black and Latino children are more likely to be hospitalized than white ones.
In many places, school districts are scrambling to figure out reopening plans as surging coronavirus rates make in-person schooling a very bad idea—even the hybrid plans many districts had spent the summer working out. Of course, there are exceptions, places where schools have already opened in person. At this point, we call those cautionary tales. It’s time for school districts to admit that 97,000 kids with a potentially deadly virus in the space of two weeks is reason enough to put the brakes on and take school reopening seriously as a public health issue.
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