More than half a million kids in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, marking a “grim milestone,” said the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published the data on Tuesday in conjunction with the Children’s Hospital Association.
The two groups reported that as of Sept. 3, there have been 513,415 COVID-19 infections in kids across the U.S. In just the last two weeks, there were 70,630 new pediatric cases, an increase of 16 percent. Six states — Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota — saw the largest increases in new cases.
At least 103 children have died from COVID-19 during that time.
“These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously,” said AAP President Dr. Sally Goza said in a statement. “While much remains unknown about COVID-19, we do know that the spread among children reflects what is happening in the broader communities.”
Goza also emphasized that the virus is heavily affecting minority communities.
“A disproportionate number of cases are reported in Black and Hispanic children and in places where there is high poverty,” she said. “We must work harder to address societal inequities that contribute to these disparities.”
Children currently account for 9.8 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. However, the AAP noted, the data is limited by what states report — and therefore, may be undercounted.
Though kids are less likely to develop a severe case of the virus, they are often asymptomatic, and can easily transmit COVID-19 to older adults.
This milestone comes as most children in the U.S. have returned to school, either in physical classrooms or virtually. Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases, said that the rise in cases began in the summer months and will likely continue into the fall.
“This rapid rise in positive cases occurred over the summer, and as the weather cools, we know people will spend more time indoors,” O’Leary said. “The goal is to get children back into schools for in-person learning, but in many communities, this is not possible as the virus spreads unchecked.”
The AAP also recommended that children over 6 get the flu vaccine.
“Now we are heading into flu season. We must take this seriously and implement the public health measures we know can help; that includes wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, and maintaining social distance,” O’Leary said. “In addition, it will be really important for everyone to get an influenza vaccine this year. These measures will help protect everyone, including children.”
As of Wednesday morning, more than 6,354,600 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 189,961 people have died, according to The New York Times.
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