Less than one week before the nation’s second-largest school district in Los Angeles welcomes students back to campus, a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found “a continuing substantial increase” of Covid cases among children.
“As of August 5, nearly 4.3 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic,” the AAP report reads. “Almost 94,000 cases were added the past week, a continuing substantial increase. After declining in early summer, child cases have steadily increased since the beginning of July.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, children represented 14.3% of total cumulated cases, but that’s a number that’s been rising, especially this year. The only time in 2020 when the percentage of Covid cases among Americans under 18 accounted for a greater share of infections was during the winter surge in November and December, according to the CDC. The majority of the year the percentage for those 0-17 years old was much lower. See chart below. For the week ending August 5, 2021 children were 15.0% of reported weekly Covid-19 cases. That difference points to a recent, marked increase.
Of course, as more adults get vaccinated, children will make up a larger portion of new cases, simply because kids under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated. But it’s not just the percentage. The raw numbers are growing, too.
Over the two weeks from July 22 to August 5, there was a 4% increase in the cumulated number of Covid cases among kids. About 165,550 of those cases were added in just those two weeks, taking the total pediatric cases from 4,126,570 to 4,292,120, according the the AAP analysis.
The good news is that children seem to be more resistant to Covid but, according to a report in The New York Times Monday, more of them are going to the hospital now than earlier in the pandemic.
At the end of July “roughly 130 children” were admitted daily to U.S. hospitals with Covid-19, according to the NYT citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From July 31 to Aug. 6, that number had inched up to 216 children with the virus being hospitalized daily.
That could be just a tiny uptick in a nation of 300+ million, but the nature of viral spread is often explosive. So while a roughly 90% increase at the beginning of August may not seem like much, weeks upon weeks of 90% increases can quickly add up, even in a nation as large as the U.S.
Thankfully, only about 1% of children who are infected with the virus end up hospitalized, and 0.01 percent die, according to the A.A.P. data.
Health experts have repeatedly said schools are safe, especially with masking. But not all districts are requiring masks. While L.A. Unified will do so, neighboring Orange County’s Board of Education voted recently to sue California Governor Gavin Newsom over the state’s mask mandate for schools. Across the country, some states have actually prohibited mask requirements in schools. Among them are infection hot spots like Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Utah, South Carolina, Iowa and Oklahoma.
Viruses are opportunistic, and groups of unvaccinated kids without masks could prove fertile ground for further spread and even mutation. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned recently that the virus itself may be “just a few mutations potentially away” from establishing a variant that evades the current vaccines.