Back in August, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a report that found 97,000 children had tested positive for COVID-19 during the last two weeks in July, a 40 percent jump from the previous two-week period. Now, the AAP has released a new report with even more startling numbers: More than 61,000 children tested positive for the virus just last week.
“The number of new child COVID-19 cases reported this week, over 61,000, is the highest since the pandemic began,” the AAP says in the report.
As of Oct. 29, there have been 853,635 COVID-19 cases reported in children, the report says. Children have represented more than 11 percent of all cases of the virus in the country.
The latest data show a growing trend. In October alone, nearly 200,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported, per AAP data. While the AAP report offered up robust data, it didn’t offer an explanation for why, exactly, these cases are rising.
Experts say the rise in cases is troubling — and there are likely a few factors behind it.
Bessey Geevarghese, a pediatric infectious disease physician for Lurie Children’s at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, tells Yahoo Life that the numbers are reflective of what’s happening in communities as a whole. “Levels are much higher [in children] since overall cases are going up,” she says. “Children are most likely to get COVID-19 from household contacts.”
Dr. Juan C. Salazar, physician-in-chief and executive vice president of academic affairs at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, agrees. “Invariably, that widespread community spread has affected children,” he tells Yahoo Life. “The kids are in the community, they’re attending schools and getting together with adults who are potentially infected. It’s a widespread virus, it’s not sparing any element of the population—including children.”
Dr. Danelle Fisher, a pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Life that the rising numbers are “super frustrating,” adding that it’s “definitely a function of adults who are spreading the virus to kids.”
“The impetus is on the adults,” Fisher says. “Adults have to practice social distancing and wearing masks. Otherwise, they risk bringing COVID-19 back to children.”
Children also seem to be doing more extracurricular activities, like playing sports without masks, that have led to cases, infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. However, he says, in-person school does not seem to be a factor: “Pure educational activities don’t seem to be driving it.”
Cooler temperatures are also likely a factor, Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician in Akron, Ohio, and a professor of medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life. “There are more inside activities now that the weather is changing, which obviously increases the risk of spread,” he says.
Finally, children are being tested more than they were in the past. “There’s more recognition of the need to test children that there was in the early days of the pandemic,” Adalja says.
What can parents do to keep children safe?
The rules of COVID-19 prevention still apply, Adalja says. That is, wearing a mask in public when it’s age-appropriate, promoting social distancing and encouraging good hand hygiene.
But Watkins says that parents should also rethink how they approach their children’s indoor playdates. Adalja agrees. “Parents need to be mindful of their child’s activities,” he says.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that kids can’t play with other children at all anymore, Fisher says — families just need to be smart about it. “We need to keep pods small,” she says. “Identify one or two safe families to pod together to do playdates. If you keep it small and stick to just a few families, that’s safer.”
Salazar also urges parents to be diligent. “We have unfortunately lowered our guard at all levels,” he says. “And, as a result, there is a very rapid spread of the virus.”
Experts expect that things will get worse before they get better. “I’m very worried,” Salazar says. “Over the next two to three months, we really have to be prepared for a significant number of cases. We have not controlled the virus in any way or shape and this virus does not respect any boundaries. It will continue to spread — to adults and children.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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