WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the school year draws near, children and teens represent a ballooning percentage of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as the youngest Americans increasingly venture outside their homes and are able to get tested.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long maintained on its website that those younger than 18 make up only 2% of cases, state data paint a much less rosy picture. California and Mississippi, for instance, are recording rates nearing 10% of overall cases. Florida has found that about a third of all children tested there are infected.
In Washington state, 10.7 percent of all confirmed cases as of Wednesday were in the age group 18 and younger, according to state Department of Health statistics. There were 44,313 total cases as of Wednesday.
In response to questions from Bloomberg, the CDC cited a chart this week with data from the states showing children make up 6.4% of those infected, though information isn’t included on almost 1 million cases. The numbers are rising, epidemiologists say, as testing has become more available to those with mild or no symptoms, encompassing many of the pediatric cases, and as those under 18 are increasingly involved in social activities.
At the same time, there is enormous pressure building to reopen in-class schooling from parents who need to return to work, childhood development specialists and the Trump administration, which sees it as a linchpin for the economy in an election year. Others remain skeptical.
“I think we need to understand why that’s happening and what it means for the risk of this virus in kids,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security. “Our understanding for how it affects kids is evolving.”
Virus data aren’t reported in a consistent manner across states. But publicly available databases show that in many cases the numbers are vastly different than what the CDC continues to say on the portion of its website meant to provide COVID-19 information to pediatric healthcare providers, a site that hasn’t been updated since May 29.
Studies have found that children tend not to suffer from severe coronavirus symptoms as often as adults, but there remain unknowns. They include the potential long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection, and at what rate students can transmit the virus to each other while in the classroom, as well as the effect on their teachers.
Source: Wenatchee World