After preying heavily on the elderly in the spring, the coronavirus is increasingly infecting American children and teens in a trend authorities say appears fueled by school reopenings and the resumption of sports, playdates and other activities.
Children of all ages now make up 10% of all U.S cases, up from 2% in April, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the incidence of COVID-19 in school-age children began rising in early September as many youngsters returned to their classrooms.
About two times more teens were infected than younger children, the CDC report said. Most infected children have mild cases; hospitalizations and death rates are much lower than in adults.
Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the rising numbers are a big concern and underscore the importance of masks, hand-washing, social distancing and other precautions.
“While children generally don’t get as sick with the coronavirus as adults, they are not immune and there is much to learn about how easily they can transmit it to others,’’ she said in a statement.
The CDC report did not indicate where or how the children became infected.
Public health experts say the uptick probably reflects increasing spread of the virus in the larger community. While many districts require masks and other precautions, some spread in schools is thought to be occurring, too. But experts also say many school-age children who are getting sick may not be getting infected in classrooms.
Just as cases in college students have been linked to partying and bars, school children may be contracting the virus at playdates, sleepovers, sports and other activities where precautions aren’t being taken, said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health specialist at George Washington University.
“Understandably, there is quarantine fatigue,’’ Wen said. Many people have a sense that if schools are reopening, then other activities can resume too, “but actually the opposite is true.”
Global school studies suggest in-person learning can be safe when transmission rates in the larger community are low, the CDC report said.
Mississippi is among states where several outbreaks among students and teachers have been reported since in-person classes resumed in July and August.
Kathy Willard said she had mixed feelings when her grandson’s fourth grade class in Oxford was sent home for two weeks after several teachers and one student tested positive for the virus. The family doesn’t have internet access at home, making remote learning a challenge.
“It was a hardship. There’s always a worry about him falling behind or not getting access to what he needs for school,” Willard said. “But at the same time, I’m glad the school is doing what they can to protect our kids.”
Students in her district are required to wear masks and receive temperature checks, and students and teachers who come into contact with the virus are quarantined.
In Alcorn County, Mississippi, where hundreds of community cases have been reported, including dozens among teachers, staff and students, parent Kimberly Kilpatrick-Kelley is keeping her 15- and 17-olds home for virtual learning.
The Corinth mother said the family always wears masks when they leave home and practice social distancing, and she worries about her kids getting sick and infecting her parents.
“I personally don’t want to take the risk” she said.
Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, head of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ infectious-diseases committee, said the big question is what will happen as schools that have started out with online learning go back to in-person classes.
“It really will depend on how well can you mask and distance in a school setting,” she said.
New York City, the nation’s largest school district, with over 1 million students, resumed classroom learning Tuesday for elementary school children. Higher grades will resume on Thursday.
The CDC report said more than 277,000 children ages 5 to 17 were confirmed infected between March and Sept. 19, with an increase in September after a peak and a decline over the summer.
The agency acknowledged that may be an underestimate, in part because testing is most often done on people with symptoms, and children with the coronavirus often have none.
The CDC reported 51 deaths in school-age kids, most in them ages 12 to 17. Less than 2% of infected children were hospitalized, and youngsters who are Black, Hispanic or have underlying conditions fared worse than white children.
The findings add to other data showing the pandemic is increasingly affecting younger age groups after initially hitting older Americans hard.
In a separate report Tuesday, the CDC said weekly COVID-19 cases among people ages 18 to 22 increased 55% nationally. The increases were greatest in the Northeast and Midwest and were not solely attributable to increased testing, the CDC said. About one-third of U.S. cases are in adults 50 and older, while one-quarter are in 18-to-29-year-olds.
The AAP research is based on reports from public health departments in 49 states, New York City, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. New York state doesn’t provide data by age. Most states count children’s cases up to age 19, though a few use different age ranges.
As of Sept. 24, the AAP counted nearly 625,000 youth cases, up to age 20, a 14% increase over the previous two weeks. Deaths totaled 109, well under 1% of all COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S.
As of Monday, the CDC counted over 435,000 cases in children from age zero through 17 and 93 deaths. The groups’ totals differ because they include different ages and time periods.
Overall, 7 million Americans have been confirmed infected and 205,000 have died.
Here are the latest developments regarding the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic throughout New England:
A total of $557,000 is going to the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund to support small businesses and promote economic growth in communities amid the pandemic, the state’s congressional delegation said Tuesday.
“As the economic fallout spurred by this pandemic worsens, it is essential that New Hampshire businesses have the support they need to survive this crisis,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said the fund “is providing critical financial support to communities in need, including to support affordable housing.”
The award was allocated by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which enables organizations like the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund to increase lending and investment activity in low-income and economically distressed communities.
The numbers: As of Tuesday, a total of 8,233 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 28 from the previous day. The number of deaths stood at 439.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 34 new cases per day on Sept. 14 to 37 new cases per day on Sept. 28.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia or death.
Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday urged Vermonters not to become complacent about the coronavirus as an uptick in cases is expected in the country in the coming colder months and with the number of cases growing in recent weeks in the Northeast and Quebec.
Vermont had a total of 50 cases from Sept. 15-28, its lowest two-week total since late May when there were 45.
“With the positive trends we’ve had for months, I know it can be easy to let your guard down, to get out more, see more friends, go to more gatherings, interact with more and with different groups, get a little closer, stay a little longer and pull that mask down more often,” said Scott, a Republican. But the safety measures are in place for a reason and are working, he said.
“If we let up, and get more relaxed all of the hard work we’ve done can slip away as well, just like we’ve seen in other places like Hawaii, Montana and even Wyoming,” he said.
Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, who is managing the state’s COVID-19 data, pointed to several outbreaks in Maine linked to a wedding and reception in Millinocket, Maine, in early August that became a superspreader event.
That event led to outbreaks in different parts of the state including at a nursing home in Madison and a jail in southern Maine, with 180 cases and eight deaths. The eight who died had not attended the wedding.
It’s ”really critical not to become complacent,” he said.
Scott urged Vermonters to keep track of what they’re doing and how many people they come into contact with, wear a mask, keep six feet apart, even among friends, and avoid large crowds, especially indoors. While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.
Schools, colleges: The restart of schools and colleges and universities continues to go well, Vermont officials said Tuesday, with low numbers of COVID-19 cases.
“We are really not having much more than a plateau in cases in those settings,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
In primary schools, Vermont has had four confirmed COVID-19 cases in three schools and one presumptive case, Pieciak said. The presumptive case is in Caledonia County where someone tested positive by antigen test and results of a PCR test are pending, Levine said.
That compares to New Hampshire with 53 cases in 36 schools and Maine with 32 cases in 15 schools, he said.
“We still are comparing quite favorably even to those states that have low prevalence in their communities,” he said.
Among Vermont’s colleges and universities, there have been 47 positive tests as of Monday, state officials said.
Nursing facility: Two employees and one patient at a Rutland nursing facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Testing was underway for all staff and residents of the Mountain View Center, officials said. The Health Department learned of the positive cases on Friday.
“We’re still awaiting further data but there have been no other cases reported in that facility,” Levine said Tuesday. “The facility is practicing great infectious control practices and all the appropriate quarantining of staff and patients has occurred.”
Authorities in Maine are recommending that every county jail in the state set up a COVID-19 testing plan as the state continues to grapple with a large outbreak at a jail in Alfred.
An outbreak at York County Jail has sickened more than 80 people. It’s connected with a large outbreak that stems from a wedding and reception in northern Maine.
A state report later showed that some of the county jails in the state didn’t require inmates and staff to wear masks in the aftermath of the early stages of the Alfred outbreak. One jail wasn’t performing symptom checks on staff, and many lacked diversion plans about where to send inmates during an outbreak.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Maine Department of Corrections are calling for the jails to implement testing plans and protocols for screening and personal protective equipment, according to guidelines issued by the agencies. Guidelines for testing include a recommendation that facilities conduct the testing anytime an inmate or staff member exhibits COVID-19 symptoms.
Maine CDC director Nirav Shah said he had a conference call with the Maine Sheriffs’ Association on Monday in which the sheriffs made clear they intended to follow the new guidelines.
“It was clear to me that they are all going in the same direction to assure full, universal compliance,” Shah said.
Church gathering: A large church gathering over the weekend has the “potential to be a superspreader” event, a town manager said of efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Maine.
Deputy Police Chief Rick Stubbert said the Rev. Jamie Dickson, senior pastor of the Kingdom Life Church in Oakland, indicated the event at his church grew to be larger than planned.
A crowd packed the church on Saturday evening for “Worship Night,” featuring a worship leader from California. The event is believed to have far exceeded the state’s limit of 50 people at an indoors gatherings because of the pandemic.
Stubbert said the parking lot of the church appeared to be full Friday and Saturday, and there were “a lot of out-of-state plates coming and going.”
“Obviously, this has the potential of being a superspreader, so we’re trying to figure out exactly what to do and how to move forward,” Town Manager Gary Bowman told the Morning Sentinel.
The church canceled an indoor conference that was originally planned for this past weekend.
Instead, the church wrote on Facebook that it would be holding a “worship night” with a livestream option, and the church seemed to acknowledge the event could be controversial. “Please avoid posting this online as you want to be very sensitive to COVID policies and general community concern for larger gatherings,” the church wrote.
“This is my first time leading worship in a church in probably four to five months,” Sean Feucht, the worship leader, said during the livestream.
He told the gathering he had been in Washington, D.C, with 100,000 people earlier in the day.
Dickson, the pastor, told the newspaper that every person was offered a mask and a personal hand sanitizer bottle, and there were space limitations posted on bathrooms to ensure social distancing. “And CDC guidelines were posted through the church,” he wrote.
The event is getting attention after an Aug. 7 wedding and reception in the Katahdin region became a superspreader event.
That event led to several outbreaks in different parts of the state. Eight deaths and more than 170 cases were linked to the wedding.
The numbers: An additional 37 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state, the Maine CDC said Tuesday.
The total number of confirmed cases is more than 5,300, the Maine CDC said. The number of deaths increased by one to 141. The average number of new cases per day was about 30, which was slightly less than it was a week ago.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Vaccine roll-out: The federal government has given Maine more than $720,000 to support the roll-out of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 when one becomes available. Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, said the support “will help to ensure that all Mainers, regardless of age, race, income, or location, are able to access the vaccine and protect themselves against the coronavirus.”
Many vaccines against COVID-19 are in development, but there are none approved yet for use in the U.S.