Children represent 17.7% of COVID-19 cases as U.S. sees record high for weekly cases

Children represent 17.7% of COVID-19 cases as U.S. sees record high for weekly cases

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The United States recorded more than 3 million new COVID-19 cases this past week, a record high for weekly cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. As schools and businesses determine whether to resume in-person learning in the new year, children’s cases are also up, with 325,340 cases in the week between December 23 and December 30, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That week, children represented 17.7% of the reported cases in the U.S. Cases spiked similarly at the start of the school year, with about 204,000 child cases, which at the time accounted for 22.4% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases, according to the academy. 

While child COVID-19 cases declined in early summer, they “increased exponentially” at the end of August. At the time, children under 12 children were not yet eligible for the vaccine. Now, children age 5 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine, but children’s cases are still high.

Food and Drug Administration first authorized use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 to 17 years old. The U.S. has recorded 13.1 million children or 53% of this age group are are fully vaccinated, according to the academy. Booster shots are now recommended for children as young at 16, the CDC says.

The FDA authorized use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 in October. Only 23% of children in this group – 6.5 million kids –  have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the academy. 

The U.S. averaged 260 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations a day last week, which was up 30% from the week before, according to data from December 28. 

It appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children and the number of childhood deaths remains low, but there is an “the urgent need to collect more data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children,” the academy says. 

There have been 7,890,756 total child COVID-19 cases reported since the start of the pandemic and and children represent 17.4% of the total cases in the U.S., according to the academy’s data.

Overall, the country appears to be under siege by the Omicron variant. This week, 3,361,912 new cases were reported in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. That is up from the record high, which was 2,823,692 in the week between December 26 and January 1, 2021.

While some districts are teaching remotely, millions of children returned to school after the New Year – despite the increase in COVID-19 cases across much of the country. Only about 100 of the nation’s more than 13,000 school districts are opting for virtual learning this winter. 

In New York, new coronavirus cases jumped 218% in just two weeks, and hospitalizations went up 148% in the same period, according to the city’s health department. The city is sending an additional 2 million test kits into schools and doubling the number of students tested each week in an effort to keep schools open. However, the teachers’ union is asking for in-person learning to be put on pause. 

In Washington, D.C., where the number of new cases jumped 331% over the last two weeks, city officials extended the winter break by two days so all students had time to get tested. In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where schools are also opening on time, about 1 in 4 COVID-19 tests are coming back positive.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday the “default should be in-person learning for all students across the country.”

“I still believe very firmly and very passionately — not only as an educator, but as a parent — that our students belong in the classroom and we can do it safely,” he said.

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