MARYLAND — Kids are at the forefront of the conversation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic as school districts in Maryland and across the country kick off a new year while still grappling with whether to hold classes online or in person.
A question remains: Should parents worry about their child’s health when sending them back to school?
According to President Donald Trump, no. Trump made headlines recently by claiming kids are “almost immune” to the coronavirus.
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During an appearance on Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage,” Trump claimed that among young children, “almost none have a serious problem” with COVID-19. One day prior, the president also claimed during an appearance on Fox News that children are “almost immune” to catching the virus and don’t spread it much.
That’s wrong, health experts say.
“If you look at children, children are almost, and I would say almost definitely, but almost immune from this disease,” Trump said during an Aug. 5 appearance on “Fox and Friends.” “I don’t know how you feel about it, but they’ve got stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this … and they don’t have a problem; they just don’t have a problem.”
But a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association illustrates a different reality.
Here’s what the report and other data reveals about coronavirus and the toll it’s taken on American children:
1. Kids represent just over 9 percent of total U.S. coronavirus cases.
As of Aug. 6, a total of 380,174 cases were reported in children nationwide, according to the report. At the time, the United States had 4,159,947 total reported coronavirus cases, meaning kids comprised 9.1 percent of cases. In 27 states, kids made up 10 percent or more of cases.
Nearly all states are tracking cases by age. According to the report, 49 states, New York City, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam have all reported at least some COVID-19 cases in children. New York state is the only state that does not track cases by age.
The definition of a “child” also varies according to state. In some, the cutoff age for reporting is 14, while other states count persons up to 24 years old as children.
On Aug. 15, state reporting info showed Maryland had a total of 99,693 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. That’s an addition of 818 new cases in the past 24 hours. The positivity rate is 3.43 percent, a drop of .2 percent from Friday.
Maryland’s COVID-19 portal also shows that 3,499 residents have died from the disease so far, an increase of four in the past 24 hours.
2. A total of 8,980 kids have tested positive for coronavirus in Maryland.
As of Aug. 6, the report said just under 9,000 Maryland children have tested positive for the virus. That means 9.7 percent of all positive cases in the state are kids.
According to the Maryland Department of Health’s data, as of Aug. 15 a total of 10,191 people age 19 or younger have been confirmed to have the virus. The state has 1.4 million children.
There has been one COVID-19 death in the state to date, with the victim’s age listed in the 10-19 age range.
3. The number of kids infected with coronavirus nationwide jumped 90 percent in the last four weeks.
As mentioned previously, 380,174 kids have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus — that’s 500 out of every 100,000 kids in the United States.
In fact, the number of kids infected has nearly doubled in recent weeks — 180,000 new cases were reported between July 9 and Aug. 6, causing a 90 percent jump in total cases.
4. Hospitalization, severe illness and death associated with COVID-19 are uncommon in children.
Children of all ages can become sick with COVID-19; however, most kids who are infected typically don’t become as sick as adults, and some might not show any symptoms at all, according to Mayo Clinic.
Available data in the AAP report indicates that COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death are also uncommon in children. In New York City and 20 other reporting states, children comprised only 0.5 to 5.3 percent of total reported hospitalizations, and only 0.3 to 8.9 percent of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.
Child mortality associated with the disease is even more uncommon. At most, children made up only 0.5 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
However, racial disparities exist among hospitalized children, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hispanic children were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than white kids, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher, it found.
5. Some children with COVID-19 are developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C.)
According to another recent report by the CDC, about 570 kids have been diagnosed with a rare condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. Ten of those children have died.
In late May, health officials said six cases of MIS-C appeared in Maryland children, the Baltimore Sun reported. A 15-year-old Baltimore County girl died May 16 after showing symptoms of the diease.
Some children with the syndrome have symptoms resembling Kawasaki disease, another rare childhood condition that can cause swelling and heart problems. Other symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes or feeling extra tired.
“The underlying problem that results in MIS-C seems to be a dysfunction of the immune system,” Dr. Ermias Belay, who is leading the CDC team looking into MIS-C cases, told the Associated Press. The immune system kicks into overdrive when it sees the virus, releasing chemicals that can damage different organs, he added.
In the study, many of the patients with the condition had severe complications, including inflammation of the heart, shock, and kidney damage. Nearly two-thirds of the cases overall were admitted to intensive care units, and the average ICU stay was five days.
Racial disparities also exist in MIS-C cases, according to the CDC, which found nearly three-quarters of the children with the syndrome were either Hispanic or Black.
The CDC report covered illnesses that began from mid-February to mid-July. Forty states have reported cases.
The CDC encourages parents to contact their child’s doctor right away if the child is showing symptoms or emergency warning signs of MIS-C. Based on what the CDC knows about MIS-C, the best way to protect a child is to take action to prevent them from catching coronavirus.