Half a million cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in US children

A child with a mask holding a teddy bear with a mask.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

More than half a million children in the U.S. have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a new report. 

Though children rarely develop serious illness from the virus, they aren't immune to it. A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds that children represent about 9.8% of all COVID-19 cases in states that have recorded demographic data.

This data was available from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. In the past two weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases in children increased by 16% as 70,630 new cases were reported in children.

Related: Coronavirus live updates

But it's rarer that a child will develop serious illness or die from COVID-19.

A smaller number of states reported hospitalizations and mortality data based on age. In 23 states and NYC , children made up 0.7% to 3.7% of total reported hospitalizations. Between 0.3% and 8.3% of children who had COVID-19 ended up hospitalized, according to the report.

In 42 states, children made up 0% to 0.3% of all COVID-19 deaths; in 18 of those states, there were no deaths in children. Of the child COVID-19 cases, 0% to 0.2% resulted in death, according to the report.

"These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously," AAP President Dr. Sara "Sally" Goza said in a statement. "While much remains unknown about COVID-19, we do know that the spread among children reflects what is happening in the broader communities."

As in the pandemic as a whole, there were stark disparities in which children were likeliest to be diagnosed.

"A disproportionate number of cases are reported in Black and Hispanic children and in places where there is high poverty," she added. "We must work harder to address societal inequities that contribute to these disparities.” 

Previous studies have suggested that children can also transmit the virus to others, raising fears that reopening schools might increase the risk of transmission to adults in their households. One study conducted in South Korea and published on July 16 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found that older children were just as likely as adults to transmit the disease.

Originally published on Live Science.

Yasemin Saplakoglu
Staff Writer

Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

  • RobertPolaris
    Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. It has been seen that fewer children contract COVID-19 and among infected, children have less severe disease. Insights in pathophysiological mechanisms of less severity in children could be important for devising therapeutics for high-risk adults and elderly.

    The largest study so far, published in Pediatrics, included analysis of 2,143 children with COVID-19 documented from Jan. 16 to Feb. 8 in China. It found that symptoms of the disease were generally less severe in children and teens compared with adults. Specifically, 4.4 percent had no symptoms, 50.9 percent had mild disease and 38.8 percent had moderate symptoms.

    Of the children with symptoms, only 0.6 percent developed acute respiratory distress syndrome or multiple organ dysfunction. Of note, however, young children—particularly infants under one year of age—had a higher risk for significant illness. Ten percent of infants had severe disease, compared with 3 percent of teens over age 15.

    Infections in children are mild. For clarity on what these findings might mean for kids and their parents, Kristin Moffitt, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and associate physician in pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s.

    “What seems to be consistent so far, in multiple settings in multiple countries, including the U.S., is that the majority of COVID-19 infections in individuals under the age of 19 tend to be mild,” she explained. “Infection in pediatric patients of all ages tends to be associated with significantly lower rates of hospitalization and significantly lower rates of critical and severe illness.”

    Relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath. As of this writing today there is only a total of 14,532 serious cases. Also there has been a total of 6,543,624 in the U.S. with a total of 3,827,505 recovered and 2,521,174 active with only 194,945 deaths. For the record that is only 0.058829509880427% of 331,372,810 the total U.S. population.