How to Make Sense of Cases Spiking Among Young Kids
New increases in cases seem to contradict previous knowledge
A lot of the early research on kids and the coronavirus was optimistic. While it suggested that kids could spread the virus, it also showed that they didn’t get infected too often, and when they did, their symptoms were mild. For a time, it seemed that parents could breathe a little easier.
But a lot has changed — especially in the last month, as the United States has reopened. As cases spike in over 41 states, epidemiologists are noticing that cases among kids are increasing. On July 4, Florida reported a record high number of cases among children aged 19 and younger. In Oregon, cases among kids younger than 10 grew fivefold during June. Texas reports that the number of cases is rising among kids attending daycare.
One reason these trends are inconsistent with the early research is because, well, it was early. “I think, unfortunately, the jury is still out on the likelihood of infection and the relative transmissibility of the virus in children,” University of South Florida epidemiology professor Jason Salemi tells the Medium Coronavirus Blog. Salemi helped establish the Coronavirus in Kids (COVKID) Tracking and Education Project, which monitors and compiles epidemiologic surveillance data on Covid-19 in children and teens across the United States. The program is run by the Women’s Institute for Independent Social Enquiry, a nonpartisan, D.C.-based think tank.
Salemi points to a small recent study from Switzerland showing that 12 symptomatic kids had a viral load (amount of virus in their systems) and virus-shedding patterns that resembled those of adults. It’s more evidence that ‘transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from children is plausible,’” he says, though the data on infections and deaths already bear that out. On July 4, COVKID’s most recent count, the total number of current Covid-19 cases in American children and teens was over 190,000. The number of kids who had been admitted into intensive care was 670, and 64 children had died in 19 states.
While testing rates have increased, they alone don’t account for the uptick in cases among kids, says Salemi. There “is absolutely community spread — and children are not immune to that spread.”…