There were 61,000 new cases in children during the last week of October, “which is larger than any previous week in the pandemic,” the AAP said in a statement. From the onset of the pandemic through October 29, more than 853,000 children have tested positive for Covid-19, the AAP said, including nearly 200,000 new cases during the month of October.
“This is a stark reminder of the impact this pandemic is having on everyone — including our children and adolescents,” said AAP President Dr. Sally Goza in the statement.
“This virus is highly contagious, and as we see spikes in many communities, children are more likely to be infected, too,” Goza said.
Yet these numbers are likely an undercount, the AAP said. Because symptoms in children are often mild and can look like common colds or viruses, many children go untested.
Symptoms in children
Unusual symptoms can include “Covid toes” — a reddish tinge to toes and other extremities, a sudden loss of taste and smell and conjunctivitis, a highly contagious condition also known as pink eye.
While cases of severe illness due to Covid-19 appears to be rare among children, severe illness has been reported, most often in infants less than a year.
Long-term effects not known
More severe cases of Covid-19 were most likely to be found in children with underlying health conditions, the CDC said, with chronic lung disease, including asthma, the most commonly reported condition (55%). While in smaller percentages, children with disability (9%), immune disorders (7%), diabetes (6%), psychological conditions (6%), cardiovascular disease (5%) and severe obesity (4%) notably had severe cases of Covid-19 as well.
There is an “urgent” need for studies and more data on how the virus may affect a chlld’s health long-term, both physically, emotionally and mentally, the AAP says.
“Not only are children feeling the direct effects of the virus and becoming ill, but the pandemic has transformed their lives at critical stages of development and education,” Goza said.
“I’m very concerned about the long-term harms that children may suffer, particularly Black and Hispanic children, who are suffering a higher number of infections,” she said. “This includes not only children who test positive for the virus, but everyone in these communities who are suffering disproportionate emotional and mental health harms.”
A need for caution
Colder temperatures are driving many people inside, into closer quarters, where the virus can more easily spread. In addition, upcoming holiday travel may put both children and adults at greater risk as family gather.
Considering the rising numbers of cases and hospitalization around the country at this time, the AAP is urging families to take greater precautions and consider canceling any Thanksgiving or other holiday plans.
“We can help protect everyone in our communities by keeping our physical distance, wearing masks, and following other recommendations from our doctors and public health experts,” Goza said.
“We are entering a heightened wave of infections around the country. We would encourage family holiday gatherings to be avoided if possible, especially if there are high risk individuals in the household,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, who chairs the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.