Aug 14, 2020 - Health

The kids who are most at risk from the coronavirus

Illustration of wooden child’s play block with an exclamation point

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus isn't as deadly for children as it is for adults, but kids still get it and can still get seriously sick from it. The risk is higher for Black and Hispanic children.

Why it matters: In communities with high caseloads, cases among children could explode as schools reopen. And kids in the communities already hit hardest by the pandemic are the most at risk.

The big picture: We don't know much about children and the coronavirus, mainly because the closure of schools and day cares has limited kids' contact with other people, shielding them from the virus more than adults.

  • Over the summer, camps and sports leagues have provided some evidence of how the pandemic plays out among children, and schools could soon provide fodder for what it looks like on a mass scale.

By the numbers: In the 20 states that report the age distribution of hospitalizations, plus New York City, between 0.6% and 8.9% of child cases ended up hospitalized, according to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

  • The AAP report also found a 40% increase in child cases during the second half of July, yet another indication that the virus can spread easily among children when given the opportunity.
  • A separate CDC report released last week found that, although children's hospitalization rate is low, children who are hospitalized are admitted to the ICU at almost the same rate as adults.

Context: Those numbers indicate that the coronavirus is more dangerous to kids than the flu.

  • 0.7% of children between 0 and 4 who got the flu during the 2018-2019 season were hospitalized, and only 0.27% of children 5-17 were hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • More hospitalized kids also end up in the ICU from coronavirus than from the flu.

Yes, but: Thankfully, very few children have died from their infections.

Between the lines: Mirroring almost every other pandemic trend, Black and Latino children have had it worse than white children.

  • Hispanic children have been hospitalized eight times more than white children, per the CDC. Black children have been hospitalized five times more.
  • Some of these children may live in households with essential workers. Underlying medical conditions may be another factor; the CDC study found that obesity, which is more prevalent among Black and Latino children, was the most prevalent underlying medical condition among hospitalized kids.

The bottom line: Reopening schools and exposing kids to the coronavirus may not be very high stakes for most kids, but for some, it is.

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