1 in 5 People Who Got COVID Last Week Had This in Common, New Report Says
A surge in cases among this group has experts concerned
It's been a challenging time for the pandemic in the U.S. Close to 175 million people are fully vaccinated, per the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the highly transmissible Delta variant is spreading far and wide. Amid an alarming rise in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, the demographics of people contracting COVID has changed over the past month. In a scary shift, experts are now seeing more COVID cases in younger people than they were earlier in the pandemic. There are a handful of factors that play a role in this change, but the end result is that 1 in 5 new COVID cases last week were in children.
A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that during the week ending Aug. 26, children accounted for 22.4 percent of reported weekly COVID cases. This means that 203,962 children were diagnosed with COVID between Aug. 19 and Aug. 26. That percentage has risen substantially since the beginning of the pandemic, when children only represented 14.8 percent of total cases.
As of Aug. 26, the report said 4.8 million children have tested positive for COVID. Cases in children have been rising throughout the Delta surge, with the second week seeing the number of COVID cases in children reach the level of last winter's surge. According to the report, COVID cases in children dropped in early summer but have spiked significantly since then, seeing a five-fold increase this past month. In the week ending July 22, there were 38,000 cases in children; this past week, there were almost 204,000.
The surge in these cases comes as many children have returned to schools. Some states—including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah—have made it impossible for schools to enforce mask mandates.
Children are also more vulnerable to COVID because they're not yet eligible for vaccination. The Hill reports that officials are putting pressure on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move toward approving COVID vaccines for children under 12. Per The Hill, Lee Savio Beers, MD, the president of the AAP, wrote to the FDA earlier this month to ask the agency to move "aggressively" to authorize vaccines for children "as soon as possible."
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, who is now on Pfizer's board, recently told CBS the company is on track to get the vaccine application underway. He said Pfizer will likely "be in a position to file data with the FDA at some point in September, and then file the application potentially as early as October. So that'll put us on a time frame where the vaccine could be available at some point, late fall, more likely early winter."
Until children can be vaccinated, they have to rely on the adults around them to be inoculated. On Sept. 2, during a White House press briefing on COVID, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, made a case for vaccinating more adults to help protect vulnerable children. Walensky said data showed that "cases, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations are much lower among children and communities with higher vaccination rates. Vaccination works." Walensky cited a study that found the COVID-related hospitalizations of children were four times higher in states with low vaccination rates during the month of August.