Editor’s note:For the latest news on COVID-19, visithttps://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/01/28/coronavirus.
More than 1 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a figure the AAP president called “staggering and tragic.”
The AAP is working tirelessly to support pediatricians on the front lines and is calling on government leaders to implement a national strategy to combat the virus.
"We urgently need a new, nation-wide strategy to control the pandemic, and that should include implementing proven public health measures like mask wearing and physical distancing,” AAP President Sara “Sally” H. Goza, M.D., FAAP, said in a news release. “This pandemic is taking a heavy toll on children, families and communities, as well as on physicians and other front-line medical teams. We must work now to restore confidence in our public health and scientific agencies, create fiscal relief for families and pediatricians alike, and support the systems that support children and families such as our schools, mental health care, and nutrition assistance.”
New data from the AAP and the Children’s Hospital Association show at least 1,039,464 children have tested positive for COVID-19 and 133 have died. The case count includes nearly 112,000 last week alone, consistent with the nationwide surge in cases. Children make up about 11.5% of the total cases in the U.S.
About 1.7% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and 0.06% of the deaths have been among children. About 1.6% of children with a known case of COVID-19 have been hospitalized and 0.01% have died, according to the report. Data were not available from all states.
The AAP believes the number of reported COVID-19 cases in children is likely an undercount because children’s symptoms often are mild and they may not be tested for every illness.
Children have suffered during the pandemic even if they have not contracted the virus. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report last week showing the proportion of pediatric emergency department visits for mental health has risen during the pandemic. Many are struggling with upheaval in their daily lives, social isolation and anxiety about getting sick. Disruptions to education have impacted their academic progress, and a government analysis found millions of children from low-income families did not get vaccinations, screenings, mental health care and dental services in the early months of the pandemic. The virus has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic children, who are suffering a higher number of infections, as well as other impacts of the pandemic.
“We know from research on the impact of natural disasters on the mental health of children that prolonged exposure to this kind of toxic stress is damaging,” Dr. Goza said. “Most natural disasters have an end, but this pandemic has gone on for over eight months, and is likely to continue to disrupt our lives for many more. We’re very concerned about how this will impact all children, including toddlers who are missing key educational opportunities, as well as adolescents who may be at higher risk for anxiety and depression.”
AAP support for pediatricians
The AAP is continuing to support pediatricians. It has issued interim clinical guidance on 20 topics related to the pandemic, including testing, personal protective equipment, return to school and telehealth.
It also is holding biweekly virtual town halls, linking members with leading experts to discuss emerging issues related to the pandemic. Pediatricians can learn strategies for pediatrician resilience via a town hall session at 7 p.m. CST on Nov. 19.
To support members who are struggling to pay dues, the AAP has implemented a new dues installment program. It also has found innovative ways to help members obtain supplies such as through a new partnership with Amazon.
In addition, the AAP is providing expert guidance to government leaders. In October, it released its Blueprint for Children, which focuses on how government leaders can support healthy children, secure families and strong communities and ensure America’s role as a leading nation for youths. The Blueprint served as a foundation for the AAP’s Transition Plan: Advancing Child Health in the Biden-Harris Administration. Two pediatricians have been added to President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force, and AAP leadership hopes to work with them to share its concerns and priorities.
“Pediatricians stand ready to work with the Biden-Harris administration and leaders at all levels of government to ensure children's health is prioritized in all decision-making,” Dr. Goza said. “Their futures are on the line, and children are counting on us to act.”