About 252,000 new coronavirus cases were reported among children last week, according to data compiled by two health organizations. This marks the largest number of new pediatric COVID-19 cases in a single week since the pandemic began, and it comes as millions of kids head back to school.
This surge in pediatric cases between Aug. 26 and Sept. 2 represents nearly 27% of all new COVID-19 cases reported during that time period, according to the weekly report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. The organizations compiled data from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
There was a drop in child COVID-19 cases around the start of summer. Just 8,447 new pediatric cases were reported during the week of June 24, which is roughly 30 times less than the total reported last week. A case decline was seen among adults earlier in the summer as well, and pediatric cases appear to have generally risen and fallen with the number of cases reported among adults.
Geographically, the South has seen the highest spike in pediatric cases in recent weeks. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi are among the states that saw the highest number of new cases between Aug. 19 and Sept. 2. California, the nation’s most populous state, has reported the highest number of pediatric cases since the start of the pandemic, followed by Florida and then Illinois.
The AAP and CHA noted that their data was limited due to some states no longer reporting child hospitalizations or undercounting cases.
As of Sept. 2, more than 5 million children have tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
More research is needed to determine the virus’s long-term effects on this younger population, but the AAP said current data indicates that COVID-associated hospitalization and death are uncommon in children.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” the organization said. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effect.”
Over the past month, roughly 55,000 children have been admitted to U.S. hospitals with cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations among children had been falling since January but abruptly skyrocketed at the start of July, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both the AAP and CHA have encouraged all eligible Americans to get vaccinated as soon as they are able. Children become eligible at age 12.
Roughly 62% of people ages 12 and older have been fully vaccinated in the U.S. as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.
Federal health officials have suggested varying timelines for when vaccinations may be available for those younger than 12. AAP’s president, Lee Savio Beers, said Tuesday that she expects vaccine trial data for children to be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review by the end of this month or early October. The vaccine will then be considered for emergency use authorization.
“And so what that means is that once that data is submitted, the FDA will have a chance to look at it to determine the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and consider the risk-benefit for children,” she told NPR.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that the latest weekly count of pediatric cases was three times higher than the weekly cases reported in June. It was 30 times higher.