American children with COVID-19 are hospitalized infrequently compared to adults, but the rate has been growing and about a third of those hospitalized in a subset of a federal study published Friday needed intensive care.
The study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed pediatric hospitalization data for 576 cases in 14 states. It found that about eight children are hospitalized for every 100,000 infected, compared with more than 164 adults per 100,000.
But between March and July, the hospitalization rates of children increased steadily, with Black and Latino children hospitalized at a higher rate. Among 208 hospitalized children with complete medical chart reviews, a third were admitted to an intensive care unit. One died and 12 needed invasive ventilation.
The report comes as President Donald Trump has pushed for schools to reopen across the U.S., and many large districts have pushed back. This week, in urging schools to reopen, the president falsely asserted in a Fox News interview that children are “almost immune from this disease.”
Continued surveillance is needed to further identify “the burden and outcomes of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations among children,” the researchers wrote in the report. “These data will help to better define the clinical spectrum of disease in children and the contributions of race and ethnicity and underlying medical conditions to hospitalizations and outcomes.”
The hospitalization rate among Latinos was around 16 per 100,000 while Black children had a rate of about 11 per 100,000.
There remains a lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 is transmitted to and from children. Some early evidence has suggested that children — and especially younger children — don’t transmit the virus as frequently as adults or even older children.
While children do appear to be at a lower risk of getting very ill, a small number have died or required intensive care as a result of either the respiratory failure commonly associated with the virus or a frightening inflammatory condition sometimes described as similar to Kawasaki disease that causes heart or circulatory problems.
On Friday, the National Health Institutes also launched a program seeking to identify which children might be most at risk for developing that condition, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
The CDC study examined cases reported to the COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network, a population-based surveillance system that collects data on laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated hospitalizations in 14 states.