Coronavirus most likely to kill minority children, CDC says3 min read . Updated: 16 Sep 2020, 08:17 AM IST
Hispanics accounted for 45% of deaths while Black people accounted for 29%
Coronavirus is disproportionately killing minority children in the U.S., especially those with other underlying health conditions, according to a federal report that shows how devastation from Covid-19 among Black and Hispanic adults has carried down to their offspring.
Children are much less likely than adults to contract coronavirus or fall seriously ill because of the infection, health records show, though vulnerability varies based on demographics.
Of around 190,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the U.S., 121 of those who died by July 31 were under the age of 21, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three out of four were of Hispanic, Black, American Indian or Alaskan descent, the agency said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The findings are significant as schools across the U.S. reopen in some fashion, with many attempting a hybrid approach that allows some of the in-person learning that’s crucial to childhood development, according to the agency. The report comes as global public health leaders said returning to school should be a top priority worldwide, as children face other risks the longer they are out of the classroom. It has to be done safely, however.
“Health departments, in collaboration with school districts and the communities they serve, can evaluate and improve health promotion, health access, and health equity for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults," the agency said. “Ultimately, health departments, health providers, and community partners can mobilize to remove systemic barriers that contribute to health disparities."
Parents, caregivers and children need clear, consistent and culturally appropriate information on how to avoid infection, as well as proper monitoring and ongoing care for those who do contract the virus, the CDC said.
Overall, according to the report, Hispanics accounted for 45% of deaths while Black people accounted for 29%.
Minority children are disproportionately represented in families of essential workers who are often unable to do their jobs from home, which puts them at higher risk for exposure to the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, according to the CDC report. Parents and older members of the household who become infected could pass the virus to the children they live with, the agency said.
“Disparities in social determinants of health, such as crowded living conditions, food and housing insecurity, wealth and educational gaps, and racial discrimination, likely contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in Covid-19 and MIS-C incidence and outcomes," the CDC said in its report.
Deaths were more common among males, particularly at the older end of the spectrum, with young adults age 18 to 20 accounting for nearly half, the agency found. The next highest risk was in infants under the age of 1. Underlying medical conditions were also common among the young patients, with 75% having at least one other health concern.
Nearly 40 deaths occurred at home or in the emergency department, a sign that necessary care may have been delayed for some. While younger patients are more likely to fully recover, complications including respiratory distress and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a severe illness marked by fever, organ damage, and inflammation do occur, the agency said.
The issue of whether and how to reopen schools has proved thorny globally as well.
Officials from the World Health Organization, UNESCO and UNICEF, which just released new guidance for school reopenings, urged countries to consider in-person learning for children a top priority as part of a Tuesday media briefing. The groups cited risks to students including physical and emotional violence, and vulnerability to child labor and sexual abuse.
About 1.6 billion children were sent home when schools closed at the height of Covid-19, and 872 million students still remain outside of classrooms today, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. Meanwhile, one in four countries who participated in a recent UNICEF survey said they didn’t have a date scheduled to return students to in-person learning, posing risks to students who are less likely to resume school the longer they’re out, she said.
WHO officials said that while kids and adolescents can become infected and infect others, most cases appear to be mild, though additional research is needed. Schools should reopen cautiously, with precautions and only when transmission is under control in the community, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid.
“What we have to recognize is there’s the direct impact of Covid-19 and the indirect impact of all the other services that have been pushed aside during this time," like routine vaccinations and access to medical care, Van Kerkhove said. “So there will be an impact on children as well beyond direct infection with this particular virus, something all of us are deeply concerned about."