An estimated 338,000 children in the United States have been infected with Covid-19, and 97,000 of those were reported in the final two weeks of July, according to a report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.
School districts across the country are considering how to safely reopen amid climbing Covid-19 cases nationwide, and medical experts are increasingly worried about the consequences of in-person school openings.
"Historically, my response up to this last couple of weeks has been typically much more neutral and just trying to implore people to do the right thing, to lay the information out in front," Dr. Michael Saag, director of UAB Medicine's Division of Infectious Disease, told Yahoo! Finance last week. "Now we're seeing schools that seem to shrug their shoulders ... It's impossible to stay quiet."
Parents and educators have expressed concern over the push to reopen, and some have protested moves to put kids in physical classrooms. Schools that have resumed in-person learning are reporting rapid spreads of Covid-19 infections among students and staff, prompting digital learning alternatives.
But politicians—Democrat and Republican—continue to tie the health of the nation's economy to reopening schools, and newly released studies refute the idea floated earlier in the pandemic that children "almost immune" to getting and spreading Covid-19, but do indicate children may be at lower risk than adults. In addition, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates African American and Hispanic children who contract Covid-19 are five and eight times more likely to be hospitalized than their white counterparts.
A new CDC analysis of children hospitalized for the coronavirus finds:— NPR (@NPR) August 9, 2020
• 1 in 3 was admitted to the ICU
• Black kids were 5 times as likely as white kids to be hospitalized
• Hispanic kids were about 8 times as likely as white kids to be hospitalized https://t.co/TmYKZpnS80
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"It has been hypothesized that Hispanic adults might be at increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection because they are overrepresented in frontline (e.g., essential and direct-service) occupations with decreased opportunities for social distancing, which might also affect children living in those households," the CDC researchers wrote.
Additionally, a report released by the journal Pediatrics showed racial and economic disparities for positive Covid-19 test rates.
"Racial/ethnic and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups have less access to primary care physicians," the study's authors wrote. "In addition, referral to the testing site by clinicians may have been differentially provided, and advertisement of the testing site may not have been uniformly distributed among all potential referring clinicians. Furthermore, the testing site was available a few days per week and during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. which may not have been convenient for all."
The United States' top infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that with proper precautions—social distancing, mask wearing, lower class sizes, etc.—schools could reopen for in-person learning.
"The primary consideration should always be the safety, the health [and] the welfare of the children, as well as the teachers and the secondary effects for spreading [to] the parents and other family members," Fauci told CNN Friday.
Many school districts in the U.S. have opted to go digital. Education Week reports that as of Aug. 6, 17 of the 20 largest school districts are choosing remote learning only as their back-to-school instructional model, affecting over four million students.
"As the parent of a school-aged daughter, I understand the gravity of this decision and the challenges posed by remote learning for our students and their families," Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), said in a press release urging officials implement digital learning in the Bay State schools. "But rushing to reopen our schools will directly jeopardize the lives of our students and educators, and that is a risk we cannot take."