More than a million infants, children and adolescents in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data released in mid-November by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association, which are tracking data reported by state health departments.
The data showed new cases in children appear to be spiking, with 111,946 such cases nationwide in the one-week period ending Nov. 12. AAP President Sally Goza called the number “staggering and tragic” and said a new nationwide pandemic strategy is needed to protect the mental and physical health of families.
“We haven’t seen a virus flash through our communities in this way since before we had vaccines for measles and polio,” said Goza, adding that until a vaccine is readily available, we need to do more to protect one another. “We urgently need a new, nationwide strategy to control the pandemic, and that should include implementing proven public health measures like mask wearing and physical distancing.”
AAP notes the pandemic continues to take a toll on children’s mental and physical health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports emergency department visits by children and adolescents for mental health problems have increased more than 24 percent during the pandemic. And in a national survey, 27 percent of parents reported worsening mental health for themselves and 14 percent reported worsening behavioral health for their children. Child immunizations for children ages 2 and younger have also fallen substantially during the pandemic, and the AAP is concerned children are missing important developmental screenings.
“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.”