More than 61,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19 last week, setting a new high for any 7-day span since the beginning of the pandemic, new numbers show.
On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reported that 61,447 children contracted the coronavirus from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29.
This number is “larger than any previous week in the pandemic,” the organization, which is tracking weekly COVID numbers using state health department data, said in a statement.
The AAP found that the percentage of cases in children has been on the rise since mid-April.
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Since the onset of the pandemic, 853,635 children have tested positive for the coronavirus, representing 11.1 percent of all cases in the U.S.
In October alone, nearly 200,000 new pediatric cases of COVID-19 were reported.
“This is a stark reminder of the impact this pandemic is having on everyone — including our children and adolescents,” Dr. Sally Goza, president of the AAP, said in a news release.
“This virus is highly contagious, and as we see spikes in many communities, children are more likely to be infected, too,” she added.
The AAP noted that this record number is most likely an undercount as children’s symptoms are often mild and they might not test for the virus.
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While severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children, the AAP notes an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on kids.
“Not only are children feeling the direct effects of the virus and becoming ill, but the pandemic has transformed their lives at critical stages of development and education,” Dr. Goza added.
“I’m very concerned about the long-term harms that children may suffer, particularly Black and Hispanic children, who are suffering a higher number of infections,” she continued. “This includes not only children who test positive for the virus, but everyone in these communities who are suffering disproportionate emotional and mental health harms.”
The AAP urges people to continue social distancing, wearing masks and following other public health recommendations to further protect children and their communities.
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The U.S. is averaging more daily coronavirus cases than at any previous point in the pandemic.
Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the nation’s seven-day average for infections is near 69,000 daily cases. The former highest peak came in July at an average of over 67,000 cases per day.
The development comes as the U.S. has entered the third peak of its outbreak. The weekend saw massive numbers of new cases, with more than 83,000 infections added on both Friday and Saturday.
Photos: Daily Life, Disrupted
The U.S. reports the most infections and fatalities out of any country, with more than 8.6 million infections and over 225,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. Every region is seeing an increase in cases, with the South and the Midwest reporting the majority of new infections, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.
Experts are concerned that as the country heads deeper into fall and winter, cold weather will push more people indoors, possibly increasing the spread of the virus. The challenge could also be compounded by the flu season.
“We are likely to see a very dense epidemic,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday. “I think we are right now at the cusp of what is going to be exponential spread in parts of the country.”
Gottlieb said the U.S. is at a “tipping point” but added that “if we took some aggressive, targeted steps right now we could potentially forestall the worst of it.”
But the Trump administration has a very different message as to the state of the country’s outbreak, with President Donald Trump repeatedly claiming that it is “rounding the corner.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday said the federal government would focus on developing vaccines and therapeutics rather than controlling the outbreak.
“We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,” Meadows told CNN.
Meanwhile, the virus has infiltrated Vice President Mike Pence’s inner circle, infecting his chief of staff and other top aides, but Pence has decided not to quarantine and is instead continuing on his regular scheduling with Election Day nearing.
The seven-day average of new cases has been creeping closer to the previous peak of the pandemic of 67,200 cases on July 22. The past week saw a new record with an average of 68,767 new cases every day.
“We’re entering what’s going to be the steep slope of the curve, of the epidemic curve,” Gottlieb told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”
Though cases are surging across the country, Gottlieb said things are going to start looking worse over the next two or three weeks. He said he doesn’t foresee the implementation of forceful policy intervention that could curb the spread.
“If we don’t do that, if we miss this window, this is going to continue to accelerate and it’s going to be more difficult to get under control,” he said.
A national mask mandate could be a necessary inconvenience
“A mandate can be expressly limited to the next two months,” Gottlieb wrote, adding that it’s easier to wear a mask in the winter than the summer. “The inconvenience would allow the country to preserve health-care capacity and keep more schools and businesses open.”
With deaths expected to rise this winter, policymakers will have to make moves to slow the spread, Gottlieb wrote. There already is no support for reinstating the stay-at-home orders from the spring.
If 95% of Americans wore masks in public, more than 100,000 lives could be saved in the United States through February, according to data released Friday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
“If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday.
Gottlieb wrote the concern about needing fines to enforce the mandate leading to confrontations with police isn’t necessarily true.
“States should be able to choose how to enforce a mandate, but the goal should be to make masks a social and cultural norm, not a political statement,” he wrote. “Mandating masks has become divisive only because it was framed that way by some politicians and commentators.”
State leaders back on guard
No state is currently reporting above a 10% improvement in coronavirus cases in the last week compared to the week before. And as the