Adolescents twice as likely as young children to test positive for COVID-19

Adolescents are twice as likely as young children to test positive for COVID-19, according to a new analysis released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between March 1 and Sept. 19, more than 277,000 children tested positive for COVID-19; 63 percent were between the ages of 12 and 17 while 37 percent were between the ages of 5 and 11. 

“Incidence among adolescents was approximately double that among younger children throughout the reporting period,” the authors wrote in the analysis. 

From May to September, the average weekly incidence among adolescents was 37.4 cases per 100,000 compared to 19 cases per 100,000 for younger children, the report reads. 

Hispanic and Black children were disproportionately more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than their white peers. 

Hispanic and Latino children in both age groups made up nearly 42 percent of positive cases, while Black children represented 17 percent of positive cases, despite making up about 26 percent and 14 percent of the population, respectively. 

About 3 percent of adolescents and 2 percent of younger children who tested positive had at least one underlying health condition, but those who experienced serious COVID-19 illness were more likely to have one. Lung disease, including asthma, was most commonly reported. Only 3,240 children who tested positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized, and 16 percent had at least one underlying condition.  

Of the more than 400 children who were admitted to the intensive care unit, 27 percent had at least one underlying health condition. Of the 51 children who died, 28 percent had an underlying health condition, according to the report.

There were also racial disparities in COVID-19 hospitalizations and among children, the authors wrote. 

“Although mortality and hospitalization in school-aged children was low, Hispanic ethnicity, Black race, and underlying conditions were more commonly reported among children who were hospitalized or admitted to an ICU, providing additional evidence that some children might be at increased risk for severe illness associated with COVID-19,” the authors wrote.

Schools across the country have resumed in-person instruction, raising questions about how many kids are getting COVID-19. 

Experts think most kids who get COVID-19 will show no symptoms, but it is likely they are spreading the virus to some adults. However, it appears to be the 20-29 age group that is playing the largest role in the spread of COVID-19, the authors wrote. 

“Recent evidence that monthly COVID-19 incidence increased approximately three-fold among persons aged 0-19 years since May and was highest among young adults aged 20-29 years during July, suggests that young persons might be playing an increasingly important role in community transmission,” the authors wrote.

However, the authors note that the report might underestimate the disease incidence among school-aged children because testing was prioritized for people with symptoms, and children are most likely not to have any. 

But as schools reopen it is “critical to have a baseline for monitoring trends in COVID-19 infection among school-aged children,” the authors wrote. 

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