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Yes, there’s a rise in child COVID-19 cases but it’s not yet known if the delta variant is more dangerous for kids

There’s been a rise in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. That includes children, but experts are still trying to determine if the delta variant is more harmful to kids.

Children throughout the United States are preparing to head back to school. In preparation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended students and staff wear masks at K-12 schools as a COVID-19 safety measure. The recommendation was made in part because the COVID-19 vaccines are not yet authorized for children younger than 12.

With the delta variant spreading across the country, people have voiced concerns that children are more vulnerable to the virus. A Mississippi health official in July warned about COVID-19 hospitalizations among children. Others have claimed that more children are getting infected with COVID-19.

THE QUESTION

Is there a rise in COVID-19 cases among children?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, there is a rise in COVID-19 cases among children. Though, experts say there’s not enough information yet to determine if the delta variant is more dangerous to children. Data continues to show it’s rare for children with COVID-19 to be hospitalized or die.

WHAT WE FOUND

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said, based on state reports, there were 71,726 new COVID-19 cases among children from July 22-29. The definition of a child varies by state, AAP says, but typically ranges from 0-19 years old.

The nearly 72,000 new cases reported during the last full week of July were almost double the 38,654 cases reported the week prior, from July 15-21, and triple the 23,551 child COVID-19 cases reported two weeks prior, from July 8-15. The most child COVID-19 cases reported in a week was 211,000 from Jan. 7 to Jan. 14, 2021, according to AAP data.

“After declining in early summer, child cases have steadily increased in July,” the AAP says.

There have been nearly 4.2 million COVID-19 cases among children so far during the pandemic, according to the AAP, accounting for about 14.3% of all cases.

The increase in cases among children coincides with a national spike that’s tied to the spread of the delta variant. In its weekly review on July 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases spiked by 64% compared to the previous week.

The CDC estimates the delta variant accounts for more than 90% of new COVID-19 cases. Dr. Gabe Kelen, professor and chair at Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, says the delta variant is about twice as contagious as previous strains of COVID-19.

Because of the increased risk of transmission, Kelen says everyone, including children, is more susceptible to catching the virus. But, he said, at this point, there’s not enough information to determine if the delta variant is more harmful to children.

“So, the data are not fully in, but we are very concerned about the numbers of infections that we’re seeing in children,” he said.

Some children’s hospitals have reported a significant increase in COVID-19 patients. In an Aug. 2 Facebook post, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Louisiana said at least 62 school-aged kids were admitted to the emergency room for COVID-19 in July compared to just 18 in June. Heather Haq, a pediatric hospitalist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said there was a recent spike in child COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Tony Moody, a professor of pediatrics at Duke University, said more analysis needs to be done to determine what is leading to the rise in child COVID-19 cases.

"We need more studies and testing to understand whether the hospitalizations are due to more cases and therefore more severe cases, or whether they’re due to the virus itself causing more severe disease,” he told VERIFY via email.

A spokesperson from the AAP also said it’s too early to tell how the delta variant is affecting children.

“Right now, there is no data to show if the variant is more dangerous to children, and so it’s premature for our experts to comment on it,” the representative said.

Among states that report hospitalizations, the AAP found between 0.1% and 1.9% of all child COVID-19 cases during the pandemic have resulted in hospitalization. Among states that report deaths, the AAP says between 0.00% and 0.03% of child COVID-19 cases have resulted in death.

The CDC reports, as of Aug. 4, there have been 416 COVID-19 deaths among children 18 and younger since the start of the pandemic. So, data show it’s uncommon for children to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and very rare for kids to die with the virus.

Kelen said the best way to protect children against COVID-19 is for adults to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

More from VERIFY: The delta variant and vaccine mandates

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