COVID Isn’t Harmless to Young People

COVID Isn’t Harmless to Young People
Photo: FamVeld, Shutterstock

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed enormous numbers of lives, many of them elderly adults. But children and young adults are not immune to COVID, nor is it so rare in children that we can ignore the possibility that they’ll catch it. So here are a few reminders

Lots of kids get COVID

The Washington Post reports that as of September 10, over half a million cases of COVID had been identified in children in the US, or about 10% of known cases.

Children also aren’t a monolith; a recent U.S. CDC report found that COVID seems to be twice as common in teenagers as in younger children. (With most children out of school all summer in the U.S., and tests for children harder to get than tests for adults, I wonder if those numbers might be artificially low.)

Children and young adults can have serious complications

It’s true that young people are less likely to die from the coronavirus or develop serious complications, but “less likely” doesn’t mean never. In the Washington Post article, a pediatric infectious disease specialist notes that “we’ve taken care of quite a few pretty sick kids with this illness.”

There’s a serious condition that develops in some children with COVID, similar to Kawasaki disease. While it’s rare, it’s also very serious.

A study of collegiate athletes recently showed that even after recovering from COVID, these young people had signs of damage to their hearts. We don’t know how serious the damage is, or how long it might last.

Kids can spread the virus to their families

Even though children are more likely than adults to get through COVID without serious or noticeable symptoms, they are still contracting the virus and passing it on. The recent CDC report on COVID in children notes that schools seem to have played a part in increasing COVID transmission in European communities. In other words, even if kids aren’t always getting sick, it’s likely that they’re spreading it.

Children are also harmed by the virus when it affects their family members. A recent calculation found that over 4,000 children in New York state have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID — more than lost a parent in the 9/11 attacks, Gothamist points out.

We’re putting children and young people in danger when we assume that the virus is no big deal for them. They can contract the virus, they can spread it to more vulnerable members of the community, and in many cases they suffer complications themselves. We need to stop repeating this myth about children being safe from the coronavirus; it’s just not true.

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