COVID-19 cases rising among US children as schools reopen

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A teacher leads her students into an elementary school in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, as hundreds of thousands of elementary school students are heading back to classrooms in the city, resuming in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus is infecting a rising number of American children and teens in a trend authorities say appears driven by school reopenings and the resumption of sports, playdates and other activities. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

After preying heavily on the elderly in the spring, the coronavirus is increasingly infecting American children and teens in a trend authorities say appears fueled by school reopenings and the resumption of sports, playdates and other activities.

Children of all ages now make up 10% of all U.S cases, up from 2% in April, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the incidence of COVID-19 in school-age children began rising in early September as many youngsters returned to their classrooms.

About two times more teens were infected than younger children, the CDC report said. Most infected children have mild cases; hospitalizations and death rates are much lower than in adults.

Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the rising numbers are a big concern and underscore the importance of masks, hand-washing, social distancing and other precautions.

“While children generally don’t get as sick with the coronavirus as adults, they are not immune and there is much to learn about how easily they can transmit it to others,’’ she said in a statement.

The CDC report did not indicate where or how the children became infected.

Public health experts say the uptick probably reflects increasing spread of the virus in the larger community. While many districts require masks and other precautions, some spread in schools is thought to be occurring, too. But experts also say many school-age children who are getting sick may not be getting infected in classrooms.

Just as cases in college students have been linked to partying and bars, school children may be contracting the virus at playdates, sleepovers, sports and other activities where precautions aren’t being taken, said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health specialist at George Washington University.