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Pediatric COVID-19 cases rising for 1st time since May

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(NEW YORK) — As more infectious COVID-19 variants become dominant in the U.S., there are renewed signs that COVID-19 cases may be back on the rise across parts of the country.

The national resurgence comes as the number of children testing positive for the virus also sees an increase again.

New infections among children had been on the decline since May, however, for the first time in nearly two months, there has been an uptick in the weekly total of pediatric COVID-19 cases.

Last week, nearly 76,000 children tested positive for the virus, up from the 63,000 pediatric cases reported the week prior, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

Overall, totals remain significantly lower than during other parts of the pandemic. However, the organizations said that child cases are still “far higher” than one year ago, when just 12,100 cases were reported.

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Many Americans, who are taking at-home tests, are also not submitting their results, and thus, experts said daily case totals are likely significantly higher than the numbers that are officially reported.

Approximately 13.8 million children have tested positive for the virus, since the onset of the pandemic. Approximately 5.9 million reported cases have been added so far this year. Children represent about a fifth of all reported cases on record.

COVID-19 related hospitalizations among children are also on the rise, with admission levels also reaching their highest point since February, federal data shows.

Late last month, all children, six months and older, became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — a welcome development in the fight against the pandemic that many parents had been eagerly awaiting.

Although it is still unknown how many children between the ages of six months and four years old have been vaccinated, data shows that the vaccine rollout in older children continues to lag.

Over 25 million children, over the age of five, who have been eligible for a shot since November, are still unvaccinated.

“It is critical that we protect our children and teens from the complications of severe COVID-19 disease,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement last month. “Vaccinating this age group can provide greater confidence to families that their children and adolescents participating in childcare, school, and other activities will have less risk for serious COVID-19 illness.”

Despite continued encouragement from scientists and federal health officials, overall, less than half of children ages 5 to 17 — about 44.4% that age group — have been fully vaccinated.

An even small proportion — 38.6% — of children over 5, who are eligible for a booster, have received their supplemental shot.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association noted in their report that there is an “urgent” need to collect more age-specific data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as potential longer-term effects.

“It is important to recognize there are immediate effects of the pandemic on children’s health, but importantly we need to identify and address the long-lasting impacts on the physical, mental, and social well-being of this generation of children and youth,” the organizations said.

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