Coronavirus Chronicles — Transmission and Kids, Summer

The summer of 2020 was just one thing after another. In four weeks, the country’s COVID-19 child cases grew by 90%. That’s not quite doubling, but it is pretty impressive for the work of a single month. After years of using the term “viral” to signify popularity that grows ferociously fast, it seems like, when an actual virus comes along, more recognition should be granted. This animated video provides a glimpse into the power of exponential growth.

My way or the highway

What the public really needs to understand about the virus is its single-minded sense of purpose. If the virus were a musician, it would produce a symphony every day. If the virus cared about climate change, there would be no more forest fires. It is excellent at what it does, and it knows what it wants.

It wants to use you as raw material to make more of itself. It wants to get into you, dismantle you like an old car, and sell the parts. The virus doesn’t have to fill out its tax forms or pay back its student loans, or even feed its kids. The virus only has one job — to reproduce.

It is a master of focus and intent, and it’s on a mission. Against all odds, the virus even seems to have been running its own PR campaign, because for a long time it did a great job of convincing most of America that children and teenagers were somehow magically exempt. Even after months, there are still people who think that the only victims are geezers in retirement homes.

Social media provides plenty of evidence to the contrary. From anonymous strangers, we hear about such cases as the 20-year-old “girl next door” who apparently recovered from an apparently mild case of COVID-19, and then dropped dead from a heart attack.

Younger children at risk

The American Academy of Pediatrics kept track of the summer toll of kids:

There were 179,990 new Covid-19 cases among US children between July 9 and August 6, according to the report. At least 380,174 total child Covid-19 cases have been reported as of August 6.

When children are sick enough to be hospitalized, one in three wind up in the Intensive Care Unit. Just for the sake of example, as this is being written, Southern California’s ICUs are full. (See a helpful map of ICU capacity in your area.)

The only upside is that in such a regimented setting, the sick ones can be studied more closely, in an effort to keep other kids out of there. Mitchell Tsai wrote for Quora,

We’ve learned younger children and teenagers shouldn’t be lumped together when it comes to Covid. Teens seem to shed virus — emit it from their throats and nasal passages — at about the same rates as adults. Kids under 5 have high levels of virus in their respiratory tracts, but it’s still not clear how much they spread it or why they don’t develop symptoms as often as adults do.

And like adults, children with other health conditions — obesity, chronic lung diseases, or infants who were born premature — are at higher risk than otherwise healthy children.

But foundational good health is no guarantee. Also in August, we heard about a 19-year-old in desperate shape, described by writer Gilbert Magallon as “fighting for his life for the last two months after contracting the coronavirus twice.” This was a robust youth, a football player and homecoming king. Not your typical person who needs emergency surgery to prevent imminent heart failure. No, a young man who was basically fine — until suddenly, he wasn’t.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “There has been a 90% increase in Covid-19 cases in US children in the last four weeks, report says,”, 08/11/20
Source: “Seven months later, what we know about Covid-19 — and the pressing questions that remain,”, 08/19/20
Source: “‘It’s a parent’s worst nightmare:’,”, 08/19/20
Image by Nenad Stojkovic/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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