As the pandemic drags on and worsens, it becomes increasingly apparent that all our original beliefs about children and young people were dangerously inaccurate. The virus makes no exceptions for minors. They can catch it, they can spread it, and they can die from it. When people act as if that were not so, disaster happens.
Scientific studies take time to prepare, and it is not surprising that the freshest information is to be found in social media posts, which serve not only as informal news sources but as group therapy. A nurse writes about how her team spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to revive a five-year-old who caught COVID-19 because the parents could not give up Christmas dinner for one year. (She cusses a lot.)
My niece works in pediatric critical care and has seen a lot of very ill (and dying) children since Thanksgiving.
Another worker asks not to be called a hero, because many people in her field are emotionally spent and “at the brink.” The catastrophic summer is part of the reason.
Statistics paint a grim picture
In September, journalist Sweta Gupta summarized the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Although proportionately fewer children than adults are hospitalized with COVID-19, when they are, it’s serious. They are admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at about the same rate as adults — one in three. Their median age is eight years, and the boy-girl ratio is almost even. Children under two years old tend to be admitted more than those in the higher age groups.
Megan E. Doherty wrote about kids who have supposedly recovered, but not really. Not unless we consider “exhaustion, sore throat, coughing, enlarged lymph nodes, painful limbs, insomnia, and mysterious splotchy skin” to comprise a perfect state of pediatric health. These symptoms can linger or suddenly show up, in addition to blurry vision, head pain, intermittent fevers, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, testicle pain, and bloated stomach.
From June until September, when this piece was published, the website Undark…
[…] has been in touch with 28 families who report that their children, while not seriously ill, are stuck in a kind of limbo state. Those kids range in age from 17 years down to just 9 months old.
These aren’t the children with extremely dangerous MIS-C, who can die even under the best hospital care. These children are back home, supposedly all better.
A study released in September confirmed that the virus threatens the lives of people of every age. An uncredited New York Times piece about COVID-19 patients says,
The study […] looked at young adults discharged from more than 400 hospitals in the United States between April 1 and June 30. Over all, just over one-third were obese, and one quarter extremely so. Roughly one in five had diabetes, and about one in seven had hypertension…
The research letter from Harvard found that among 3,222 young adults hospitalized with Covid-19, 88 died — about 2.7 percent. One in five required intensive care, and one in 10 needed a ventilator to assist with breathing.
Harvard’s Dr. Scott D. Solomon, the study’s senior author, told the press that while, as expected, those with chronic health problems are at greater risk, some young adults also are acutely ill for no apparent reason. In other words, the phrase “pre-existing condition” does not tell the whole story. In the same month, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 12- to 17-year olds are more likely to contract the virus than younger children are.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “COVID-19 Hospitalization Data From 14 States: 1 in 3 Youths Admitted to ICU,” September 8, 2020
Source: “When Children’s Covid-19 Symptoms Won’t Go Away,” Undark.org, 09/02/20
Source: “Covid-19 Live Updates: Virus Can Be Deadly for Young Adults, Too, Study Finds,” NYTimes.com, 09/10/20
Source: “If Your Child Is This Age, They’re More Likely to Get COVID, CDC Says,” BestLifeOnline.com, 09/29/20
Image by Donnie Ray Jones/CC BY 2.0