More than 500,000 children in the United States have now been diagnosed with coronavirus – as the rate of new cases continues to rise.
Over 70,000 COVID-19 infections were reported among youngsters in the two weeks between 20 August and 3 September, the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) said.
This marks a 16% rise and brings the national total to 513,415, while at least 103 children have died from the illness, said the report, according to NBC.
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Academy president, Dr Sara Goza, said: “These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously.
“While much remains unknown about COVID-19, we do know that the spread among children reflects what is happening in the broader communities.”
And just as among adults, minorities and disadvantaged groups are faring worst.
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“A disproportionate number of cases are reported in black and hispanic children and in places where there is high poverty,” Dr Goza added.
Researchers said much of the surge over the summer was driven by infections in the south, the Midwest and the west.
Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota were the worst-affected states.
Dr Sean O’Leary, vice-chair of the academy’s committee on infectious diseases, said: “This rapid rise in positive cases occurred over the summer, and as the weather cools, we know people will spend more time indoors.”
The academy wants every child over six months old to get the flu vaccine before the end of October, to help prevent a so-called “twindemic” of influenza and the coronavirus this winter.
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Dr O’Leary said: “The goal is to get children back into schools for in-person learning, but in many communities, this is not possible as the virus spreads unchecked.
“We must take this seriously and implement the public health measures we know can help; that includes wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, and maintaining social distance.”
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The half a million child cases represent almost 10% of the overall US total of more than six million, but child deaths make up a tiny fraction of the country’s total of more than 189,000.