Children and COVID: CDC Gives Perspective on Hospitalizations Children and COVID: CDC Gives Perspective on Hospitalizations

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New COVID-19 cases in children fell by 23% as the latest weekly count dropped to its lowest level since July of 2021, based on data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

During the week of March 11-17, the United States saw just under 32,000 new pediatric cases of COVID-19, a decline of 23% from the week before and the lowest figure reported since July 9-15, 2021, when the early stages of the Delta surge led to 23,551 cases, the AAP and CHA said in their weekly COVID report.

The two organizations put the total number of cases at nearly 12.8 million from the start of the pandemic to March 17, with children representing 19.0% of cases among all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases at almost 12.0 million as of March 21, or 17.5% of the nationwide total.

COVID-related hospitalizations also continue to fall, and two new studies from the CDC put children’s experiences during the Omicron surge and the larger pandemic into perspective.

One study showed that hospitalization rates for children aged 4 years and younger during the Omicron surge were five times higher than at the peak of the Delta surge, with the highest rates occurring in infants under 6 months of age. That report was based on the CDC’s COVID-19–Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET), which covers 99 counties across 14 states (MMWR. 2022 March 18;71[11]:429-36).

The second study compared child hospitalizations during 1 year of the COVID pandemic (Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021) with three influenza seasons (2017-2018 through 2019-2020). The pre-Omicron hospitalization rate for those under age 18 years, 48.2 per 100,000 children, was higher than any of the three flu seasons: 33.5 per 100,000 in 2017-2018, 33.8 in 2018-2019, and 41.7 for 2019-2020, the investigators said in a medRxiv preprint.

Most of the increased COVID burden fell on adolescents aged 12-17, they said. The COVID hospitalization rate for that age group was 59.9 per 100,000, versus 12.2-14.1 for influenza, while children aged 5-11 had a COVID-related rate of 25.0 and flu-related rates of 24.3-31.7, and those aged 0-4 had rates of 66.8 for COVID and 70.9-91.5 for the flu, Miranda J. Delahoy of the CDC’s COVID-19 Response Team and associates reported.

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