The coronavirus infection rate among adolescents aged 12 to 17 is approximately double the rate in children ages 5 to 11, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Monday that also said young people might play a significant role in community transmission—a finding that comes as schools across the country grapple with how to safely reopen.
The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, analyzed 277,285 confirmed Covid-19 cases in school-aged children in the U.S. between March and mid-September when most schools in the nation offered only remote learning or were closed.
Researchers found the average weekly incidence of Covid-19 in adolescents to be roughly 37 cases per 100,000 children, about double the 19 cases per 100,000 children for kids between the ages of 5 and 11; they found the demographic trends to be similar for both age groups.
Among the school-aged children with Covid-19 cases whose race was known, 42% were Hispanic, 32% were white and 17% were Black.
There was some differentiation between the age groups for race: 46% of the younger children were Hispanic compared to 39% of the adolescents and 26% of the younger age group were white compared to 36% of the older group.
Children who were hospitalized were more likely to be minorities: 45% were Hispanic, 24% were Black and 22% were white.
Out of all the children infected with coronavirus, 1.2% were hospitalized, 0.1% were admitted to an intensive care unit and 51 children died, less than 0.01%.
Children with at least one underlying condition were more likely to be hospitalized, representing 16% of those hospitalizations, 27% of those admitted to the ICU and 28% of those who died.
In the U.S. and globally, fewer Covid-19 cases have been reported in school-aged children compared to adults, according to the CDC. As of early August, 7.3% of all confirmed Covid-19 cases in the U.S. were among children. However, the CDC notes that the true Covid-19 infection rate for children is not known because of the lack of widespread testing and the prioritization of tests for adults and people who get severely ill. As the study published Monday indicates, hospitalization rates for children are significantly lower than for adults which may mean children do not experience as severe symptoms. The CDC notes that it is not clear if children are as susceptible to infection as adults or if they can transmit the virus as effectively, though the virus has spread through summer camps and schools.
Many school districts have opted for a “hybrid” mix of remote and in-person learning, with heightened precautions in the classroom, including plexiglass barriers, mandated mask-wearing and temperature checks.