Black, Hispanic and American Indian children are dying due to COVID-19 at a disproportionally higher rate than their white peers, a new Centers for Disease Control study found.
While children are significantly less likely than adults to die from COVID-19, minority youth represent 78 percent of current fatalities.
For this study, the CDC tracked all known pediatric COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. for the first time and found that between February and July, there have been at least 391,814 cases and 121 deaths in people under 21 years old.
Of those 121 deaths, Black, Hispanic and American Indian children accounted for over three-quarters, despite making up just 41 percent of the U.S. population under 21. Hispanic children had the highest rate of death, at 44 percent, followed by Black children at 29 percent and 4 percent for both American Indian and Asian or Pacific Islander children. White children made up 14 percent of the deaths.
The CDC’s findings are in line with previous studies on the higher rates of death in minority adults. Though they make up a smaller portion of the U.S. population, the rate of death is twice as high for people of color under age 65 compared to white adults.
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The researchers said that children from ethnic and racial minorities, those with preexisting conditions and youths between the ages of 18 and 20 are more likely to die from COVID-19.
“Infants, children, adolescents, and young adults, particularly those from racial and ethnic minority groups at higher risk, those with underlying medical conditions, and their caregivers, need clear, consistent, and developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate COVID-19 prevention messages,” the researchers said.
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Twenty-five percent of the children who died had no preexisting conditions, the CDC said, and 75 percent had at least one. The most common conditions were chronic lung disease, such as asthma; obesity; neurological conditions and heart conditions.
The enormous disparity in deaths is likely due to inequalities in health care, living conditions and education, the CDC said, along with food and housing insecurity and a higher likelihood that parents are essential workers.
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The CDC said that communities and health care providers need to “mobilize to remove systemic barriers that contribute to health disparities.”
The federal health agency also emphasized that these statistics are from before students across the country returned to school, and that reopening may lead to increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Though children are getting infected and dying at far lower rates, it is important to remain cautious, the CDC said.
“Although infants, children, and adolescents are more likely to have milder COVID-19 illness than are adults, complications, including MIS-C and respiratory failure, do occur in these populations,” they said. “Persons infected with or exposed to SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] should be followed closely so that clinical deterioration can be detected early.”
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