Roundup: COVID Cases in Kids Up 32% in 2 Weeks; Higher Risk of Stillbirth; and Masking Guidance for the Holidays

Pediatricians: COVID Cases in Children Up 32% Over Two-Week Period

Cases of COVID-19 in children jumped 32 percent across the nation from two weeks ago, according to new data published this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

For the week ending November 18, there were at least 141,905 new cases among children (individuals under age 18), representing more than a quarter of all COVID case for that week.

Since the pandemic began, children have represented nearly 17 percent of total cumulated cases. The AAP says COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death remain uncommon in children. But pediatricians remain concerned about long-term effects of COVID in children.

COVID cases among children remain “extremely high,” the AAP’s report states. For the 15th week in a row, child COVID-19 cases are above 100,000. Since the first week of September, there have been more than 1.7 million additional child cases.

Vaccinations against COVID-19 are widely available for those 5 years of age and older. U.S. regulators authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to include children, ages 5 through 11 years, last month. Vaccines have been authorized for those 12 and older for several months. 

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” states the AAP. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

The AAP and the Children’s Hospital Association are collaborating to collect and share all publicly available data from states on child COVID-19 cases.

CDC: Study Finds Higher Risk of Stillbirth in Pregnant Women with COVID-19

New research published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and stillbirth, compared with women not diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The new study reviewed data from the Mississippi State Department of Health. The finding: the rate of death among pregnant women infected with COVID-19 was more than three times higher than non-pregnant women of reproductive age. The COVID-related death rate during pregnancy rose five-fold once the Delta variant became prevalent, compared to the earlier phase of the pandemic.

Before the Delta variant began to circulate, pregnant women with COVID-19 had a 47 percent increase in the risk of stillbirth, compared to women who were not infected. After Delta began widely circulating, the increased risk of stillbirth surged to 300 percent.

Given the differences observed before and during the Delta variant dominance, “additional studies are warranted to investigate the role of maternal complications from COVID-19 on the risk for stillbirth,” the CDC said. Among those diagnosed with COVID-19, “certain underlying medical conditions and markers of maternal morbidity, including the need for intensive care, were associated with stillbirth,” the agency said.

During the study period, from March 2020 through October 6, 2021, 15 pregnant women in Mississippi died after testing positive for coronavirus. The researchers said none were fully vaccinated.

“Implementing evidence-based COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy, is critical to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on stillbirths,” the CDC concludes in its summary of the data.

The risks of severe COVID were even higher for African-American women during pregnancy. They were more than three times as likely to die, compared to Hispanic and White counterparts, the CDC said.

On Sept. 29, the CDC issued its strongest recommendation, calling for “urgent action” to increase the rate of vaccinations against COVID-19 among pregnant women. “In addition to the risks of severe illness and death for pregnant and recently pregnant people, there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including preterm birth,” the CDC states.

Masking Guidance for the Holidays Remains Fairly Strict — Not So Much for Vaccinated Families

With the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in full swing, the U.S. faces the second holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year, there are widely available, safe and effective vaccines for people ages 5 and older.

Still, a significant part of the eligible population remains unvaccinated, leading U.S. public health officials to continue to urge everyone to wear a mask in settings where the vaccination status of others is not known. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that “even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high COVID-19 transmission.” That’s the current status of nearly every state, as of a few days before Thanksgiving.

White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN recently that family members who are fully vaccinated against COVID can take off their mask at indoor holiday gatherings. “That’s what I’m going to do with my family,” Dr. Fauci told the network.

“Get vaccinated and you can enjoy the holidays very easily,” he added. “And if you’re not, please be careful. Get tested if you need to get tested when you’re getting together, but that’s not a substitute for getting vaccinated.”

According to the CDC in its Nov. 19 report, nearly 196 million people, or 59 percent of the U.S., is fully vaccinated. However, nearly 27 percent of those eligible for vaccines, or about 83 million individuals, have yet to receive a first dose.

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s travel page for specific guidance. The CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system “should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider,” the CDC adds.

Here’s more from the CDC on Safer Ways to Celebrate Holidays.

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