The Washington Post - USA (2020-09-16)

(Antfer) #1

WEDNESDAY,SEPTEMBER 16 , 2020 .THEWASHINGTONPOST EZ RE A


THECORONAVIRUSPANDEMIC


BYWILLIAMWAN

Thecoronavirus is killing His-
panic,Blackand AmericanIndian
childrenin muchhighernumbers
thantheirWhite peers, according
to federal statisticsreleasedTues-
day.
Thenumbers—the mostcom-
prehensive U.S. accounting to
date of pediatric infectionsand
fatalities —show there were
391,814known cases and 121
deathsamongpeopleunderage
fromFebruarytoJuly.
Of thosekilledby covid-19, the
illness causedby the coronavirus,
morethan75 percentwereHis-
panic,Blackand AmericanIndian
children,eventhoughtheyrepre-
sent 41 percentofthe U.S. popula-
tion,accordingtothe Centersfor
DiseaseControl andPrevention.
Thefederal agencycollected data
fromhealth departments
throughoutthe country.
Thedisproportionate deaths
amongyouths echo well-docu-
mented pandemic disparities
among adults.Previousstudies
have foundthatthe virus’sdeath
toll is twice as highamongpeople
of colorunderage65asfor White
Americans.Peopleof coloralso
disproportionatelymakeup“ex-
cess deaths” —those killedby the
viruswithoutbeingdiagnosedor
thosekilledindirectlybythe pan-
demic’s broad effects on the
health-caresystem.
Theracialdisparitiesamong
childrenare in someways even
morestark.
Ofthechildrenandteenskilled,
45 percentwere Hispanic,29 per-
centBlackand 4percentAmeri-
can Indian.
“This is the strongestevidence
yetthatthere aredeep racial dis-
parities in childrenjustlikethere
are in adults,”said John Williams,
chiefofpediatric infectiousdis-
easesat UPMCChildren’sHospi-
tal of Pittsburgh. “Whatthat
should meanfor people is steps
likewearingamaskare not just
aboutprotecting yourfamilyand
yourself.Itisaboutracial equity.”
One keyfactor couldbe under-
lying health disparitiesamong
minoritychildren and young
adults. About75percentof those
whodiedhadat leastoneunderly-
ing condition, and the mostfre-
quentwereasthmaand obesity—


twoconditionsthatdispropor-
tionately occur in minority
youths.
“Onone hand,the smalltotal
numberof deaths is reassuring.
You’re talkingabouthundredsof
thousandsof children infected,
andonly121 killed,”said Frank
Esper,apediatric infectious-dis-
easespecialist at ClevelandClinic
Children’s.“At the sametime,pro-
portions at which minority
groupsare dyingare hardto ig-
nore.”
TheCDC reportpointedtoun-
derlyingsocialdisparitiesthatmi-
noritychildren are morelikely to
experience than their White
peers:crowdedlivingconditions,
food and housing insecurity,
wealthandeducationgaps,and
difficultyaccessinghealthcarebe-
causeof alackoffamilyresources
includinginsurance,child care,
transportation or sick leave.
In thereport, CDCofficialscon-
cludethathealthdepartments,
medical providersand communi-
ties needto “mobilizeto remove
systemicbarriers thatcontribute
to health disparities.”
In additiontosocialdisparities,
theracialgapinfatalitiessuggests
thatgenetic or biologic factors
couldbe at play, said Williams.
Somediseaseshavebeenshownto
affectcertain races moreseverely.
Beforeavaccinewasdeveloped,
for example,pneumococcalmen-
ingitisdisproportionately affect-
ed Blackchildren, Williamssaid,
even after accountingfor social
determinants.Similarly, Haemo-
philus influenzae type b(also

knownasHib) was knownto dis-
proportionately affectNative
Americans.
TheCDC reportemphasized
thatthe relativelylow death toll
for childrenwasrecordedwhen
almostallschoolswereclosedand
thatitisnot knownhowthe re-
opening of schoolscouldaffect
thoserates.
Tuesday’sreportunderlined
anotherprominentcharacteristic
of the virus:thatitbecomesin-
creasinglylethal with age. Among
children,only10percentofdeaths
occurredininfantsage1oryoung-
er.Roughly20percentofpediatric
caseswerebetween ages 1and 9.
Therestwerebetweenages10and
20.
Sincethe virus emerged, the
way it attacks the elderly and
leaves the veryyoungrelatively
unscathedhas beenacentral and
puzzlingmysterytoscientists. In
thatregard, the novelcoronavirus
behaves differentlyfromother vi-
ruses,suchas seasonal influenza.
Those otherviruses are especially
dangerousfor the veryyoungand
the veryold.
Figuringout whychildrenare
less affected, researchers believe,
couldhelpthemunderstandhow
andwhythevirussickensandkills
otheragegroups.Whilethereare
not yetdefinitiveanswers, emerg-
ing evidencesuggeststhatakey
protein —the ACE2 receptor,
whichthe coronavirususesto en-
ter cells—ispresent in lower
amounts in the airways of chil-
drenthanin thoseof adults.
william.wan@washpost.com

Covid-19 more deadly for


children of color, CDC finds


JAE C. HONG/ASSOCIATEDPRESS

Childrenattend schoollastmonth at aLos AngelesBoys &Girls Club, which serves students whose
parents mustleave home to work. From FebruarytoJuly, 121people underage 21 died of covid-19.


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Newcoronaviruscasesand deaths in the U.S., by day


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Total

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CASES DEATHS

WE GET

IT DONE.

MD:301.388.

VA:571.341.

DC:202.770.

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