In a report released on April 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates three out of four children in the U.S. have been infected by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
As of February 2022, the report said approximately 75% of children and adolescents had (serologic) evidence of previous infection and approximately one-third have become newly seropositive since December 2021.
The most significant increases in seroprevalence during September 2021 – February 2022 occurred in the age groups with the lowest vaccination coverage; the proportion of the U.S. population fully vaccinated by April 2022 increased with age (5–11, 28%; 12–17, 59%; 18–49, 69%; 50–64, 80%; and ≥65 years, 90%).
“These findings illustrate a high infection rate for the omicron variant, especially among children,” the authors wrote.
“Seropositivity for anti-N antibodies should not be interpreted as protection from future infection. Vaccination remains the safest strategy for preventing complications from SARS-CoV-2 infection, including hospitalization among children and adults. COVID-19 vaccination following infection provides additional protection against severe disease and hospitalization,” they wrote.
In addition to infection, the CDC found that the pandemic impacted youth’s mental health.
According to new data, in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic; 44% said they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.
The new analyses also describe some of the severe challenges youth encountered during the pandemic:
- More than half (55%) reported they experienced emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.
- Eleven % experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting, beating, kicking, or physically hurting the student.
- More than a quarter (29%) reported that a parent or other adult lost a job in their home.
- In addition, over a third (36%) of students said they experienced racism before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest levels were reported among Asian students (64%), Black students and those of multiple races (55%).
The survey could not determine how events during the pandemic contributed to reported racism. However, experiences of racism among youth have been linked to poor mental health, academic performance and lifelong health risk behaviors, the CDC said.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and female youth reported greater levels of poor mental health, emotional abuse by a parent or caregiver and having attempted suicide than their counterparts.
“These data echo a cry for help,” CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, MD, MPH said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future,” she said.