The number of children being diagnosed with coronavirus soared by 90 per cent in four weeks while the number in hospital rose 70 per cent, new figures show.
On July 9, there were 200,184 children who had been diagnosed with the virus in the US, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported, and 1,948 who were in hospital.
But by August 8 those figures had risen to 380,174 cases and 3,276 in hospital, driven by a wave of infections that occurred as states tried to reopen.
The figures will raise doubts over plans to reopen schools across the US in the fall, after Donald Trump claimed children were ‘almost immune’ to the virus.
The study looked at data from 49 states as well as Washington DC, Puerto Rico and Guam. Data for Texas, site of one of the largest outbreaks in the US, was unavailable.
It found that cases among children had soared in recent weeks, rising by 97,000 in the last two weeks of July alone.
The extra cases occurred mostly in the south and west of the US, which was hardest-hit by spikes which occurred as states tried to reopen following initial shutdowns.
While the number of children being hospitalized with coronavirus remained a small proportion of cases – around 2.5 per cent – the figure rose as cases increased.
The number of children dying from coronavirus also made up a very small percentage of hospitalizations – around 3 per cent – but showed the same trend, increasing as the number of cases went up.
On July 9, 62 children had died from coronavirus, while on August 8 that figure had risen to 90, an increase of 45 per cent.
While neither figure increased at the same rate as cases did, that is likely due to the fact that hospitalizations and deaths generally lag behind case spikes.
The increase in both figures shows that opening schools is potentially harmful, if the risk of transmitting the disease is not properly mitigated.
Some US schools have already rolled back their plans to reopen, after a high school in Georgia where students were pictured crammed into hallways without masks was hit by an outbreak.
Nine cases of the virus – three among teachers and six among students – were confirmed at North Paulding High School shortly after the photo was posted online.
Students went back to classrooms at the school on August 3, but have now temporarily moved back to online learning.
Hannah Watters, the student who posted the photo, was initially suspended before the suspension was later revoked.
Donald Trump has been pushing for all US schools to reopen by fall at the latest, saying that keeping classes online is ‘a terrible decision’.
In an interview with Fox News last week, Trump falsely claimed that ‘children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – but almost immune from this disease’.
When a clip of the interview was posted on social media, it was taken down by Facebook and Twitter for spreading disinformation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which produced the new report, has previously urged politicians to prioritize getting children back into school.
But it warned that measures must be taken to safeguard their wellbeing, and school leaders must be ready to respond in the event of an outbreak.
The number of global confirmed coronavirus infections passed 20million on Tuesday, with more than 5million of those in the US – the highest world total.
The world has suffered at least 737,000 deaths from the virus, of which around 163,500 have occurred in America.