Cases of coronavirus among children are on the rise as the highly contagious Delta variant sweeps through Massachusetts, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.
On Aug. 11, the state tallied 2,913 cases over a two-week period among those 0-19 years old. That compared with a total of 255 over two weeks reported as recently as July 14.
The following chart shows the two-week totals of cases (which the state calculates every week) among those up to age 19, broken down into four age groups: under 5, 5-9, 10-14, and 15-19.
The chart goes back to early April when the state first began to release the data broken down by the four groups. At the time, the state was seeing a bump in cases on its way down from the winter surge to extremely low levels around the beginning of July.
Data for the 0-19 group as a whole is available for a longer period of time. Here’s a chart showing that group and other age groups beginning with the lull last summer after the first surge. Use the dropdown box to focus on cases since April 7.
The cases among children are on the rise as they prepare to return to school and public debate continues over whether teachers, students, and staff should all be required to wear masks, vaccinated or not, to prevent the virus from spreading.
Cases among young people, while one of the major drivers of total cases as the chart shows, have resulted in far fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
A report last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association said that eight children in Massachusetts have died out of a total of nearly 18,000 deaths.
Some worry, however, that children can suffer long-lasting effects even after recovering.
And as the Delta variant has spread like wildfire across the country, hitting hardest in places where fewer people have been vaccinated, concerns have been raised that the variant may be causing more severe disease in children this time around. But there’s no proof yet.
“I have not seen any peer-reviewed data, or data from a reliable source, to suggest that,” said Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician who is the hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center.
The majority of pediatric infections are still mild, said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and director of the the Global Public Health Program at Boston College.
“They may have the same symptoms as the adults — cough, cold, fever, muscle aches, runny nose — but the whole thing is generally milder than it’s been in adults,” he said.
So what does the state’s data on hospitalizations say about how children are doing during this Delta variant spike?
There is no data right now. While the state provides an age breakdown for cases and deaths, it has discontinued providing a breakdown for a hospitalizations since June, when the numbers were bottoming out.
For the two-week period ending June 19, the last time the state broke out the data by age, the number of people hospitalized from 0 to 19 was one. The number had been as high as 13 at one point during the winter surge.
Governor Charlie Baker has now promised the data will be reinstated. And state officials say they hope to bring back pediatric hospitalization data by the end of the week.