CDC reports reveal race disparities in kids with COVID-19

Two new government reports say the racial disparities we're seeing in the coronavirus epidemic extend to children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the research. One report says Hispanic children with COVID-19 were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than their white peers. And Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher.

"The racial disparities are extraordinarily pronounced among children. What this report showed is that Hispanic children, Latino children, are eight times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than white children. And that African American children are about five times more likely to be hospitalized than white children. These are enormous racial disparities and they are much larger, for example, than the racial disparities that we're seeing among adults," explained Dr. Alicia Fernandez, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. 

"What's important I think to note is that while these disparities are larger than the ones that we see in adults, they mirror what we're seeing in adults. In other words, what we're seeing among adults is that Latinos, for example, are much more likely to be exposed and contract COVID than other people. So it's very reasonable that if you have Latino workers who are out there doing work, coming into contact with the virus and getting sick, that they bring that virus home to their children. Fortunately, most children do not get very sick and in fact most children may be asymptomatic. But there is always a small proportion of children who do get sick."

The second report examined cases of a rare, virus-associated syndrome in kids. It found nearly three quarters of the children with the syndrome were either Hispanic or Black -- well above their representation in the general population.

"We believe that the main reason that Latino and African American adults are more likely to get COVID is because of their occupational hazard, because they tend to be essential workers, they're more likely to be working in workplaces where they are exposed to multiple other people. They're much less likely to have jobs where they can work from home and be protected, and unfortunately this makes their children more vulnerable as well," said Dr. Amy Beck, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.

"It is quite worrisome because the children that have this syndrome (MIS-C, a rare coronavirus-linked inflammatory condition) do get very, very ill and often require intensive care. They often have effects in multiple systems in their body."

The latest reports come at a time when the reopening of schools for the new academic year has become a contentious issue across the country.