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Arizona Sees Small But Growing Numbers Of Children, Teenagers Hospitalized For COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Children rarely fall ill with COVID-19. But the number of children hospitalized for the disease is increasing in Arizona more rapidly than most other states. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

A recent study from the University of Minnesota looked at the cumulative number of children and teenagers hospitalized for COVID from May to November. Twenty-two states reported that information. In Arizona, the number rose by four thousand percent, the second-highest increase of any state behind Utah.

Pinar Karaca-Mandic is the senior author of the study. "One of the take home messages is that, while it’s really important to understand that children are much less likely to develop serious illness from COVID-19, children are not immune to it and that they are becoming very ill," she says.

Children under the age of 19 still make up a small percentage of the people hospitalized for COVID; in Arizona, that number is just under 3 percent. But Karaca-Mandic says nationwide child hospitalizations are growing more than twice as fast as the adult rates. The reasons for that are unclear.    

"We have very little data from testing among children," Karaca-Mandic. "Because testing among children has not been widescale and consistent… it’s really difficult to pinpoint down the cause."

She says more data at local scales could help policymakers make decisions about opening schools and planning hospital resources. No COVID vaccine is yet approved for use in children.

The study appeared this month in JAMA Pediatrics.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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