| Greenville News
South Carolina has the third highest rate of COVID-19 infections in children in the country, behind only Arizona and Tennessee, according to a medical report released this week.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report states that 15,295 children in South Carolina have contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of the current pandemic. This number represents just over 1% of the state’s population aged 20 or younger.
About 15% of the general cases of COVID-19 in the state are in children.
South Carolina is the 23rd most populous state in the country, but ranks eighth in number of COVID-19 infections in children.
Two children under 5 died of COVID-19 in South Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. One was from Greenville County.
What the numbers mean for parents, students and schools
Dr. Joshua Brownlee, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Prisma Health – Upstate, said the AAP data is “a little difficult to interpret” because different states use different age groups when classifying cases for children.
“I have a hard time putting a lot of information into the ranking of states compared to each other,” said Brownlee.
But Brownleee said South Carolina has definitely seen “a very large increase in pediatric cases in general in recent months”, which reflected a general increase in the state’s COVID-19 cases in June and July.
“Children were not immune to the increase in rates that we saw across the state of South Carolina,” he said. “They are certainly understanding and probably transmitting.”
Brownlee said school districts across the state will need to have flexible plans when classes resume.
“There are a lot of advantages at school and we definitely want that to happen when it is safe,” he said. “You can’t just go all-out and all-in. You need to be very deliberate in this process. “
When classes resume in Greenville County next week, students will only attend classes in schools one day a week, with the remainder of their time devoted to virtual classes. On the other hand, many students from Anderson County will be required to attend daily school classes when the semester begins in September.
Implement plans as important as the plans themselves
Brownlee said it will be important for schools to enforce rules designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, including the requirement that students wear masks.
“If you have a good plan and don’t apply it, it won’t work very well,” he said.
“For parents, students and the wider community, it comes down to the basics,” said Brownlee. “We need to keep community transmission as low as possible to keep schools open.”
He said students and adults should stay home if they are sick or if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Social detachment guidelines must be followed and people should wear masks when they cannot socially distance themselves and also wash their hands frequently.
But even with these precautions, Brownlee said, there will likely be cases of COVID-19 in schools. He said the goal is to ensure that any outbreak does not overload hospital systems.
“Whenever you bring people together, there will be an increase in cases,” said Brownlee.
Children infected with COVID-19 are less likely to develop serious illnesses than adults with respiratory illnesses caused by the coronavirus, according to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, noted the CDC, “hospitalization rates in children are increasing”.
One in three children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States was admitted to intensive care. This is the same proportion found in adults hospitalized for COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Kirk Brown covers government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM