Monday, April 6, 2020

COVID-19 Is Largely Sparing Kids. Doctors Are Stumped

One trend of the current coronavirus pandemic has been equal parts encouraging and confounding for experts: for the most part, children don’t seem to be getting the disease.

Earlier today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing that fewer than 2% of the 150,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases across all ages in the U.S. reported to the agency by April 2 were among children younger than 18. That finding corroborates an earlier study out of China, which found a similarly small proportion of illnesses were among children. In both cases, the low rate of confirmed infections among children might signal the the possibility that in many cases, children catch the virus but don't develop severe enough symptoms to merit testing and treatment. In fact, the data suggest that among kids who do get COVID-19, most do not develop serious complications or die.

The question now is why that’s the case. TIME senior health writer Alice Park asked several experts, none of whom could say for sure. “I can’t think of another situation in which a respiratory infection only affects adults so severely,” says Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the committee on infectious diseases at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Right now, doctors don’t have any explanation stronger than a theory. But among the possibilities, experts told Park, is that kids mount an immune response to the virus differently than adults do. Much of the breathing trouble associated with COVID-19 actually comes from people’s immune systems shifting into overdrive; it’s possible, doctors say, that kids’ immune systems don’t respond quite so strongly, which could spare them respiratory consequences.

While the news likely comes as a relief to parents, doctors caution that children can still get COVID-19, and they may be carrying and spreading the disease even if they’re not developing symptoms themselves. To be safe, kids and teenagers should be practicing the same social-distancing and disease-prevention tactics (think lots of hand-washing) as their parents.

Read more here.


The Global Situation

More than 1.2 million people around the world had been infected with COVID-19 as of Sunday evening, and almost 70,000 lives have been lost to it.

Here is every country with over 10,000 confirmed cases, as of Sunday night, 8 PM eastern time:

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been hospitalized with COVID-19, in what the government called a “precautionary step.” Johnson was diagnosed with the illness about 10 days ago.

Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who worked in medicine for seven years before turning to politics, said he will rejoin the health care ranks to assist with COVID-19 phone screenings for one day a week.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would like to declare a month-long state of emergency in multiple parts of the country, including Tokyo and Osaka, in light of a new surge of cases in some of Japan’s largest cities.

And in North America, Canadian officials are lashing out at President Donald Trump after he banned the export of crucially needed N95 respirators to Canada. 3M, the U.S. company that makes the respirators, said N95 masks could have “significant humanitarian implications” for healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America who need them as desperately as U.S. doctors.

The Situation in the United States

U.S. government officials are preparing the American public for a tough week. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams on Sunday said the coming week could be “the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives,” with COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths expected to continue mounting. A day earlier, President Trump said Americans should expect this to be “the toughest week” of the pandemic so far.

As of Sunday evening, more than 330,000 COVID-19 cases had been confirmed in the U.S., and nearly 10,000 people had died from it. The U.S. now accounts for about a quarter of COVID-19 cases worldwide.

Data released by the New York City Department of Health suggest low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately bearing the burden of COVID-19. Many of the city’s less wealthy neighborhoods have seen the most COVID-19 cases and deaths, with inadequate ability to test for it, the data show.

Also in New York City, the Bronx Zoo confirmed that one of its tigers tested positive for COVID-19. The tiger is thought to be the first animal to officially test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., raising concerns that animals may be more susceptible to the disease than previously thought.

All numbers are from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and are accurate as of April 5, 8 PM eastern time. To see larger, interactive versions of these maps and charts, click here.


The Lives Lost to Coronavirus

A chef. A teacher. An activist. A journalist. TIME is remembering these individuals lost to coronavirus, and many more. Read more here.

Crises Like Coronavirus Are Why We Have a Federal Government

States have been left to make many critical COVID-19 containment decisions, like whether to issue a shelter-in-place order, on their own. But as political historian Lindsay Chervinsky argues, times like this demand a coordinated federal response. Read more here.

Are DIY Ventilators a Good Idea?

Inventors have made headlines for creating low-cost ventilator alternatives from windshield wiper parts, Home Depot supplies and more. But some doctors have concerns about their safety. Read more here.

How One Abortion Clinic Is Adapting to Coronavirus

As health care providers find new and creative ways to serve patients, a Maine clinic is offering abortions via telehealth and to-go medication kits. Read more here.

The Ethics of Wearing (or Not Wearing) a Face Mask

Shifting guidelines around who should wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have left many Americans confused—and, as TIME editor-at-large Jeffrey Kluger writes, unleashed a slew of ethical considerations. Read more here.

It’s Okay Not to be Productive

Just in case you need a reminder: It’s okay to skip all the home-improving, book-writing and bread-making during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes New York Times tech reporter Taylor Lorenz. Read more here.

Thanks for reading. We hope you find the Coronavirus Brief newsletter to be a helpful tool to navigate this very complex situation, and welcome feedback at coronavirus.brief@time.com.

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