This is true for the much-worried-over Delta variant. It is also true for all the other variants, and for the original strain. Most remarkably, it has been known to be true since the very earliest days of the pandemic — indeed it was among the very first things we did know about the disease. The preliminary mortality data from China was very clear: To children, COVID-19 represented only a vanishingly tiny threat of death, hospitalization, or severe disease.
Yet for a year and a half we have been largely unwilling to fully believe it. Children now wear masks at little-league games, and at the swimming pool, and when school reopens in the fall they will likely wear masks there, too. But the kids are not at risk themselves, and never were. Now, thanks to vaccines, the vast majority of their parents and grandparents aren’t any longer, either.
But first: the kids. Over the course of the pandemic, 49,000 Americans under the age of 18 have died of all causes, according to the CDC. Only 331 of those deaths have been from COVID — less than half as many as have died of pneumonia. In 2019, more than 2,000 American kids and teenagers died in car crashes; each year about a thousand die from drowning. More American children die in an average year from RSV — another respiratory ailment, whose prevalence is now growing because 18 months of quarantine have deprived young children of immune exposure — than died in either of the last two years from COVID-19.
Some of these comparisons aren’t so neat, since the extraordinary precautions against COVID-19 prevented significant additional spread (and also suppressed the spread of other diseases). But, last year, fewer kids died of COVID-19 than of heart disease, “malignant neopolasms,” suicide, and homicide — not to mention birth defects, which killed hundreds of times more. All told, 600,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID over the course of the pandemic; just 0.05 percent of those were under the age of 18, a population that represents more than 20 percent of the country’s population as a whole.
Risk is a tricky thing, the spread of the Delta variant and the complications of “long COVID” both real concerns, and all parents should assess their own comfort, and those of their children, in making plans and taking precautions. But very few of them, two summers ago, were sending their children to parks and pools and camps in masks out of fear of pneumonia or flu. Probably fewer were keeping them home entirely.
This summer, the calculations are very different than they were even last year, when the virus was still spreading wildly in an entirely unvaccinated population. That’s because, in the depths of a pandemic as we were then, individuals are not just individuals but links in a chain of transmission, which is the main reason why, for much of the last 18 months, public-health officials have worried over infections in the young — assuming they would eventually help bring the disease back to those much more vulnerable.
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which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.
While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state.
The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.
The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.
“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”
Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.
All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.
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