Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen by 32 percent from about two weeks ago, a spike that comes as the country rushes to inoculate children ahead of the winter holiday season, pediatricians said.
More than 140,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus between Nov. 11 and Nov. 18, up from 107,000 in the week ending Nov. 4, according to a statement on Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
These cases accounted for about a quarter of the country’s caseload for the week, the statement said. Children under 18 make up about 22 percent of the U.S. population.
“Is there cause for concern? Absolutely,” Dr. Sean O’Leary, the vice chair of the academy’s infectious diseases committee, said in an interview on Monday night. “What’s driving the increase in kids is there is an increase in cases overall.”
Children have accounted for a greater percentage of overall cases since the vaccines became widely available to adults, said Dr. O’Leary, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Though children are less likely to develop severe illness from Covid than adults, they are still at risk, and can also spread the virus to adults. Experts have warned that children should be vaccinated to protect against possible long-Covid symptoms, Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome and hospitalization.
At the end of October, about 8,300 American children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized with Covid and at least 172 have died, out of more than 3.2 million hospitalizations and 740,000 deaths overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At a news conference on Friday, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said hospitalizations and deaths among 5- to 11-year-olds were “really startling.”
Dr. O’Leary said it did not help that many schools had softened their safety protocols in the last few months.
“So any protection that might be happening in schools is not there,” he said.
Vaccinations of younger children are likely to help keep schools open. Virus outbreaks forced about 2,300 schools to close between early August and October, affecting more than 1.2 million students, according to data presented at a C.D.C. meeting on Nov. 2.
Dr. O’Leary said that he was especially concerned about case increases in children during the holiday season.
With the pace of inoculations stagnating among U.S. adults, states are rushing to encourage vaccinations for children 5 through 11, who became eligible earlier this month after the C.D.C. authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for that age group. In May, the federal government recommended making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to children ages 12 to 15. Teenagers 16 and older became eligible in most states a month earlier.
The White House estimated on Nov. 10 that nearly a million young children had gotten vaccinated; 28 million are eligible. They receive one-third of the adult dose, with two injections three weeks apart.
All of the data so far indicates that the vaccines are far safer than a bout of Covid, even for children.
Still, about three in 10 parents say they will definitely not get the vaccine for their 5- to 11-year-old child, according a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only about three in 10 parents said they would immunize their child “right away.”
Even in normal times, the days around Thanksgiving are a delicate period for the airlines. But this week is the industry’s biggest test since the pandemic began, as millions more Americans — emboldened by vaccinations and reluctant to spend another holiday alone — are expected to take to the skies than during last year’s holidays.
The Transportation Security Administration said it expected to screen about 20 million passengers at airports in the 10 days that began Friday, a figure approaching prepandemic levels. Two million passed through checkpoints on Saturday alone, about twice as many as on the Saturday before last Thanksgiving.
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines both said they expected to fly only about 12 percent fewer passengers than they did in 2019. And United said it expected the Sunday after Thanksgiving to be its busiest day since the pandemic began 20 months ago.
The pent-up travel demand has elevated the cost of tickets. Hopper, an app that predicts flight prices, said that the average domestic flight during Thanksgiving week was on track to be about $293 round-trip this year, $48 more than last year — although $42 cheaper than in 2019.
While the industry is projecting optimism about easy traveling, the influx of passengers has injected an element of uncertainty into a fragile system still recovering from the pandemic. Some airlines have experienced recent troubles that rippled for days — stymying travel plans for thousands of passengers — as the carriers struggled to get pilots and flight attendants in place for delayed and rescheduled flights, a task complicated by thin staffing.
Europe’s already fragile economic recovery is at risk of being undermined by a fourth wave of coronavirus infections now spreading on the continent, as governments impose increasingly stringent health restrictions that could reduce foot traffic in shopping centers, discourage travel and thin crowds in restaurants, bars and ski resorts.
Austria has imposed the strictest measures, mandating vaccinations and imposing a nationwide lockdown that began on Monday. But economic activity will also be dampened by other safety measures — from vaccine passports in France and Switzerland to a requirement to work from home four days a week in Belgium.
The tough lockdowns that swept Europe during the early months of the pandemic last year ended up shrinking economic output by nearly 15 percent. Buoyed by a raft of government support to businesses and the unemployed, most of those countries managed to scramble back and recoup their losses after vaccines were introduced, infection rates tumbled and restrictions eased.
In September, economists optimistically declared that Europe had reached a turning point. In recent weeks, the main threats to the economy seemed to stem from a post-lockdown exuberance that was causing supply-chain bottlenecks, energy-price increases and inflation worries. And widespread vaccinations were expected to defang the pandemic’s bite so that people could continue to freely gather to shop, dine out and travel.
What was not expected was a series of tough government restrictions. A highly contagious strain — aided by some resistance to vaccines and flagging support for other anti-infection measures like masks — has enabled the coronavirus to make a comeback in some regions.
Roughly two-thirds of Europe’s population has been vaccinated, but rates vary widely from country to country. Only a quarter of the population in Bulgaria has received a shot, for example, compared with 81 percent in Portugal, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
The chief elected official in Dallas County celebrated a victory on Tuesday in his legal dispute over the governor’s ban on mask mandates, after a state appeals court upheld an earlier injunction against the ban.
The ruling by Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas affirmed an August ruling by a district judge that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates impeded the ability of Judge Clay Jenkins, the top elected official in Dallas County, to protect his constituents from Covid.
represent not just me but the interest of public health, I am forever grateful. I will continue to stand for your safety against any threat. The enemy should not be another elected official. This is Team Human vs the Virus and to protect life and our economy we should….
— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) November 23, 2021
Partisan tensions are at a fever pitch over whether students, teachers and school employees should be required to wear masks. Some Republicans have cast mask rules as an infringement on parental rights, while many Democrats hold that they are a matter of public health.
Mr. Abbott has faced a series of legal challenges since he signed an executive order in July barring mandates for both masks and vaccinations.
Officials in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas have defied the governor by requiring people to wear masks in schools and other indoor public settings.