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Nearly 40,000 US children have lost a parent to COVID-19, study estimates
Nearly 40,000 US children 17 or younger may have lost a parent due to COVID-19 infection, according to a statistical model in JAMA Pediatrics today.
The results, published as a research letter, suggested that 1 in 13 COVID deaths result in a child losing a parent and that, as of February 2021, 37,300 children have been affected—more than 43,000 if using excess death data.
A quarter of children who have lost a parent are of elementary school age, according to the model, and 20% of all children experiencing parental bereavement are Black, even though Black children make up only 14% of the country’s population. And the pandemic has increased parental bereavement 18% to 20%, according to the researchers. Estimates were calculated using demographic microsimulations from SocSim.
Losing a parent can cause prolonged traumatic grief and depression, reduced educational achievement, greater economic insecurity, and more accidental death or suicide, the researchers write. While evidence-based, brief interventions can help with some of these issues, the researchers note that some children may need longer-term support.
“The first thing we need to do is to proactively connect all children to the available supports they are entitled to, like Social Security child survivor benefits—research shows only about half of eligible children are connected to these programs in normal circumstances, but that those who do fare much better,” said senior author Ashton Verdery, PhD, in a Penn State press release.
“We should also consider expanding eligibility to these resources. Second, a national effort to identify and provide counseling and related resources to all children who lose a parent is vital.”
Apr 5 JAMA Pediatr research letter
Apr 5 Penn State press release
Church chorister tied to 12 COVID cases, with aerosol spread likely
A member of a church choir was identified as an index patient for COVID-19, causing 12 secondary cases, at a church in Sydney, Australia, this past summer, with aerosol transmission very likely, according to Emerging Infectious Diseases yesterday.
A number of secondary cases were 15 meters (49 feet) or greater away from the index patient, so researchers believe transmission primarily occurred through aerosols.
The index patient, an 18-year-old man, first got tested Jul 17, 2020, after learning of possible exposure at a venue he attended on Jul 11 and developing symptoms of malaise and headache (Jul 16) as well as cough and fever (Jul 17). During his infectious period (which began 48 hours before symptom onset), the man acted as a church chorister and sang at four 1-hour services on Jul 15, 16, and 17.
While Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines indicated that only 10 other choristers and staff were close contacts, the first two positive COVID tests came from physically distanced congregation members whom the index patient did not know. The investigators then considered all church attendees to be close contacts (508), resulting in a 2.4% attack rate after 12 secondary cases were identified from 434 tests taken up to 17 days after exposure.
All secondary patients sat within a section of the round church 3.5 meters below the choir loft and 1 to 15 meters away from the index patient, the investigation found. The index patient faced away from the congregation while playing a piano, used a microphone, and didn’t touch any church objects or interact with the congregation. The church did not have any mask guidelines in place and had minimal ventilation.
After the outbreak occurred, Sydney’s COVID guidelines for places of worship became stricter, such as increasing distance from singers to audience to 5 meters, but the researchers say additional mitigations may be needed.
Apr 5 Emerg Infect Dis report