Teachers in Florida protest the reopening of schools amid an outbreak in the state – Octavio Jones /Getty
Almost 100,000 American children tested positive for Covid-19 in the last two weeks of July, raising concerns for many US schools which planned to reopen this month.
The US saw a 40 per cent increase in coronavirus cases among children at the end of last month according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, which found that at least 97,000 children tested positive for coronavirus in the last two weeks of July.
The report, which used data from 49 states as well as Washington DC, Puerto Rico and Guam found that the increase was felt most acutely in the south and west of the US, which accounted for more than seven out of every 10 infections.
The report also suggested the true number of cases among children could in fact be higher as the study did not include complete data from Texas, which has seen one of the largest outbreaks in the country, as well as parts of New York State.
However the age range of the children differed by state, with some defining children as those up to age 14 and one state – Alabama – pushing the limit to 24.
The figures undercut Donald Trump’s claim that children are “almost immune” to the virus as he pushes for the country’s schools to reopen for in-person learning.
Some US schools have already reversed their reopening plans after an outbreak of cases within the student community. One high school in Georgia, which made headlines after a photo of its crowded hallway was shared widely by a student online, has since reported nine coronavirus cases.
North Paulding High School provoked outrage when it suspended student Hannah Watters for sharing a picture of her classmates packed into a hallway with very few people wearing face coverings. The teenager later had the suspension revoked, her mother told CNN.
The school had resumed in person classes on August 3 but announced it was temporarily moving to online learning from Monday after six students and three staff members contracted coronavirus.
The new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association has cast doubt over previous assumptions that the coronavirus poses less of a risk to children.
It follows another recent study by the Children’s Hospital of Chicago which found that children under five can carry a viral load 100 times higher than adults, raising more questions about their role in the transmission of Covid-19.
Mr Trump has repeatedly advocated for schools to reopen in full for students, and claimed during a Fox News interview last week that coronavirus “is going away”.
The US president went on to say: “If you look at children, children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – but almost immune from this disease”.
A clip of the interview posted to Mr Trump’s social media accounts was later removed by Facebook and Twitter who said the comments contained false information.
Courtney Parella, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, insisted that the president was “stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus”.