COVID-19 on the rise among children

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced more than 1 million U.S. children have now been diagnosed with COVID-19.

According to the AAP’s latest data, published November 19, at least 1,039,464 children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19. 133 have died. Within Illinois, the state’s Department of Public Health reported 95,252 children have tested positive for the virus. One person under the age of 20 has died.

“Even though we were sort of in the background watching in the past, we know that data has been coming out,” said Dr. David Chan, a pediatric cardiologist and Carle’s Associate Chief Medical Officer. “This is no longer a disease that affects the older primarily. It really affects the young. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of young people who have been infected with this.”

With a positive test result, four-year-old Conner Voss is now one of the 95,000 Illinoisans ages 20 and under who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

His mother, Brandy, was the first of their family to contract the virus. She said she tried her hardest to contain it.

“I sprayed, did everything I could, but living under the same roof with two people, and you have this very contagious disease, it’s hard not to pass it,” Voss said. “I mean, I slept in my mask.”

But still, her husband, Adam, and their son both came down with COVID-19 as well.

Conner, who has autism and ADHD and is non-verbal, did not show symptoms.

“He was bouncing all over the world trying to figure out why Mommy and Daddy won’t go outside with him,” Voss described. “And he’s like, ‘why aren’t you guys playing with me?’ My husband and I got very sick. We had all the symptoms. We were losing our tastes, we had the fever, the headaches, the body ache. We just felt like couldn’t move from the couch.”

What particularly scared Voss was what her son would not be able to tell her.

“He only reacts off of what you react,” Voss said. “But in normal times, he can’t feel anything. And that terrified me. So, if he had any kind of breathing problems, if he had a really bad headache or any pain, he could not tell that to me.”

While Voss has been cleared to return to work, her family’s journey with COVID-19 is not over yet. Her husband has a few pre-existing conditions, including an unknown heart condition that was triggered by COVID-19. He has continued seeing doctors and going through tests to determine how bad the damage is. Voss said with the exception of essential errands, work and school, her family is staying home as much as possible. It’s something Conner, who needs a routine, has struggled with emotionally.

AAP said he’s not alone in that regard. According to a report released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of pediatric emergency department visits for mental health has increased during the pandemic, as children struggle with changes, social isolation and fears of getting sick.

Voss said she wants other parents and families going through similar experiences to know they aren’t alone.

“I know we can’t physically be there with one another, but know that you’re not the only one suffering. You’re not the only one going through this,” she said. “We’ve got to stay strong as we can for our kids, as hard as that is, because we’re our kids’ mental health role models. They see how we handle life and they want to be able to handle life the way we do.”

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