October 13, 2021

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Children and the COVID-19 Pandemic

One in 500 children has faced orphanhood or caregiver death due to COVID-19.

A new study from the Centers from Disease Control (CDC) sheds light on a heartbreaking pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic: more than 1 in 500 children in the United States lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19 between April 2020-June 2021.

That means for every four deaths from COVID-19, one child is left without a parent and/or grandparent who provided the child’s home and basic needs, including love, security, and daily care. Orphanhood and caregiver loss can have significant and severe long-term impact on children’s health and well-being.

There were significant racial and ethnic disparities in caregiver deaths due to COVID-19. When looking at both primary and secondary caregivers, the study found that impacts varied greatly by race and ethnicity. Compared to white children, American Indian and Alaska Native children were 4.5 times more likely to lose a parent or grandparent caregiver, Black and African American children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic or Latino children were nearly 2 times more likely.
Caregiver death affected:
  • 1 of every 168 American Indian or Alaska Native children
  • 1 of every 310 Black or African American children
  • 1 of every 412 Hispanic or Latino children
  • 1 of every 612 Asian children
  • 1 of every 753 White children
The current study follows closely in line with a similar study which found more than 1.5 million children around the world lost a primary or secondary caregiver during the first 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For children who have lost a caregiver, there are evidence-based responses that can help protect and support them, including strengthening economic support to families, providing quality childcare and education, and implementing programs to improve parenting skills and family relationships for those who take over care for children. Communities must help them find evidence-based, age-specific programs that are sensitive to 
racial disparities and structural inequities.

And there is hope: safe and effective vaccines can prevent severe COVID-19 illness and death among caregivers, which can protect more children from orphanhood.

Read the CDC study in the journal Pediatrics

COVID-19 County Check Tool

CDC tracks the spread of COVID-19 as well as how likely people are to be exposed to it with a measurement known as the “level of community transmission.” You can use the COVID-19 County Check Tool for a snapshot of your county’s level of community transmission over the past 7 days. The tool also displays guidance on masking based on how the virus is spreading in your county.

COVID-19 County Check. Find community transmission levels by county. Select a location, state and county
Go to CDC’s County Check Tool Web page to find out transmission levels in your county.
Learn more about how CDC measures the county level of community transmission

They're Here! Citizen Science for Disasters Toolkits 

If you attended our September 1 webinar, you learned about two new toolkits developed by the RAND Corporation through a contract with CDC. These two toolkits, Citizen Science for Disasters: A Guide for Local Health Departments and Citizen Science for Disasters: A Guide for Community Groups, can help increase community engagement to grow better prepared and resilient communities. Check out the toolkits and learn how you can help your community be safer in a disaster.

Additional Resources 

  • Radiation and Health Newsletter: CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) launched a newsletter on radiation and health. Subscribe to NCEH’s Radiation and Health newsletter for updates and resources on radiation emergency preparedness and other topics like home radon testing, medical uses of radiation, and more!
  •  Public Health AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps has launched Public Health AmeriCorps, a new partnership with CDC to support the recruitment, training, and development of a new generation of public health leaders who will be ready to respond to the nation’s public health needs.

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