ATLANTA - A new CDC study finds the novel coronavirus is hitting Hispanic and Black children especially hard.
Between February 12 and July 31, 2020, there were 391,814 lab-confirmed pediatric cases of COVID-19 and 121 deaths in children under 21 in the US.
Researchers found 78% of the 121 children who died from complications of the virus were minorities: 45% were Hispanic, 29% Black and 4% either American Indian or Alaskan Native.
Pediatrician and WebMD medical editor Dr. Hansa Bhargava said the findings struck her hard.
"It breaks my heart, it really breaks my heart," Dr. Bhargava says. "I see it in the ER and I see it in the hospitals all the time."
Researchers found 75% of the children who died had at least one underlying medical condition.
45% had two or more underlying illnesses or co-morbidities.
The most frequently reported conditions were chronic lung disease, including asthma, obesity, neurologic and developmental conditions and cardiovascular conditions.
Dr. Bhargava says the two most frequently noted underlying conditions, asthma and obesity, are both known to disproportionately affect minority children.
"Those are underlying illnesses that are actually impacted by where you live, how you live, what you eat, what you have access to," she says.
Researchers say children from these racial/ethnic minority groups are also more likely to have parents who work in "essential" jobs or who cannot work from home.
That can leave them at higher risk of exposure to the virus.
Researchers say the children are also more likely to live in crowded settings, and experience housing or food insecurity.
Another challenge, Dr. Bhargava says, is a lack of access to healthcare, which is often tied to a lack of health insurance, child care options, transportation and parental sick leave.
"What that tells me as a pediatrician, is, that these kids are not only not getting the right foods, the right health access to care, but also their parents are working really, really hard in jobs that don't really allow, necessarily, social distancing."
70% of the 121 children who died were between the ages 10 and 20.
Researchers found a third (33%) of the children had not been admitted to the hospital when they died.
16 died at home, 23 were critically ill and died in the emergency department, and 1 died in hospice care.
The location of two of the children's deaths was not known.