If you go back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, January of last year, you discover that in this state so far, we have lost 36 young people to this stinking virus. Three dozen in 20 months. Every loss like this is tragic, but such losses also demand perspective.
Meaning: As serial killers go, COVID-19 has a deeply ingrained taste for older adults. In all, 90% of Arizonans killed by the virus so far are age 55 or older.
I make this comparison because of late we are hearing about what headline writers and TV news types love to call “a spike” in COVID among Arizona children. These stories teem with fear, because when it comes to kids, the news adores the specter of the Grim Reaper.
My point: Maybe dig a little before you believe the hype. Maybe don’t rush to Amazon quite yet and purchase that kid-sized plastic bubble for your youngest family members. Maybe it’s even safe to send the kids off to school, though in-person learning would create more risk for older principals, teachers and school staffers.
Arizona’s Department of Health Services has publicly made available the full range of pandemic: cases, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccination levels down to the ZIP code.
For me, the numbers produce perspective, food for thought, and a sense of calm. I like to know what we’re up against so I can apportion my concern appropriately.
How risky is COVID-19 for anyone under the age of 20? Not very, according to the numbers.
Our state is home to 1.84 million girls and boys under age 20, according to ADHS. So far, 1 in 10 have tested positive for COVID-19. Of the 182,351 positive cases in that demographic, about 1.4% have required hospitalization.
That’s 2,633 young heads in hospital beds — compared to more than 31,000 people hospitalized age 65 or older.
I’ll say it again: COVID preys on the old and the infirm, especially when they’re unvaccinated.
Keep in mind, vaccines have not yet been administered to those under the age of 12, and to only 19% of kids under age 20. They’re doing just fine without it, at least so far, thank you very much.
And while we’re on the subject of developing perspective, let me add this. Every year, the state does an extensive review of fatalities among minors. It’s sad reading, but edifying. In 2019, pre-pandemic, 777 children died in Arizona, down from 843 deaths the year before.
What kills our kids with the greatest frequency? Car crashes. Murder. Suffocation. Parents high on drugs. Prematurity. Cancer.
Each of these causes kills more Arizona children in a given year than has COVID-19.
The state divides child deaths into two groups — preventable and natural. Among deaths deemed accidental, reckless driving took 61 kids in 2019. Substance abuse by parents contributed to 54 deaths, while unsafe sleep environments killed 52 kids. There were 59 homicides that year among minors, with blunt force claiming 29 lives and guns taking 24 more.
When an Arizona child dies a natural death, it’s almost always one of three causes: Prematurity took 170 infants in 2019, birth defects took 99 children, and cancer took 54 kids from their parents that year.
My hope is not to sound hard-boiled, indifferent to the suffering of children and their loved ones. Rather, my goal is to offer some context. COVID-19 may indeed be spiking among the young, but that surge is mostly numerical, nothing worse than your average case of the flu.
There are spikes, is what I’m saying, and then there’s a deadly spike through the heart. For kids, COVID-19 is absolutely not that.
David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact david@