Children Are Losing Parents And Caregivers To Covid At An Alarming Rate

A new modeling study published in Pediatrics by a CDC-led team has revealed that one U.S. child loses a parent or caregiver for every four COVID-19-associated deaths. From April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, over 140,000 children in the US experienced the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver.

The modeling analysis used mortality, fertility, and census data to estimate Covid-19 associated deaths of one or both parents and deaths of custodial and co-residing grandparents between April 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, in the US. “Covid-19-associated deaths” was defined as a combination of deaths caused directly by Covid-19 and those caused indirectly by associated causes, such as decreased access or quality of health care.

The study also revealed significant racial and ethnic disparities in caregiver deaths due to Covid-19. The National Center for Health Statistics data showed that children of racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 65% of those who lost a primary caregiver, while White children accounted for 35%, even though minorities account for just 39% of the total US population. The greatest disparities were found in Southern border states, where Hispanic children accounted for anywhere between 50% and 67% of affected children. In southeastern states, up to 57% of affected children were Black, and in states with tribal territories, American Indian/Alaska Native children accounted for up to 55% of children who lost a parent or other primary caregiver to Covid-19. The study’s authors have pointed to racial and ethnic inequities in disease occurrence, severity, and outcomes to explain the disparities in caregiver deaths.

The loss of so many caregivers, particularly in Indigenous communities where oral history is often passed down by elders, prompts questions about how to preserve traditions, culture, and community if children cannot be taken in by other family members.

These domestic projections are in keeping with the global Lancet study, I have previously written about. The Lancet study estimated 1,134 000 children experienced the death of primary caregivers globally, including at least one parent or custodial grandparent, and 1,562 000 children experienced the death of at least one primary or secondary caregiver. As more data continues to emerge it is critical that we address the shadow pandemic of children who have been orphaned or lost a parent or caregiver to Covid-19.

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Originally published on Forbes on October 12, 2021

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.