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US hits another record-breaking high of COVID-19 case counts in children

Local health professionals say the surge is due to increased gatherings and changes in mask protocols.

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — The U.S. has now hit another surge of COVID-19 cases in children, this time more than 325,000 according to the American Academy of Pediatrics for the week ending on Dec. 30, 2021.

The academy says the new total is the highest case count ever reported since the start of the pandemic, a 64% increase from the week prior.

FOX43 spoke with Dr. Jessica Ericson, an infectious diseases pediatrician for Penn State Health who says the increase in numbers comes amidst more gatherings.

"We're doing in-person school, masks are not required in all schools, we're doing a lot more activities, we're having more family gatherings," she said. "And all of those things bring kids into contact with the virus more than at other phases in the pandemic."

The announcement also comes amid reports of increased transmission of the Delta and Omicron variants; health experts say the Omicron variant is now two to three times more contagious than Delta.

The CDC says the Omicron variant now makes up more than 95% of the COVID-19 cases we are seeing today. Ericson says we currently don't know, however, if the surge in COVID-19 cases due to Omicron is to blame for the case counts in children.

"We haven't seen evidence that it causes more severe illness, definitely not in adults, that's less clear in children," she said.

What Ericson says is clear, is that children are now more likely to come into contact with COVID-19 and get infected with it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 booster dose for teens 12 to 15 and for children who are immunocompromised from 5 to 11. The administration's decision Monday comes in an effort to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.

According to the CDC, more than 1,000 children have died from COVID-19 throughout the course of the pandemic.

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