CDC says 1 in 500 US kids have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19

Though many reports related to the COVID-19 pandemic focus on the death toll, there is a wider impact on society that ranges from those left with long-term disabilities caused by the disease to those who have had their lives thrown into chaos as the result of a death. The CDC is emphasizing this in a new study that estimates how many kids in the US have been left orphaned as a result of the pandemic.

According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, around 140,000 kids under the age of 18 lost a primary or secondary caregiver to COVID-19 from April 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. The study says this refers to a parent or a grandparent who had custody of the child or served as the child's caregiver.

This covers people who provided the child with a home and covered their basic needs, including emotional support and care. This works out to around 1 out of every 500 kids in the US with the impact skewed toward ethnic and racial minorities. This kind of loss, the CDC points out, is considered an adverse childhood experience, which has been linked by past research to a variety of mental health issues later in life.

Th study used modeling with data on things like the census, mortality, and fertility rates to estimate how many kids may have lost one or more of their primary or secondary caregivers. Researchers with the CDC, Harvard University, the University of Cape Town, Oxford University, and Imperial College London participated in the study.

The majority of these deaths are estimated to have impacted primary caregivers more than secondary caregivers. NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, explained:

The death of a parental figure is an enormous loss that can reshape a child's life. We must work to ensure that all children have access to evidence-based prevention interventions that can help them navigate this trauma, to support their future mental health and wellbeing. At the same time, we must address the many underlying inequities and health disparities that put people of color at greater risk of getting COVID-19 and dying from COVID-19, which puts children of color at a greater risk of losing a parent or caregiver and related adverse effects on their development.