Between 37,300 and 43,000 American children have likely lost a parent to Covid-19, according to a study released Monday in the American Medical Association’s pediatric journal, revealing a loss—like many aspects of the pandemic—that’s appeared to hit Black communities especially hard.
The peer-reviewed study—which multiplied the nation’s February death numbers by the expected amount of affected children to reach its conclusion—found most of the children were adolescents between 10 and 17, but it estimated around 10,000 children age 9 or younger had lost a parent.
Black children were disproportionately impacted, making up more than 20% of the children who lost a parent—even though only 14% of children in the U.S. are Black, according to the study.
The study’s authors—a group of four medical and sociology professors—noted the estimates only refer to the loss of a parent, and not others who might have been primary caregivers for a child—like a grandparent.
The authors noted the study used a model based on publicly available data, but did not survey individuals to reach its outcome.
“The number of children experiencing a parent dying of COVID-19 is staggering, with an estimated 37,300 to 43,000 already affected,” the study’s authors said. “Sweeping national reforms are needed to address the health, educational, and economic fallout affecting children.”
As of early Monday afternoon, there were just over 555,000 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. Most of those deaths were among older Americans, but at least 100,000 under the age of 65 have died of Covid-19, according to the CDC. The study released Monday also continued to show what has long been reflected in Covid mortality data—Black Americans being highly impacted. That’s been the cause of great concern among advocates in the U.S. calling for more equitable communities, with the early vaccine rollout also angering many who felt it unjustly prioritized affluent white areas. This new study will also do little to assuage concerns about whether there are adequate mental health resources to respond to the pandemic, with the study’s authors saying interventions may be needed in the children’s lives to avoid them developing “severe psychological problems.” The authors also suggested developing a “national child bereavement cohort” to identify children who have lost a parent to Covid-19.
U.S. Congressman-elect Luke Letlow (R-La.) marked the first Covid death for either a sitting or incoming member of Congress when he succumbed in late December. Letlow, 41, had no known underlying health problems and was the father of a 3-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter.