More than 70% of the New York children afflicted with a mysterious disease linked to COVID-19 have ended up in the intensive care unit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his Wednesday press conference.
The New York Department of Health is now investigating 102 cases of the disease, which often causes rashes, abdominal pain, fevers, and bloodshot eyes, the governor said in his conference. Some of the symptoms resemble Kawasaki syndrome, a rare childhood illness that tends to occur in kids younger than 5.
The children in more than 40% of these new cases remain hospitalized. So far, the illness has killed a 5-year-old boy, a 7-year-old boy, and an 18-year-old girl in New York, Cuomo said.
“We were told children are not affected by COVID virus. Great. Sigh of relief,” Cuomo said. “Now, we’re finding out that may not be 100% accurate.”
It’s still unclear whether people who contract COVID-19 develop immunity so they don’t catch it again. While this new disease’s exact connection to the coronavirus remains unproven, 40% of the cases involve children who tested positive for antibodies — meaning they may have caught and recovered from COVID-19 weeks earlier. Sixty percent of the cases involved children who tested positive for COVID-19 itself. And 14% of the children tested positive for both COVID-19 and antibodies.
Fourteen other states and five European countries are now investigating possible cases of this disease, which has so far primarily affected children between the ages of 5 and 14, Cuomo said.
New York hospitals have been instructed to prioritize coronavirus testing for children who show up with symptoms, which can also include troubled breathing, legarthy, and chest pain.
“As a parent, I can tell you, this is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Cuomo said. “We thought that children were not especially affected by the virus. To now find out that they might be, and it might be several weeks later, this is truly disturbing.”
The governor added, “If parents say, ‘Should I be concerned?’ You should be aware. You should be aware. Our first job is to protect our children.”
Cover: Medical personal work on a patient in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Harborview Medical Center Friday, May 8, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)