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VERIFY: Are children dying from COVID at a lesser rate than the flu?

Here's a breakdown of recent numbers in Georgia and the country since the COVID pandemic began.

ATLANTA — The COVID-19 pandemic is now the deadliest pandemic in America’s history.

Vaccines and masks continue to be a hot-button issue, especially when it comes to mandates in schools.

Recently, during a protest outside an August Cobb County School Board meeting, a parent supporting the board's decision to keep masks optional made the following argument:

“If kids are dying at a lesser rate than the flu, then what do we need masks for?”

So, we wanted to verify if children have died less from COVID than from the flu.

SOURCES:

ANSWER: 

Yes, but it needs context. 

This is true.

WHAT WE FOUND:

First, to address an elephant in the room. More kids have died from the flu overall because the flu has been around longer than COVID-19.

However, the two viruses are not the same, and COVID spreads more rapidly than the flu. 

Here's a breakdown of recent numbers in Georgia and the country since the COVID pandemic began.

According to Georgia's DPH COVID-19 report, here's what the data shows for individuals under the age of 18 since the start of the pandemic: 

  • 16 kids died from COVID
  • 21,991 (individuals under the age of 18) have died overall from COVID 
  • Children's deaths account for 0.072% of all COVID deaths in the state
  • 15 children have died from the flu in the 2019-2020 season (Flu deaths are updated quarterly)
  • 1,299 people died from the flu in the same time period
  • Childrens' deaths make up 1.1% of all flu deaths in the state

In comparison, here's what the data shows for individuals under the age of 18 in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic: 

  • 544 children have died from COVID
  • 682,646 people have died overall from COVID
  • Nationally, childrens' deaths account for .079% of all COVID deaths
  • 434 children died from the flu last season
  • 21,909 people died overall from the flu
  • Nationally, children's deaths made up 1.9% of national flu deaths

To add context, fewer people died from the flu overall in the 2019-2020 season because, as the CDC noted, pandemic precautions like handwashing, social distancing, and masks, helped.

So, this is a two-fold answer. Yes, there’s a larger percentage of flu deaths in children, but more children died of COVID.

It’s hard to definitively say kids are dying at a lesser rate than the flu because we don’t know how long COVID-19 will persist and because we don't know the impact of the current flu season. 

The data in this article is current as of Sept. 24. 

   

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