Children of racial and ethnic backgrounds are affected the most.By Bryant Reed

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, including children and the people who care for them. A new study shows that 140,000 kids have lost a caregiver to the coronavirus.

From April 2020 through June 2021, a new study shows one out of every 500 children has lost a primary or secondary caregiver. Children of racial and ethnic backgrounds are affected the most, but doctors say there are ways to help cope.

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“Deaths are higher than they’ve been in months. In September 90 people have died of COVID-19 in Allegheny County,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen.

The number of deaths mounting up across the country is taking a toll on the youth. The new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows a glaring racial disparity in how children lose parents or grandparents to COVID.

Dr. Anthony Mannarino, the director for the AHN Center for Traumatic Stress In Children and Adolescents says the impacts can last for years.

“Traumatic losses can not only result in kids grieving about the loss but it can also create traumatic stress reactions. And I’m talking about PTSD,” he said.

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He says the losses can change how children deal with other trauma in life.

“And we know PTSD symptoms, if not treated and resolved, can really result in kids being at significant risk for other psychiatric disorders, for depression, for substance abuse disorders as they’re growing up,” he said.

According to the study, minorities make up about 39% of the U.S. population but account for 65% of kids who lost a caregiver.

Dr. Abigail Schlesinger, chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UPMC Western Psychiatric and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, says it’s an alarming number and shows drastic disparities, but there are things that can get children through their loss.

“Even if you can’t get people together in person, plan a time to have an event, plan a time to remember that person and like we said, don’t stop talking about the parent or caregiver,” said Dr. Schlesinger.

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In Pennsylvania, the numbers aren’t much different. For every 100,000 white children, 45 lost a caregiver. For every 100,000 Black children, 42 lost a caregiver. For every 100,000 Hispanic children in our state, 21 lost a primary or secondary caregiver.