Thousands of New York children have lost a parent to COVID-19

The number of children losing a parent/caregiver by county. COVID-19's greatest impact on children is centered in and around New York City. (Courtesy of United Hospital Fund)

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of thousands of families in New York. More than 4,200 children in the state have lost at least one parent or caregiver to the virus, according to a report. And the economic crisis has pushed hundreds of thousands of children into poverty or near-poverty.

The pandemic has disproportionately hit people of color so the burden of this life-changing event will affect Black and Hispanic children the most, according to the United Hospital Fund, which teamed up with Boston Consulting Group to compile the report. Black and Hispanic kids lost either a parent or a caregiver at double the rate of Asian and white children. 

"One in 600 Black children and one in 700 Hispanic children experienced such a loss, compared with one in 1,400 Asian children and one in 1,500 white children," United Hospital Fund stated in a news release. 

The report, titled COVID-19 Ripple Effect: The Impact of COVID-19 on Children in New York State, compiled data from March through July, so the true impact of the pandemic is sure to be much greater. Based on county-by-county data, the virus has hammered families in and around New York City the most; 57% of parental deaths were in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.

"This pandemic is like nothing we've ever seen before. The closest comparison in the state would be 9/11, when more than 3,000 children lost a parent," UHF's Suzanne Brundage, a co-author of the report, said in a statement. "Losing a parent or caregiver during childhood raises a child's risk of developing a range of poor outcomes over their lifetime, including poorer mental and physical health."

The United Hospital Fund — a nonprofit that seeks to "build a more effective health care system for every New Yorker," according to its website — is sounding the alarm because of the potential for long-lasting effects on families and communities, especially among people of color. 

"Majority of children will suffer prolonged financial hardship, and many (~50%) could enter poverty as a result," the report stated. "There are serious, long-term mental health implications, potentially leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses."


United Hospital Fund President Anthony Shih said in a statement that the state and New York City need to take into account the pandemic's long-term effects on child poverty and mental health when making policy decisions impacted by the economic and budget crisis.

"We hope this analysis will provide policymakers and community leaders with the data to help develop necessary strategies and policies," Shih said. 

Through Sept. 30, New York City has had 239,219 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 23,000 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths, according to data from the city's Department of Health.

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