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Pandemic orphans more than 140,000 kids, CDC study unveils

This loss of a parent or caregiver has been a hidden tragedy for American children throughout the pandemic, according to a new study by the CDC.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After a failed marriage, three children and a year living in a hotel, Nicole Cordero says God finally gave her everything she had been looking for in a man before he was taken away.

It has been two months since Nicole Cordero, 32, lost her beloved boyfriend and since her young kids lost the only father figure they’ve ever known.

Anthony “Big Bunk” Moreno, a 49-year-old Sacramento security guard and volunteer, died after a week’s long battle with coronavirus in the ICU at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

Cordero and her children Chris, 8; Paris, 7; and Travis, 4, lived and relied on Moreno who helped support their family. They have since lost their home, while they continue to grieve the loss of their loved one.

This loss of a parent or caregiver has been a hidden tragedy for American children throughout the pandemic, according to a new study by the CDC and numerous universities. It found that a child loses a parent or caregiver for every four COVID-19 associated deaths in the United States.

CDC Data suggests that more than 140,000 children under the age of 18 in the U.S have lost a caregiver to the pandemic. This is defined as a parent or grandparent who cares for, or provides for, the child’s basic needs like security, love and daily care, according to the CDC study. California, Texas, and New York are the states with the highest number of children facing a COVID-19 related death of a parent of caregiver. 

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“In southern states along the U.S.-Mexico border, including New Mexico, Texas, and California, between 49% and 67% of children who lost a primary caregiver were of Hispanic ethnicity,” the study found.

The study found that overall, roughly 1 in every 500 children in the United States have been impacted by the loss of a caregiver. The study said its finding "illustrate orphanhood as a hidden and ongoing secondary tragedy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Sacramento-based Clinical Psychologist Dr. Andrew Mendonsa, a nationally recognized mental health expert, says the effect of the pandemic on the mental health of families will likely be felt for decades to come. He says the results of this latest study confirm much of what the mental health community have suggested was happening over the last 18 months.

Most children have already felt the mental health effects of isolation after being removed from school and other activities because of pandemic restrictions, Mendonsa said. He says this compounded with the tragic loss of a parent to coronavirus can and likely will have lasting effects.

“The death of a parental figure is an enormous loss that can reshape a child’s life. We must work to ensure that all children have access to evidence-based prevention interventions that can help them navigate this trauma, to support their future mental health and wellbeing,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, in part.

Nicole Cordero says her two oldest children are now undergoing therapy at school. She works two jobs and has been living with her mother to help with the cost of living. Cordero says her kids ask about their “dad” often and continue to keep his memory alive.

To read the full CDC study, click HERE.

RELATED: More than 120,000 US children lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19, study finds

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