School children in Pierce County have experienced record numbers of COVID-19 cases in the first month of the school year. During September, 190 school children tested positive for COVID-19, which was about one third of the total cases identified in the county during that time period.
“As you can see from the school case charts on our county COVID-19 dashboard, this is significantly higher than any previous month during the pandemic,” said Rebecca Tomasek, Public Health Nurse who leads data analysis for the department.
Several factors are likely to have led to the larger increase in infection of this age group compared to other age groups. The Delta variant is now the predominantly circulating variant, which is two to three times more infectious than the strain circulating last year.
Several school districts have opted to forgo mitigation strategies that had been used during the past school year to limit spread of the virus, such as universal masking and quarantine of close contacts.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 4 million children have tested positive in the United States. Although children and adolescents may have less severe acute illness than adult populations, COVID-19 can lead to many secondary conditions. Long-term effects from SARS-CoV-2 infection may be significant, regardless of the initial disease severity. Research in this area is ongoing.
Families should encourage their students to wear masks at school, have them stay home when they are identified as a close contact of a positive case and have them tested if they are symptomatic or identified as a close contact.
As a community we can also help by increasing our vaccination rates. “While we wait for safe and effective vaccines to become available for younger children, we encourage the adults around them to be vaccinated in order to create an immunity wall for children and adolescents.
Evidence has demonstrated that pediatric emergency department visits and pediatric hospital admissions are higher in communities with lower population vaccination coverage compared to communities with higher vaccination coverage,” said AZ Snyder, Pierce County Public Health Director/Health Officer.