MAGIC VALLEY — As the delta variant continues to surge nationwide, so do the COVID-19 cases in children younger than 18. And the same trend is hitting the Magic Valley.
“We are seeing higher rates of individuals 17 and under who are contracting covid-19. That has increased since school has started, with quite a few cases being detected during the first week of school," Brianna Bodily, Public Information Officer for South Central Public Health District, said.
SCPHD says those numbers are likely to continue to rise with schools going back to in-person classes and colder temperatures approaching.
“At least for the next little while, especially during the surge while we continue to see the variant spread very quickly across our region," Bodily said.
St. Luke's health officials say not only are the cases rising, but hospitalizations among children are rising as well.
“We know that the delta variant is more contagious, and so more people are catching it just because it is a more contagious variant of the virus. And at the same time, social distancing restrictions are loosening a little bit. School is back in session, and so there is more of an opportunity to spread an already more contagious virus," Elizabeth Kleweno, Pediatric Hospitalist Medical Director for St. Luke's Health System, said.
The SCPHD says the increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases they are seeing is mainly within teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17.
“And that is very likely because those individuals are very social, typically. Not only are they going to school, but they are probably involved in after-school activities. Clubs, sports, etc., where they are coming into contact with other individuals pretty consistently," Bodily said.
That age group also accounts for some of the lowest vaccination rates. Only 21% of those between the ages of 12 and 15 are fully vaccinated in the Magic Valley.
“So there’s less protection not only in the form of masking and social distancing, but there’s also fewer people who are vaccinated to help protect against COVID-19 and help aid their system in fighting that disease off," Bodily said.
Health officials say there are things parents can do to protect their kids and help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“A very simple thing is to make sure that your kids are taking precautions, even if there is no mask mandate in the school ask your kids to wear a mask, ask their friends to wear a mask. Spread the word be an example, help get people involved in taking this precaution," Bodily said