With the start of the new school year, the number of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children in Colorado has more than doubled in the past three weeks, with the most significant increase in children aged 6 to 11-this group is not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination The condition of the vaccine.
According to data from the state health department, overall, the state reported 2,661 new cases among Colorados between the ages of 6 and 17 in the week of August 29.
“The number of pediatric patients infected with COVID-19 in the state has increased significantly,” said Dr. Kevin Carney, deputy chief medical officer of Colorado Children’s Hospital. “This is not surprising, because the children have returned to school in the past few weeks.”
Although most children have not experienced severe COVID cases, there are concerns that when the hospital is already “under great pressure”, more infections will mean more hospitalizations, and other infections that don’t usually spread at this time of year Respiratory viruses are also increasing, Carney said.
Carney said that Colorado Children’s Hospital is exploring the possibility of postponing elective surgery — a move that the hospital has never taken since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Increased from 347 cases to 2,661 cases in seven weeks
The COVID-19 infection rate among children and adolescents has been rising since July, and pediatricians expect this trend to continue. Nonetheless, this is only a small part of the state’s total school-age population of 859,784 children.
In the week of August 29, the state recorded 1,319 new COVID-19 cases among children between the ages of 6 and 11—an increase of 97 from the 1,013 cases in the previous week, which was reported in the week of August 8. More than twice as many as 485 cases.
The Douglas County School District was one of the first school districts in the state to start the school year-August 9th-which means that the infection data for the week of August 8 did not include any cases caused by transmission within Douglas County schools. Jeffco Public Schools opened eight days later than Douglas County, and Denver Public Schools were the last schools to start on August 23.
Although the number of cases last week accounted for only a small percentage (0.3%) of the 412,899 6-11 year-old children in Colorado, this was the largest number of infections per week recorded in this group in 2021.
The number of adolescents eligible for vaccination is also increasing. Last week, the state reported 1342 cases of 12-17 years of age. The data shows that this is 414 more than the 928 cases recorded in the previous week and three times the 440 recorded on August 8.
As of last week, the state health department has reported 42 outbreaks in K-12 schools, involving at least 354 students and 47 staff.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak in K-12 schools in Colorado has almost doubled in the past week, and as of Wednesday, 80 schools have reported more than 5 cases. This is a level of school outbreaks that have not been seen since November last year-at the time, state public health officials only declared an outbreak when two related cases occurred in the same location.
It is not clear how much of the increase in pediatric cases of COVID-19 can be directly attributed to the return of face-to-face schools. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment pointed out that infections began to rise early in the summer, but did not respond to this question from the Denver Post.
“Parents/guardians should be vigilant to ensure that their children follow public health guidelines both inside and outside the school,” a CDPHE spokesperson said in an email. “The spread of COVID-19 may occur in the school environment, especially if there is no layered protection.”
Hospital capacity problem
Carney said that what is worrying is that when the COVID-19 infection rate rises, the number of children and adolescents suffering from serious diseases (such as the rare inflammatory syndrome MIS-C or long-term COVID) will increase.
“There are still quite a few patients at risk of (serious) illness,” he said. “We can’t just expect the numbers to drop at some point, because we haven’t seen such signs yet.”
After an increase in infection, hospitalization is usually delayed by about two weeks. The data from the state health department is also incomplete because the agency did not include counts of fewer than five patients in the database analyzed by the Denver Post.
In the week of August 22, which is the latest data available, 71 children between the ages of 6 and 17 were hospitalized due to COVID-19-up from the 40 cases in the previous week.
Julie Lumberg, senior vice president of the Colorado Hospital Association, said the state has a limited number of pediatric hospital beds—700—some of which may be used to treat adult patients. On the other hand, about 200 adult beds can be converted into childcare.
Lonborg said that there are only 58 pediatric intensive care unit beds in the state, and it is not clear how many beds can be added because it depends largely on the overall capacity of the hospital.
As of Wednesday morning, Colorado Children’s Hospital has 72% capacity in intensive care units in Aurora and Colorado Springs.
Broomfield resident Amanda Brunning said her 5-year-old son should have bowel surgery this week, but the Children’s Hospital told her on Friday that the operation must be postponed because other wards require surgical personnel.
She said that although her son’s condition is not life-threatening, he does need him to receive an enema every night, which is both uncomfortable and scary for a child who does not understand.
“This is an operation that should help him improve his quality of life,” Brunning said, adding that the hospital did not tell her when the operation could be performed.
She is worried that the spread of the virus in the child may affect her son, because if he is infected at school, his disability will put him at a higher risk of complications.
“Your behavior does affect other people, regardless of your position on wearing a mask or getting vaccinated,” she said. “Now it is affecting our children.”
Denver Post reporter Meg Wengert contributed.
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