About 3,000 children in Colorado contracted COVID-19 at school, according to the state health department.
That’s a small percentage of the more than 883,000 students attending K-12 schools in the state, but more than three times as many children were infected at school in the previous peak period in December. People under the age of 20 account for about a quarter of new cases of COVID-19 in the state.
School outbreaks rose for the eighth straight week, 199 of them reported in the Colorado Department of Health and Environment data. The outbreaks have infected 456 employees and 2,997 students, an increase of 1,000 in children compared with three weeks ago. One person, an employee of the Sandrock Elementary School in Craig, has died of the virus.
The numbers may be an understatement because schools, like most other places, are only required to report an outbreak if they have five or more cases that are referenced, such as a general classroom or extracurricular activities.
At the peak of the school outbreaks in December, 212 schools reported clusters infecting 387 employees and 863 students. At the time, fewer schools offered face-to-face classes and children 10 and older were required to wear masks, which may partly explain the difference. New cases began to decline as schools moved online, sometimes due to a lack of replacement for personnel forced to quarantine.
Outbreaks in preschool institutions have also increased in frequency in recent weeks, although they remain relatively rare. During September, 15 to 18 agencies reported outbreaks every week, but 28 on Wednesday.
Severe COVID-19 among children remains rare, with eight children between the ages of 12 and 17 now hospitalized, as well as 11 children who are too young to be vaccinated. But last year, the children were “hit hard” by the disease itself, losing loved ones and not attending full-time schools and community events, Dr. Sean O’Leary, an infectious disease specialist at Colorado Children’s Hospital, told a press conference Wednesday. …
About 500 children have died from COVID-19 across the country, O’Leary said, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of child death in 2020.
“It is incorrect to say that this is a benign disease in children,” he said.
Colorado Children’s Hospital isn’t overcrowded like children’s intensive care units in some states, but it’s nearly full due to the combination of COVID-19 and other viruses, O’Leary said. Typically, respiratory syncytial virus, which causes cold symptoms in adults but can be serious in young children, peaks in the winter but has seen a large number of patients since June, he said.
“I would not say that we are seeing this decrease,” he said.
All hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 in Colorado decreased by 11, from 1045 on Tuesday to 1034 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the numbers tend to fluctuate, so a one-day drop says little.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis again urged unvaccinated adults and children 12 and older to be vaccinated, secretly if necessary. Of the 964 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 744 are not fully vaccinated. With a few exceptions, he said, districts where more people are vaccinated have fewer hospitalizations.
“There is no need to hospitalize those 12 to 17 years old,” he said.