Pediatric cases account for 17 percent of all COVID cases since beginning of July

As vaccination rates lag and the new delta variant continues to surge, COVID infection rates among kids have risen in Stanly.

Nearly one in five cases of COVID-19 reported since the beginning of last month in Stanly were school-age kids, according to updated data from the health department.

Out of 677 cases reported in Stanly since July 1, 117, or about 17 percent, were among children 17 and younger.

“You can see how much more infection rate we’re seeing in the pediatric population, the 17 and under,” Stanly County Public Health Director David Jenkins recently said.

Jenkins said because the delta variant of the coronavirus is much more contagious than its predecessors, it has become more of a threat to young children, especially those under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated.

For the children 12 and older, who have been eligible since May to receive the Pfizer vaccine, few in Stanly have taken advantage. Through Wednesday, only 11 percent of children 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, according to state data, placing the county well behind several of its neighbors including Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Union, which each have rates of at least 30 percent. Statewide, 28 percent of kids 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated.

Overall, only 33 percent of Stanly residents have been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the state. Only about five other counties have lower percentages.

Pediatric cases seem to be spiking all across the country. In assessing state-wide data, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reported that children accounted for roughly 15 percent of all newly reported COVID-19 cases across the nation for the week ending on Aug. 5.

Nearly 94,000 child cases of COVID-19 were recorded during that period, a 31 percent increase over the roughly 72,000 cases reported a week earlier.

“I am worried for my 10-year-old because of the increased pediatric cases,” said Dr. Jenny Hinson, a hospitalist with Atrium Health. “We still have a lot of unanswered questions. We’re not sure if it’s more severe in kids or if it’s just more contagious.”

While children have generally been less affected by COVID-19 compared with adults, with the recent sharp increase in pediatric cases, Hinson estimates there will be more hospitalizations and even deaths.

“By nature of the huge numbers, you are going to have some kids who suffer incredibly,” she said.

Though it is still small, the number of children hospitalized in the Charlotte region has increased in the last few months. On June 12, none of the 12 people hospitalized in the Metrolina Healthcare Preparedness Coalition, which includes Stanly, were children under 17. But as of Aug. 6, which is the most current data, five percent of the 57 hospitalizations involved children under 17.

Stanly currently has 14 people who are hospitalized, according to the health department, though it doesn’t specify how many are children. Six people were in the ICU as of Monday.

These spikes come as school districts are having to decide whether to implement mask mandates for the upcoming year. The Stanly County School Board voted last week for a mask mandate so long as the county’s percent positive rate remains above 7.9 percent (it is currently at roughly 15 percent). Many neighboring districts, like Kannapolis City Schools, have recently reversed their decisions and are now making masks required.

There have already been a few local schools, including Union Academy Charter School in Monroe and Cabarrus Charter Academy, that have identified COVID-19 cases after recently opening for the new school year.

Stanly County is considered by the CDC to have a high community transmission rate. As of Thursday, all but two of the state’s counties have a high transmission rate.

There have been 210 total cases this week, averaging out to about 53 over four days. Last week there were 206, averaging out to around 41 over five days.