As childhood COVID infections hit pandemic highs, experts urge vaccination and testing

www.seattletimes.com
7 min read
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Kids have fared much better than adults through most of the pandemic. But recently, the virus' delta wave has pushed childhood infections far up. Health officials are warning everyone to "do their part" to prevent another shutdown of schools.
Kristina Bowman thought she and her family were doing all the right things to avoid COVID-19. She and her husband got vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. They only invited other vaccinated people to their home. They always wore masks in public.

So when her two young kids came down with fevers in mid-July, she was shocked.

Bowman's parents, both vaccinated, were visiting from Montana at the time. A few days after her dad arrived, he started coughing.

"My mom told him he needed to go to the doctor … because he was coughing so much," Bowman said.

She later added, "My first thought was for my kids."

Her parents both tested positive for the coronavirus. So did she and her husband, as well as their 6-year-old son, Brayden, and 9-year-old daughter, Mikayla — neither old enough for a COVID-19 vaccine.

At the time, pediatric cases still weren't very common, with not much data on how the virus affects children. But as the delta variant surged throughout the country in the most recent wave of the pandemic, the number of infections among younger kids had jumped at least tenfold.

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At the end of July, Washington state was reporting a seven-day rate of 25 to 30 new infections per 100,000 children, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). In early September, the rate had skyrocketed past 300 new infections per 100,000 children.

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Now that schools have reopened, health officials are warning students, parents, teachers and staff to "do their part" in preventing another shutdown.

"We know mitigation efforts within school settings do work to prevent transmission," said Dr. Danielle Zerr, chief of infectious disease and virology at Seattle Children's. "Mask-wearing, frequent hand hygiene, physical distancing — we really want everybody to be practicing all these measures to support kids returning to and remaining in in-person education."

In recent weeks, pediatric cases have been flattening out, said Lacy Fehrenbach, a DOH deputy…
Seattle Times Staff Reporter
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