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Health, Science & Tech

Allegheny County Health Officials See A Dramatic Increase In COVID-19 Cases Among Kids

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Kimberly Paynter
/
WHYY

As students go back to school, public health officials are especially worried about rising rates of COVID-19 in kids. Wednesday’s data underscored concerns — Allegheny County reported 450 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours — the highest number of new daily infections in a report since April.

Fifteen percent of those cases were in children under 12, who are not currently eligible for a vaccine.

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen said the numbers are part of a concerning trend. In June, there were 67 cases in children under 12. By August, that number ballooned to more than 770 cases in the age group.

“To keep our school settings as safe as possible, I continue to strongly support CDC guidance for universal masking in schools,” she said at Wednesday’s media briefing.

Bogen and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald applauded Pennsylvania Acting Health Sec. Alison Beam’s decision last week to issue a statewide mask mandate which requires all students, teachers, staff, and visitors at schools and childcare facilities to wear a mask, even if they’re vaccinated. The rule went into effect Tuesday.

But Bogen said Wednesday the effects of the order will be dependent on school enforcement, and likely won’t be visible in case data for at least a few weeks. Some of the largest districts in the region vary on whether they’ll enforce the mandate.

Fitzgerald continued to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“I’ve never run into anybody who’s come up to me and said, ‘Boy, I wish I hadn’t been vaccinated.’ But on the other side, I’ve run into a lot of people who said, ‘Boy, I wish I had been [vaccinated]’ or ‘I wish my family member had [been vaccinated].’ And sometimes with very serious consequences,” he said.

Fitzgerald noted that if numbers continue to rise, there could be event cancellations in the future.

“Some [events] are actually getting cancelled by the private sector deciding on their own to not have these events,” he said.

Wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and attending outdoor events can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 at large gatherings. Health officials continue to say the vaccine offers the best protection against the virus.