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St. Louis Officials Urge Caution As Coronavirus Cases Grow Among Kids And Teens

On July 23, the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health and the St. Louis Department of Health released a statement on their decision to impose new limits on youth sports.
Daiquan Wilson
U.S. Army
St. Louis health officials say more children and teens are now getting sick from the coronavirus than in previous months.

St. Louis health officials say more children and teens are now getting sick from the coronavirus than in previous months.

In the past week, children and teens 19 and younger have made up 22% of the city’s new coronavirus cases, said Dr. Fred Echols, acting director of the St. Louis Department of Health. That’s up more than 10 percentage points from what health officials have seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The uptick comes as several states report surges in cases driven by young people, he said. That indicates that the virus is still spreading and that people need to remain vigilant.

“We have to be really mindful that a lot of the youth are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly those under the age of 16, so a lot of them are still susceptible,” Echols said.

There isn't a vaccines approved yet for children under 16. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 16 and older.

Families could be taking fewer precautions as older members receive the vaccine, Echols said. But that still leaves younger generations vulnerable to catching and spreading the virus.

“COVID-19 vaccines are not a cure-all, especially for families, who have to be mindful of those individuals who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine and continue making the necessary steps to protect them,” he said.

It’s also possible a higher percentage of children and teens could be testing positive for the coronavirus because fewer older people are getting sick, said Dr. Jason Newland, an infectious disease specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“This could be a proportionality issue in that the denominator is different, because of vaccination in the older populations,” he said. “Now the kids that aren’t vaccinated, we’re seeing a greater percentage [of them]; it doesn’t necessarily mean there are more cases.”

All adult Missouri residents are now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Newland encourages families to vaccinate older teens with the Pfizer vaccine. The new federal mass vaccination site in downtown St. Louis is distributing the Pfizer vaccineat the Dome at America’s Center, and Newland encouraged anyone older than 16 to make an appointment there.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital hasn’t seen an uptick in children’s hospitalizations, and so far, Newland said, the new coronavirus variants haven’t shown to be particularly dangerous for children and teens.

But young people can still spread the virus, even if they don’t get severely sick, he said.

Newland said the end of the pandemic is in sight, but everyone should continue to wear masks and avoid large crowds for the next few months.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.