29% of Tri-Cities COVID-19 cases are in schoolchildren, health officer says

More children, teenagers found to have COVID-19; case rates falling among young adults

KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Tri-Cities community is seeing a shift in who’s testing positive for COVID-19: more children and teenagers are being found to have it while case rates among young adults are falling, the local health officer said Thursday.

“We are no longer seeing that week-after-week unfettered rise, which is a good sign,” said Dr. Amy Person with Benton-Franklin Health District. “For perhaps the first time, we are seeing a plateauing in case rates in our age groups 20-to-39-year-olds who have for the majority of this pandemic been the driving factor for disease activity in our community.”

Not all age groups, though, are seeing such a plateau.

“In our 5-to-14-year-olds and our 15-to-19-year-olds, we are seeing a sharp increase in the number of cases,” Dr. Person said.

“We are seeing a significant increase in case rates in our school-age children. Since September 1st, they represent 29% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Benton and Franklin counties. Nearly 2% of kids between 4 and 19 have tested positive since September 1st.”

Asked about the number of vaccinated children and teens infected, Dr. Person said she did not have that information, citing a lag in information from the disease reporting database. However, she noted that that number for kids ages 4-11 would be zero because they are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

“In spite of this very large increase, we have not seen significant outbreaks in schools,” Dr. Person said, citing mitigation measures in place at school buildings. “We have two active outbreaks in schools and an additional six others that are under investigation.”

The bi-county health officer went on to say the majority of children infected with COVID contracted the disease from “household contacts or contacts in outside community settings including sports teams and social gatherings.”

Vaccinations are rising slow and steady: 44% of the total population in Benton County and 38% of the Franklin County population have been vaccinated, up ~1% in each county over last week.