COVID-19 cases in children more than tripled in the start of this school year compared to last, prompting regional health experts to urge people to take precautions in schools and social settings.
On Friday, the South Central Public Health District issued a warning to families that COVID-19 is spreading more quickly among children than at any other time during the pandemic. With the absence of masking and social-distancing protocols in some schools, the district is urging families to take personal actions to protect their children and other residents.
In comparing September 2021 to September 2020, data shows that COVID-19 cases are considerably higher in people of all ages this year and nearly quadrupled in children between the ages of 6 and 17. In September, cases in children were higher than in any other month during the pandemic, the Health District’s data indicates.
“Children are less likely to die from COVID-19 but that doesn’t mean they can’t get very sick or spread the disease to more vulnerable people around them,” said Heather Park, the Health District’s school liaison. “Some local schools have been forced to temporarily shut their doors because so many staff are out sick. Others are scrambling to find enough COVID-19 testing supplies because so many kids are coming to school sick.”
The Twin Falls-based South Central Public Health District serves eight counties, including Blaine.
“In addition to COVID-19 cases, schools in the region have reported an increase in other diseases and conditions spreading through the students and staff,” the district stated. “These reported illnesses include impetigo and RSV—both conditions that primarily spread through close proximity and touch.”
RSV refers to respiratory syncytial virus, which causes infections in the lungs and respiratory tract.
“A little bit of extra illness when school starts is expected, but what we’re seeing now is far from normal,” Park said. “Our community is battling a wave of illness that continues to overwhelm our hospitals and is starting to affect our local schools’ ability to keep kids in class.”
However, Park said, the same measures that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also help prevent the spread of most other common illnesses transmitted in schools. The precautions recommended by the district include:
- Vaccinating against preventable illnesses.
- Staying home when you are sick.
- Wearing a mask around people you don’t live with.
- Keeping 6 feet between you and people you don’t live with when you aren’t wearing a mask.
- Washing your hands regularly and avoiding unnecessary touch to common surfaces and people you don’t live with.
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Exercising regularly.
On Friday, the Blaine County School District reported that 15 students and two staff members had COVID-19, while an additional 75 students were in quarantine after potential exposure to the virus. In mid-September, the district reported 24 active COVID-19 cases among students and two among staff, with an additional 89 students and three staff in quarantine.
Blaine County is one of 23 school districts and charter schools to require face coverings, according to a running count by Idaho Education News. Idaho has 115 school districts and roughly 40 charter schools.
The Health District was monitoring 159 confirmed and 24 probable COVID-19 cases in Blaine County on Monday. Those numbers are similar to the numbers two weeks earlier but are significantly higher than the numbers reported in early September and August.
People with questions about COVID-19, the vaccines or preventative measures can call the district’s COVID-19 hotline, in Spanish at 208-737-5965 and in English at 208-737-1138.