Children, Families, and COVID-19
With our schools back in session, shorter days and traditional fall events planned, I know that many people are already considering how to stay safe while supporting our children and loved ones. There are a few trends we are watching carefully, a few unknowns we are concerned about and some behavior practices we’d like to see improved.
Throughout the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, our data reveals that as of October 8, we have had over 3,400 local cases of COVID-19 since March. We have lost 56 of our residents, and hundreds have been hospitalized. At the time of writing this article, we are working on 26 outbreaks, which is the most at any one time during this pandemic that our health district has seen. We are not flattening the curve. The virus continues to seek opportunities to spread and attack our bodies. Any gathering of people provides an opportunity for this disease to spread.
Our epidemiology team has been analyzing the demographics of our local cases. In the first two months of positive cases, our average age ranged from 50.03 to 64.31. That trend has steadily come down and has been as low as 34.28 since August. Looking at our percent of cases by age decile, we note that 20-29 is our highest decile, representing over 20 percent of our cases. Ages 0-9 account for 5.49 percent of our cases and ages 10-19 account for about 11.23 percent of our total cases. It is clear that while our older adults are at highest risk for complications from COVID, all ages, including our children, are vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
To protect our children and our wider community, our team has been in contact with local school systems to support their reopening efforts. We have provided guidance, technical support, and information, as well as step in when cases or outbreaks occur. Our schools have done a tremendous job to empower our students to be back in the classroom and as safe and healthy as possible. Of course, our standard health precautions are key: social distancing, cloth face coverings, and reducing the number of students on site and hand washing. However, while they can prevent spread, it is almost impossible to keep the disease from entering schools 100 percent. When we have a positive student, teacher, or staff, our team works with the school to provide appropriate guidance about isolation and quarantine, as well as information about when to close a classroom and shift to virtual education.
Many of our schools have reported that students are doing a great job wearing their cloth face coverings. However, we are still receiving a steady stream of feedback from the community about businesses, organizations, and locations where compliance with the COVID-19 guidance is lacking. This can create a confusing message for our children, and even ourselves. I ask that you consider your sphere of influence with community members and model good COVID-safety precautions such as wearing a cloth face covering and social distancing. When we wear our face coverings, we take a small but active role in ensuring that our businesses can stay open, our kids can stay in school, and most importantly, we keep one another healthy.