New data dashboard on COVID-19 among youth provides clues for the trajectory ahead

A new data dashboard provides information on youth cases, hospitalizations, and vaccination rates in King County. The data will help us track the impact of COVID-19 on children and youth vaccination rates by geography, race, and ethnicity over time.

Throughout most of the pandemic, cases among youth and adults have followed similar patterns. When there was a rise, such as in the Delta-driven fifth wave, cases rose among all age groups. While the level of COVID-19 has declined some since the peak in late summer, we are still experiencing a high level of community transmission.

Cases in youth compared to adults

During the wave of cases in late summer, COVID rates among adults were higher than rates among youth (ages 0-17). In September, COVID-19 rates began to drop in all age groups but fell more slowly among kids. By September 20th, a few weeks after school re-opened, rates among kids surpassed adults.

Then, starting in October, youth rates began to drop sharply. By mid-October, rates for youth and adults looked very similar. In fact, since the school year began, case rates for the 0–17-year-old age group are 28% lower than when school started.  In the past two weeks, rates among youth have started to increase slightly again.

Differences between youth sub-groups

Among youth ages 5-11, the rate of COVID-19 started its decline later compared to children ages 0-4 or teenagers.The 5-11 year old age group now has the highest rate among all youth age groups and is higher than the rate in adults 18-64 years.

We will be watching to see if the COVID rate in this age group, or among youth overall increase over the next several weeks. You can track along with us on the data dashboard. 

Our COVID-19 surveillance system—our most reliable data source on COVID-19 activity—shows youth cases have gradually declined from the recent summertime peak but remain elevated,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “At the same time, we need to remember that there are several unreported cases for each reported case. 

“Hospitalizations among youth remain low, but steady. We’re still learning about the impact of long COVID on children, and we know children can spread COVID-19 to others including adults who may be vulnerable to severe outcomes. For all these reasons, vaccination is the best way to protect both youth and adults, and we look forward to having vaccines available for the 5-11-year-olds as soon as possible. In addition, increasing the level of vaccination among adults in our community provides an important layer of protection for our young people.

“In addition to vaccination, it’s important to continue to take other steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among youth, including ensuring good indoor ventilation and air quality, use of well-made and well-fitting masks, distancing, and staying home and away from others when a young person has symptoms or tests positive.”

More data available from the dashboard

Youth vaccination coverage and outcomes

Vaccination greatly reduces the risk for infection and hospitalizations. In the past 30 days, youth 12-17 who are not fully vaccinated (compared to fully vaccinated youth) are: 7 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19.

Information on vaccination coverage is currently available for those 12 and older and will become available for younger ages (e.g., 5-11 years of age) when vaccine is authorized for them.

Geographic differences

The impact of COVID-19 for youth is highest in the southern part of the county. This is also the situation for adults. Areas with the highest case rates of COVID-19 among youth have the lowest vaccination coverage. This information is critical for Public Health and our community to be able to target and work towards reversing racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in impacts from COVID-19.

Hospitalizations among youth

Since the start of the pandemic, youth hospitalizations have been much less common compared to adults: 2.4% of hospitalizations are among those 17 and younger.

Youth still have the lowest hospitalizations compared to other age groups. Hospitalizations in youth increased in July and August but have been declining.

Full slide deck (Data as of 10/29/21)

Complete slide deck that provides key take-aways from the youth data dashboard.

Originally posted 10/29/21