COVID-19 cases in Colorado children drop, but public health officials warn they can rise after holiday gatherings

Coronavirus cases in children dropped slightly last week, but Colorado public health officials warned Wednesday that the state could still see infections rise in the coming weeks as families gather for the holidays.

Just over 4,720 children and teens tested positive for COVID-19 during the week between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, a 6.6% decrease from the 5,061 cases in the previous week, according to the latest data from state health department.Coloradans ages 5 to 11 accounted for 2,461 of those cases.

It’s too early to know if the decrease reflects an overall downward trend given the number of cases among children and teens remains high — infections rose by 40% from about a month ago when the state recorded 3,361 cases among those under the age of 18.

Young Coloradans have experienced higher rates of infections during the state’s current wave of the virus, with transmission highest among children ages 5 to 11.

“This isn’t the time to assume things are getting better,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, during a news briefing. “We have to be vigilant.”

Overall hospitalizations remain high. As of Wednesday, the state only has 645 beds available and 1,576 Coloradans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday, said Scott Bookman, COVID-19 Incident Commander.

Children are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, but the risk still exists. They can also develop long COVID or a rare, but serious condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C, after an infection.

Children’s Hospital Colorado has seen an increase in children with MIS-C, which can inflame the heart, lung and other organs, said Dr. Samuel Dominguez, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital.He did not have data on how many cases there are.

“The fact is that we still have a lot of children still unvaccinated,” Dominguez said, adding, “The next several weeks will potentially provide opportunities for more spread if people gather.”

Nationally, infections among children increased 32% from about two weeks ago, with almost 142,000 American children testing positive for COVID-19 during the week ending on Nov. 18, according to a report released this week by The American Academy of Pediatrics.

At least 81,711 children ages 5 to 11 and 279,796 teens ages 12 to 17 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state health department.

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