Graham Kilmer
MKE County

COVID-19 Positivity Rate Higher in Children Than Adults

Parents sending COVID-19 positive children to school, obstructing disease investigations.

By - Sep 4th, 2020 04:53 pm
2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children are currently testing positive for COVID-19 at a higher rate than adults in Milwaukee County.

The positive case rate — a measure of how many tests come confirm a case of the disease — was 5.1 percent among adults. For children, it was 9.1 percent.

“We’re seeing a little bit different story in the youth cases than we’re seeing in the adult general population cases,” said Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department, during a Thursday afternoon press briefing. Rausch has been working with a team of epidemiologists from the Medical College of Wisconsin to track COVID-19 in Milwaukee County.

For the entirety of the pandemic, the number of new cases occurring in the city has outpaced the number of new cases in the suburbs. However, the latest data indicates that the number of new cases among children in the suburbs may soon match or exceed the number of new cases among children in the city. “So that’s notable because obviously cases in the suburban communities have been much less throughout the outbreak,” said Rausch.

The data also shows more cases among children as they get older. This reflects, as Rausch said, “[that] older kids are obviously more likely to be engaging in activities and to be in more contact with others which is putting them likely at more risk of developing COVID.” But, infants, or children less than a year old, have more cases than children aged one to six. “There are a lot of cases in infants,” Rausch said.

Unfortunately, Rausch said, the 14-day trend for the positive case rate among children is “a trend that we don’t want to see.” The trend is not currently statistically significant, but there is a “very increasing trend” of percent positive among children being tested for COVID-19.

The 14-day trend for the positivity rate among adults is holding steady, not trending up or down. The Milwaukee County rate is now below the state average, which currently exceeds eight percent.

As with children, the seven-day rate among adults for new cases of COVID-19 shows the suburbs and the city are close to matching one another. If the trend continues, the suburbs will very soon have just as many new cases of COVID-19 as the city.

The transmission rate, which measures on average how many people a single infected person will give the virus to, remains below 1.0. This indicates that the disease is being suppressed in Milwaukee County.

While case rates and transmission rates, on a whole, are trending in the right direction or holding steady, testing is not. Over the past eight weeks testing numbers have steadily gone down.

Public health officials are imploring the public to seek out testing if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have come in contact with someone who has the virus.

Schools Reopening and Public Obstinance

Schools are reopening in much of the county and, Rausch said, public health officials have been seeing new cases as a result.

“We have seen and heard cases identified in staff, students and faculty,” he said.

Anecdotally, Rausch said officials are also finding that “many parents are not following through on the parental responsibility and the public health measures to keep kids home.” That is, public health officials have discovered “situations where parents have sent their COVID positive child to school.”

Unfortunately, another critical part of public health officials’ battle with the virus — contact tracing — continues to run into interference from the public.

Rausch said that, in some cases, contact tracers face obstinate, uncooperative members of the public who refuse to provide contact tracers with needed information. “When you tell us that you ‘won’t give us the information’ that doesn’t help us to fight COVID-19.”

As some people continue to ignore or choose not to comply with public health guidance and recommendations, local health officers may be forced to take greater enforcement actions within their authority.

Specifically, Rausch noted that obstructing a communicable disease investigation and a disease investigator is a violation of state law, as is a failure to properly isolate or quarantine.

Effectively suppressing the virus requires collective action. “The fate of our success in controlling COVID-19 rests in your hands,” Rausch said.

Read the epidemiological reports on Urban Milwaukee. Read the outbreak report here. The children’s report here. And the adult/general population report here.

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More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Categories: Health

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