Children and teenagers have fueled much of the growth this summer in the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of Tuesday had reached 1,666 deaths among all age groups in Minnesota and 61,839 confirmed infections with the coronavirus that causes the infectious disease.
The total number of confirmed infections has increased 12% since Aug. 1 — when including 332 infections reported Tuesday — but has increased 18% among youth age 6 to 19, according to the latest data from the Minnesota Department of Health.
The 20 to 29 age group still has the highest total number of confirmed infections in Minnesota — at 14,447 — but the rate of case growth in this population has slowed in August. State health officials had traced outbreaks in this population to virus transmission at bars, which reopened at limited capacities on June 10.
Efforts to curb those outbreaks included visits from state environmental health officials to bars where social distancing and mask-wearing requirements weren’t being maintained. The city of Minneapolis closed bars again on Aug. 1 due to COVID-19 risks in the young adult population.
Risks of COVID-19 complications increase with age. Six COVID-19 deaths reported Tuesday included four people 80 or older, one person in the 60s age range, and one person in the 40s age range.
Among all COVID-19 deaths, the state has reported one involving an infant and four in the 20 to 29 age range. None have yet been reported among school-aged children and teens.
Health officials are concerned that infected young adults and children can spread the coronavirus to people who at greater risks due to their age or underlying health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Infections among residents of long-term care and assisted-living facilities have started to increase this month. Residents of these facilities make up 75% of the total COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota.
Children and young adults do have some risks from infection as well. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last week reported on 576 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations and found that one-third of these children required placement in intensive care units due to breathing problems or other complications. Black and Hispanic children had the highest rates of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.
The state Health Department reported that 337 people of all ages with COVID-19 were hospitalized in Minnesota as of Tuesday, including 147 people who needed intensive care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Monday announced a 90% increase in a four-week period ending Aug. 6 in confirmed infections in U.S. children.
Minnesota had the eighth-highest percentage among all states of total COVID-19 cases that involved children, according to the organization. That ranking is somewhat misleading, though, because many states define children in their COVID-19 tallies as ages 0 to 17. Minnesota defines children in its COVID-19 data as ages 0 to 19.
Continued spread of the virus will ultimately cause more severe infections among children, even if their risks are low, said Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.
“As case counts rise across the board, that is likely to impact more children with severe illness as well. To protect everyone in our communities — children, teens, and older adults — we must follow all the public health measures that we know can contain the virus. This includes physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, washing our hands, and avoiding large gatherings.”