COVID cases among Wisconsin kids decreasing, but experts say this isn’t the time to let down your guard

MADISON, Wis. — Over the last month, we’ve been seeing an increase in COVID cases among kids. With the variants spreading, those numbers have had doctors worried.

Now, statewide and Dane County data shows COVID cases among high school and middle school kids are decreasing.

That’s great news, but until children under age 16 can get vaccinated, they will always be vulnerable to the virus.

“A parent, a grandparent, a teacher, an older sibling — if all of those people are vaccinated, that’s protecting that younger person and that family, or community from getting COVID,” said Rebecca LeBeau, a member of Public Health Madison & Dane County’s data team.

She said more and more teens are choosing to be vaccinated, and that’s helping lower the number of cases among kids.

“On the 7th of April we had 15% coverage among 16 and 17 year olds. And now we’re at 57%,” said LeBeau.

12 To 17

Public Health Madison & Dane County

Dane County started to see another increase in cases among children in mid-April. At that point, the 7 day average among kids ages 12-17 was about 10. It was still a much smaller peak than the one we saw last fall, when the 7 day average was about 30.

Right now, the 7 day average among that age group is less than 5.

DHS’s statewide data from two weeks ago shows nearly 430 kids ages 14-17 were diagnosed that week. Preliminary data from last week shows 272 new cases in that same age range.

“Well at least in Wisconsin we’re seeing improvements, we’re still seeing rising cases in some other areas of the country, so I think we need to take all of this with a grain of salt,” said Dr. James Conway, a Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Director of UW Health’s Immunization Program.

He said the decrease in case numbers are a reflection of how low virus circulation is in Wisconsin as a whole. He believes this is due to a great vaccination process.

But we’re seeing different stories in nearby states such as Minnesota and Michigan.

“In the states that are doing poorly at controlling their ongoing outbreaks, those states also have a lot more pediatric cases,” said Conway.

He said in the last few weeks, children have made up more than 20% of the new COVID cases. That’s because they’re most vulnerable to the virus without any protection from vaccines.

This is something for parents to keep in mind this summer as they plan family outings.

“We’ve seen a little bit of activity with indoor sports and COVID, so just think about the activities your kid is involved in and ways to lower the risk among those,” said LeBeau.

She suggested letting kids play outside and making sure they wear a mask while inside with others.

The FDA is preparing to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds. The decision could come by early next week.

Conway said being able to vaccinate that age range will make a big difference, and hopefully make starting school in the fall seem a little more normal.