'It has happened very rapidly': Youth COVID-19 cases rising just weeks into the school year
It's been two-and-a-half weeks since the school year started and youth cases of COVID-19 are already spiking in Waterloo Region.
Despite the steady increase, public health officials maintain most of the spread is happening outside of the classroom.
"Most of the transmission is occurring outside of the school environment, so really just a reminder that COVID can spread really easily and we are seeing that mostly through people having fairly large gatherings without public health measures," Waterloo Region's medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said at Friday's weekly COVID-19 briefing.
On Sept. 7 – the first day of school – there were 1,108 total COVID-19 cases among youth nine and younger.
Since then, the region has logged 50 more cases among children under nine.
There' also been a similar rise among youth aged 10 to 19. On Sept. 7, the region had confirmed a cumulative total of 2,024 cases among that age cohort since the pandemic began.
In the two and half weeks since school started, another 63 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among young people 10 to 19.
"It has happened very rapidly and I think we need to all be aware of the numbers that there are almost a quarter of all cases happening across Ontario are happening among young people under the age of 18," said Kristina Llewellyn, a social development studies professor at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo.
As officials deal with the increase in youth cases, plans are underway for a vaccine rollout once the jab is approved for children under the age of 12.
"At this point, we don’t have any timelines, we just know that they have some data that they are looking at submitting, so this is perhaps the first time in the vaccine rollout that we can be a bit proactive," Vickie Murray, operations lead of Waterloo Region's Vaccine Distribution Task Force, said at a briefing on Friday.
She said several options are on the table for getting vaccines into the arms of young people, including mass clinics, drive-thru clinics and working with school boards to vaccinate in schools.