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Roanoke health expert “not surprised” at increase in COVID cases among youth

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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ROANOKE VALLEY, Va. (WDBJ) - As COVID cases in the Roanoke Valley continue to increase, local experts say they are continuing to see more cases in the younger demographic.

Of the 957 new COVID cases reported in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts this week, nearly 25% of them have been children under the age of 18. 50% of the 29,119 COVID cases in the district are in people under the age of 34. However, experts say they are not surprised by the data.

“We expect that this is in large part because children are not vaccinated if they’re younger than 12 and our younger people, of those who are eligible, than our older population,” explains Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the health director for the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts. “It doesn’t surprise us, but it is certainly disconcerting to see.”

As a result of masking and physical distancing in schools, Dr. Morrow believes the transmission among the young is happening outside the classroom.

“We know that in schools where these layered mitigation strategies are in place, we’re better able to protect people. When there’s this much disease, we may see some transmission in schools, but it does not appear that that is the major source. It appears that the major source is outside the school setting, particularly within households and within community settings.”

70 residents in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts are currently in hospitals. That’s an increase in four patients from last week.

Additionally, 47 of those cases are new this week. More new data also show for the week of September 4, Virginians are 15% more likely to get COVID if they are unvaccinated.

Just under 65% of people in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts have received at least the first dose of the vaccine.

“The bottom line unfortunately continues to be that we continue to see significant levels of COVID-19 activity in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts,” says Dr. Morrow.

With the possibility that the FDA may approve a COVID booster shot by the end of the week, Dr. Morrow says the health districts are preparing for that chance. Although, she does say she is unsure if the FDA will deem the booster shot necessary.

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