More students test positive for COVID as transmission remains high in community

SPOKANE, Wash. – More people are testing positive for COVID-19 in our communities. The high transmission rate is affecting schools, too.

In Spokane County, the health district reported 232 people have tested positive for the virus over the last day. Of that number, more than 31 percent of reported cases are in people 19 and younger.

Dr. Frank Velazquez, the interim health officer, said most kids who do get COVID-19 have milder symptoms. As many as six kids were in the hospital because of COVID a few weeks ago. Velazquez said that’s the highest they’ve ever seen during the pandemic.

He says one major reason why more kids are testing positive for COVID is that they cannot get vaccinated.

As the virus spreads, the Kraus family worries. Elisabeth’s youngest daughter has underlying health conditions and being back in class can create a lot of concerns.

“It was the second day of school when we got our first note that a child had tested positive in my middle daughter’s class,” Elisabeth said.

Elisabeth said her daughter was not a close contact. However, they did actually catch COVID-19 in the fall. She’s afraid that it could happen again.

During that time, Elisabeth was parenting three children by herself as her husband was away working. She said she felt the symptoms the strongest compared to her kids.

“I remember thinking, ‘What is going to happen if I have to go to the hospital, because I have three kids here by myself, and what do I do with them, and where do they go and who would watch them? How do I make sure they’re safe?'” she recalled.

She, and the kids, ended up being alright. They’re just afraid it could all happen again.

Her youngest has underlying health conditions and is also ineligible to get vaccinated.

“It was not a pleasant experience. It was scary, it was boring. It was all the things in crazy-ville,” she said.

It’s not unexpected that schools will have cases this year as we’re still in a pandemic. What’s happening in our communities reflects what can happen in schools, Velazquez said. He added they predicted that’s what would happen.

“The higher the rate of transmissions in the community, the higher the rate of cases that we see in schools and also in child care,” he said.

In numbers released last week, Spokane Public Schools had a total of 526 people in quarantine with 138 confirmed cases.

The Coeur d’Alene School District reported 415 students are out of school buildings due to exposure. 64 students confirmed to have COVID this week so far.

In the last few weeks, the Mead School District said there were a few schools in Level two. That means one percent of a school’s population is out due to COVID-19. The Central Valley School District is also seeing a rise in cases, but the district is not in level two yet like some other schools.

“The key, though, is that they’re infectious while they’re in school cases. We have not had many of those simply because of some of the mitigation strategies, of our families doing a really nice job of recognizing symptoms and not sending students to school,” said Brian Asmus, with the Central Valley School District.

A majority of students catching COVID-19 are getting it outside of school. So, health leaders, and worried parents like Elisabeth, are asking people to be responsible.

“I’m not as worried as to how the schools are handling, but I’m more worried about how our communities members are or are not going to keeping their families safe, and then those unsafe kids come into school with our kids and can put them at risk,” she said.

Velazquez urges people to get vaccinated, especially for the kids who can’t yet. It’s possible kids ages five through 11 can get vaccinated by Halloween now.

“My kids would rather be in a mask 24 hours a day if they could go to school, see their friends, engage with the teacher and do hands-on learning,” Elisabeth said. “If that means a little bit of sacrifice on all of our part, I think it’s totally worth it to keep our kids in safe classrooms where teachers, district administrators and officials are doing the best to keep everybody safe.”

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