Illinois children between the ages of 5 and 11 are now averaging 566 new COVID-19 cases a day over the past week.
That’s the highest infection rate for that age group since the start of the pandemic, Illinois Department of Public Health records show.
The previous high for that age group’s seven-day average number of new cases was Sept. 4 at 552 a day during that preceding week.
Children between the ages of 5 and 11 became eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. So far, 137,204 Illinois children -- 74,269 who live in the suburbs -- have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to IDPH records.
That amounts to 12.4% of that age group’s population statewide.
Thursday, IDPH reported 5,644 new cases of COVID-19 statewide among all age groups. The data shows that 1,034 of those cases were in children between the ages of 5 and 11, which is 18.3% of all new cases for the day.
Over the past month, the seven-day average number of new cases in children 5 to 11 has increased 114.4%, IDPH figures show.
In children who are 4 or younger, the seven-day average number of new cases has increased 65.6% during that same time.
For children between the ages of 12 and 17, who have been eligible for the vaccine for a much longer period of time, the seven-day new case average over the past month has increased 63.7%. IDPH officials report 54.3% of the state’s children in that age group are now fully vaccinated and more than 60% have received at least one dose.
Hospitalizations from COVID-19 in children are rare, as are severe symptoms of the respiratory disease, health officials note. Only six deaths of Illinois residents under the age of 20 have been reported since the outset of the pandemic, according to IDPH data. However, because children are less likely to be symptomatic when infected, health officials say the risk of spreading COVID-19 is higher among that age group.
There is also some concern about the long-term physical and mental effects of COVID-19 on children. One of the most common post-COVID-19 outcomes for infected children, even those who were asymptomatic, is a condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C. The condition attacks children’s organs causing an array of symptoms from vomiting and diarrhea to swelling and rashes. More than 5,500 cases nationwide have been diagnosed in children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC officials say MIS-C is responsible for the deaths of 48 of those children.
More than 200 MIS-C cases have been diagnosed in Illinois, CDC data shows.
There have been 331,555 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Illinois residents under the age of 20, according to IDPH figures.
The National Institutes of Health recently launched a wide-ranging, long-term study on COVID-19 infections in children and their outcomes.
“Although we know that children are vulnerable to COVID-19, we still do not have a clear picture of how COVID-19 affects them in the long term,” said NIH director Dr. Anthony Fauci, when the study was announced earlier this week. “Our investigations into the pediatric population will deepen our understanding of the public health impact that the pandemic has had and will continue to have in the months and years to come.”