ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With the school year starting in under a month, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) released reopening guidance for schools, built mostly on previous recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). They aren’t a mandate, but a “resource” for school districts to refer to when determining their own best course of action.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, statistics have indicated that, compared to adults, children are far less likely to catch the virus or experience severe symptoms if infected. With reports of rising delta variant cases among children in places like Louisiana and Florida, the paradigm has apparently shifted, forcing researchers to take a closer look.

The AAP drew attention last week for saying that the number of kids getting COVID was rising substantially. They released a report saying that, from July 29 to August 5, no fewer than 94,000 kids in 24 states—including New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont—had been diagnosed with COVID. Putting that number into perspective, they also said that 4.3 million kids have been diagnosed since the pandemic began.

Three Capital Region counties agree, saying COVID cases among children have increased locally, too. They report that those under 19 account for between one-fifth to one-third of new cases over the past month or so.

In Warren County, 20% of its positive COVID cases in the past three weeks have been in kids under the age of 12. For weeks, the county has encouraged parents and caregivers to keep sick kids home from daycare or summer camp as infections rose among kids. Officials said one child under 12 who was diagnosed with COVID in the past three weeks was in critical condition. They have since “recovered to a degree,” but remained hospitalized as of Thursday.

“We have seen a significant, unfortunate increase in cases as the Delta variant spreads, many of them involving children who are too young to be vaccinated,” explained Ginelle Jones, Warren County Health Services Director. “If you are an adult or are the parent of a child 12 and older who hasn’t gotten a COVID-19 shot for yourself or child yet, please do so as soon as possible to help protect our children and other vulnerable populations.”

Out of 61 active cases, Washington County said 32%—about 20—are minors. Many of the current cases include those spread in Washington County households, said Tim Hardy, Deputy Director of the county’s Public Safety Department. All children with COVID currently being monitored by the county are experiencing only mild symptoms, officials say.

Meanwhile, in Saratoga County, 19% of positive cases between June 15 and August 10 were kids younger than 18. The county provided a further breakdown of cases from that time frame:

  • Kids under 5: 5% of cases
  • Kids ages 6 to 11: 7% of cases
  • Kids ages 12 to 17: 7% of cases

“We are proud of the fact that Saratoga County has one of the highest vaccination rates outside of NYC and we continue to educate our residents and make vaccines available to those eligible. Importantly, we remain committed to looking for ways to help our youngest population, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, remain healthy,” the county said Thursday.

Despite the increase in cases, children can still largely avoid hospitalization. Officials at Albany Medical Center Hospital say they have three kids with COVID, who are not seriously ill. At the same time, they have five kids being treated for respiratory syncytial virus, and others being treated for common viral respiratory illness. Hospital officials say those conditions are not uncommon for kids.

In the past 30 days, Saratoga County said three kids in the county with COVID were hospitalized. They say that one of those three, however, was actually hospitalized for a non-COVID issue.

In light of the rise in COVID cases in recent weeks, the three counties have urged eligible residents to get vaccinated. Local health experts agree that it’s the best way for people to protect themselves and others. “The most effective way to protect their health and safety is for those around these children to get vaccinated,” said Saratoga County health officials in a statement.