Oregon Coronavirus Among Under 10 Kids Grows Fivefold, to Nearly as Many Cases as People Over 80

The number of COVID-19 cases among children under the age of 10 in Oregon was more than five times greater at the end of June than it was one month earlier.

Data shared by the Oregon Health Authority said 319 children under 10 had confirmed or presumptive positive cases by Tuesday, June 30. At the end of May, only 58 cases within that age group had been reported to the OHA.

The multiplying case numbers in young children was first reported Wednesday by The Oregonian, which said the age group had the fastest-growing number of new cases than any other in the state.

"I hope that the increasing cases among children will lead people to reevaluate their behavior and to take additional precautions," Dr. Melissa Sutton, a senior health adviser for the OHA, told the paper. Though Sutton said the increase could partially be attributed to infections at child care facilities, the community exposure children had in the wake of the state's reopening was mostly responsible.

Children in Central Park
Two children wear masks while sitting on rocks and playing with leaves in New York's Central Park during Memorial Day weekend. Though the number of new cases has continued declining in New York, states like Oregon were seeing spikes in June and early July. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in May, children under the age of 18 accounted for only 2 percent of the cases reported nationwide. Children under 10 in Oregon accounted for fewer cases than that in May, but the number rose to 3.7 percent one month later.

Newsweek reached out to the OHA for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

By the end of June, there were nearly as many cases of the virus in young children as there were in adults 80 and older, an age group that currently accounts for about 4.4 percent of Oregon's cases. Though young children still represent the smallest patient group in the state, fears about infected children unknowingly spreading the virus led many in Oregon and in states across the nation to question whether it will be safe to allow children to return to school in the fall.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci advised school administrators to design strategies and timetables for bringing children back to school in collaboration with local health officials and government leaders. While Fauci said it was important for schools to reopen, he warned of the "very disturbing" situation unraveling in the U.S. as a handful of states began rolling pandemic restrictions back into place.

Though Oregon hasn't seen the kind of case increases its California neighbor has, Governor Kate Brown said earlier this week steps could be taken to shut down the state again if case counts continued rising. In an effort to prevent further spread of the virus, Brown said everyone in the state would be required to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor public spaces starting Wednesday.

"Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don't take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks," Brown said in a news release announcing the mask mandate. "The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter."

By Tuesday, June 30, the OHA said 8,656 cases and 207 deaths had been reported statewide since the pandemic began.