Younger Oklahomans increasingly testing positive for COVID-19

BY MIKE SHERMAN
Oklahoma Watch &
TREVOR BROWN
Oklahoma Watch
10/06/2020 02:00 PM
More children and teenagers are testing positive for COVID-19 in Oklahoma as in-person schooling has resumed for weeks for students across most of the state. 

Oklahoma State Department of Health statistics show there has been a total of 8,379 positive COVID-19 test results, making up nearly 10% of the states cases, in the 5-17 age group as of Oct. 1.

The share of positive cases among K-12 school-aged children has steadily increased throughout the pandemic as testing, which initially only prioritized older and more vulnerable populations, has evolved. But some of the biggest increases came in September, when many students began returning to in-person classes. 

State data shows that since Sept. 14, at least 100 Oklahomans in the 5-17 age group tested positive each day the state has reported data. In comparison, during the entire month of August, there were only six days with more than 100 positive test results in this age group.   

This comes as StateImpact Oklahoma has found that more than 270 public school districts, charter schools and private schools have announced cases among their students, teachers or support staff since schools began re-opening. 

But the most number of cases continues to come from the 18-35 age group. More than a third of the state’s cases have regularly come from this age group since June. 

Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Lance Frye told reporters last week that, in addition to outbreaks in a number of the state’s prisons, school and university re-openings are the main contributor to the state’s current spike, which has resulted in the state’s seven-day moving average of daily cases topping 1,000 for the past several weeks. 

Although younger residents tend to have less severe and deadly cases (there’s been one death in the 5-17 age group and 12 deaths in the 18-35 age group among the state’s 1,035 deaths), health experts say young healthy cases can rapidly spread the virus to more vulnerable populations. 

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