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CHAMPAIGN — Health officials in Champaign County are keeping an eye on a recent upswing in active COVID-19 cases among children under age 12.

Too young to be vaccinated, children 11 and younger had previously represented about 5 percent of the county’s active COVID-19 cases, according to Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Deputy Administrator Awais Vaid.

But as of Monday, more than 20 percent of the county’s active cases were kids under 12, he said.

The higher percentage may be due to kids attending summer camps and sports activities, along with the presence of the much more infectious Delta variant, Vaid said.

As far as public health district officials know, Champaign County still has had just three Delta variant cases.

But there could be more based on the recent speed at which COVID-19 has been spreading, he said.

The state screens to detect variants only on the positive COVID-19 cases in which the patient was hospitalized or died or became infected with COVID-19 despite having been vaccinated, Vaid said.

Several area counties, excluding Douglas County, have seen at least one confirmed case of the Delta variant.

Vermilion County has had seven, Piatt and DeWitt counties each have had one and Ford County has had a few, according to public health officials in those counties.

Vermilion County Health Department Administrator Doug Toole said new COVID-19 cases in that county have doubled recently from zero to three a day to about six a day, but he isn’t alarmed by six new cases a day.

“I’d love to have more days when we have no new cases,” he said.

Champaign County’s current COVID-19 numbers aren’t anywhere nearly as high as they were prior to the availability of vaccines, but they have trended up recently.

On July 1, Champaign County had 48 active COVID-19 cases and 54 close contacts under quarantine.

On Monday, the county had 136 active cases and 137 close contacts in quarantine. That included the addition of 27 more active cases since Saturday.

Vaid said the public health district will continue monitoring the data to see if other steps — such as advising a universal masking policy for schools — are needed.

In an updated guidance for schools Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised universal masking for everyone older than age 2, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

The group said that was based, in part, on the fact that a significant number of school children aren’t old enough to be vaccinated, the lack of a system to monitor vaccine status, the potential difficulty schools will face monitoring or enforcing mask policies for those who aren’t vaccinated and concern about more easily-spreading variants.

For now, Vaid said the public health district is making sure all local public testing sites for COVID-19 remain open.

Also advised is to consider continuing to wear a mask, regardless of your vaccination status, when you are in an indoor place in which the vaccination status of other people can’t be verified or if you have an underlying health condition, he said.

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