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Gem State's COVID-19 cases spike among Idaho teens

“Children are back in school, there's not consistency of mitigation efforts, and those children that are eligible, not enough of them are getting vaccinated."

BOISE, Idaho — On Tuesday, Sept. 14, the Department of Health and Welfare stated that 635 COVID-19 cases were identified among teens ages 13-17, representing a record in Idaho for the entire pandemic. Adding to that, case rates are increasing among this particular age group at a faster rate compared to any other age group, at any point during the pandemic.

“The number of children 12 to 18 that are positive, is greater this week than last week it is growing at an accelerated rate and our internal data shows a positivity rate of 20%, which is incredibly high,” said pediatrician and CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, Doctor David Peterman.

Peterman added that of the 635 cases with kids ages 13 to 17 across the state, 150 of those are Primary Health patients. He argued that the increased spread within younger populations could be prevented.

"I'm incredibly disappointed and to a certain degree disheartened because we know that something as simply as having our children wear masks in school, and teachers and staff, we can slow the spread of covid,” he said.

The West Ada School District, the largest in Idaho, is reporting 218 total COVID-19 cases among students as of Tuesday, Sept. 14. Although there is a mask requirement currently in place, West Ada started the school year with no mask mandate. 

Peterman argued that the cases they are reporting are likely underreported because the rapid self-testing kits the district uses are not as accurate as other tests.

“If you give these Binax tests to the schools, are they obligated to report to you? The answer is no, they are not obligated to report, and again they are doing a Binax tests, not PCR, it’s a quick test and it’s not as accurate so whatever data I report to you from West Ada, it’s not accurate and it's lower," Peterman said.

According to Peterman, the number of children Primary Health has tested in the last four weeks has skyrocketed. He added that spread among younger populations is something health care workers saw coming.

“Children are back in school, there's not consistency of mitigation efforts, and those children that are eligible, not enough of them are getting vaccinated,” he said.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, 43,000kids ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated. Peterman said it is the obligation of parents who have children eligible to get vaccinated, to do so.

"We are denying care, we are denying care to children, we denying care to adults, we are denying care to the elderly because we just can't see them because we are so overwhelmed,” he said.

“Something as simple as wearing masks and getting vaccinated could solve these problems and I'm just pleading with people to do this.”

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