AUGUSTA, Maine — The rate of COVID-19 cases among Mainers under age 20 hit a new high this week as the virus continues to surge here and young children remain ineligible for vaccinations.
The seven-day average of cases among people younger than 20 in Maine climbed to 132 on Tuesday, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, surpassing a record set in April.
The increasing cases among children come as Maine’s high overall vaccination rate has not been enough to stop the spread of the delta variant. While three-quarters of Mainers aged 20 and older are fully vaccinated, according to state data, just 56 percent of people aged 12-19 are and no vaccine has been approved for younger children.
Recent Maine data breaking down cases among children younger than 12 who are still ineligible for vaccines was not available Tuesday morning. But the current weekly case rate among Mainers younger than 20 — about 3.3 infections per 1,000 people — is more than 25 times higher than it was two months ago, according to state data. It is also the highest infection rate of any age group in Maine over the past week.
Since the start of the pandemic, about 5.7 percent of Mainers younger than 20, or 16,000 people, have tested positive for COVID-19. Hospitalizations remain extremely rare in that age group. As of the end of August, the most recent data available, 34 children have been hospitalized with the virus in Maine and one has died.
But COVID-19 cases among children have proven disruptive in recent weeks in Maine. More than a dozen schools across the state have already reported outbreaks, forcing dozens of students to quarantine in the first few weeks of the semester.
The rising COVID-19 cases among kids here mirrors patterns seen in other states over the past few months as the highly contagious delta variant leads to more infections among unvaccinated people, including children. An analysis from the American Academy of Pediatrics released Monday documented nearly 500,000 infections among kids nationwide in the previous two weeks, a roughly 240 percent increase compared to July.
The group concluded that severe illness from COVID-19 remains “uncommon” among young people but said further study is needed on the potential long-term consequences of infection in children.