Back in mid September, some six months after the coronavirus pandemic reached Tennessee, Scott County had 182 cases of the virus among its residents.
It’s taken just about five weeks for that number to double. As of Friday, there had been 362 Scott Countians infected by the virus. Active cases of the virus are ever climbing — up to 76 as of Friday — and there have now been five fatalities tied to the virus, while 22 people have been hospitalized — including three in the past week.
As coronavirus cases surge, a breakdown of the data shows that the virus continues to impact mostly younger adults and youth.
Since September 13, when there had been 182 cases of coronavirus in Scott County, 16.9% of new cases have been among people in their 30s, while 16.2% have been people in their teens or pre-teens, and another 16.2% have been people in their 40s. During that same time frame, people in their 20s have accounted for 13.4% of new cases. Children aged 10 or younger have accounted for 7.7% of new cases.
In each of those age categories, the percentages of total cases have gone up in the past five weeks. Since the pandemic began, people in their 30s have accounted for 16.7% of cases, while people in their 40s have accounted for 16.0% of cases. Some 14.5% of cases have occurred in people in their teens, while 11.7% of cases have occurred in people in their 20s and 7.4% of cases have occurred in children under the age of 10.
People in their 50s have accounted for 12.0% of new cases since September 13, but have accounted for 14.8% of Scott County’s cases since the pandemic began. The share of new cases has dropped among other older adult age categories, as well. People in their 60s have accounted for 10.8% of cases since the pandemic began, but only 9.9% since September 13. People in their 70s have accounted for 5.9% of cases since the pandemic began, but just 5.6% since September 13. And people over the age of 80 have accounted for 2.2% of cases since the pandemic began, but just 2.1% of cases since September 13.
The changes are in most instances subtle, but they’re across the board: Adults younger than the age of 50, and children, make up a larger percentage of coronavirus cases since September 13 than they did prior to that date, while adults older than the age of 50 make up a smaller percentage of cases since September 13 than they did prior to that date.
The change is obvious in another measurement, too: Since September 13, school-aged children, defined as children between the ages of five and 18, have made up 17.8% of new cases in Scott County. Throughout the pandemic overall, school-aged children have made up just 10.4% of cases.
The increase among school-aged children is to be expected; although schools have taken measures to protect against coronavirus spread, social distancing is hardly practical in classrooms or in other school settings.
The question becomes whether there is enough of a presence of coronavirus inside schools to cause a disruption. So far, the disruptions — which have at times included entire classes being forced to quarantine — have not caused schools to close. The only exception was when Scott High School remained on a virtual schedule for a week after fall break, but that was described as a mostly precautionary measure. Scott High remains on a “phase-in” schedule with only 50% of students reporting to class, as determined by grade level, each day. That schedule will continue for at least the next week.
Meanwhile, the data seems to confirm what many medical experts have assumed to be true since early in the pandemic: younger children don’t transmit the virus easily. While the percentage of young children contracting the virus has risen slightly since September 13, the increase has been especially subtle. Since that time, there have been 11 cases of the virus among children aged 10 or younger; since the pandemic began, there have been 24 cases in that age category.
Those numbers contrast with what educators and health care specialists know to be true with ordinary viruses or other illnesses — such as influenza, gastrointestinal viruses and strep throat. Schools are typically breeding grounds for those illnesses, with kids passing them easily amongst themselves.
Some have also suggested sports might be the cause for the spread of coronavirus, but there does not seem to be evidence to support the theory. The high school soccer season is nearly over — Scott High concluded its season earlier in the week; Oneida will attempt to keep its season alive today — and football season is winding down. Yet, so far, there have been very few cases of coronavirus involving student-athletes. Though some have been required to quarantine, few have actually become infected.
Oneida High School was forced to suspend its season for about two weeks, but reportedly there is only one active case of coronavirus involving a team member. The bigger issue was the quarantines that resulted not only from that case but from cases outside the team setting.
Meanwhile, all other local sports teams have been able to play a full schedule.
While younger adults are making up the lion’s share of new coronavirus cases in Scott County, that is also the age group least likely to suffer severe consequences from the virus. While younger adults — even healthy ones — can be, and have been, hospitalized by the virus, it is the elderly — particularly those with underlying illness — that are most at-risk.
While the numbers made publicly available by the TN Dept. of Health aren’t broken down on a local level, a statewide assessment shows that about one in five people over the age of 80 diagnosed with coronavirus will be hospitalized. For people in their 70s, about 16% of those diagnosed with Covid-19 will require hospitalization.
The numbers start to drop after that, and fewer than 10% of coronavirus patients in their 60s require hospitalization.
For children aged 10 or under, meanwhile, fewer than one in 100 who have been infected by coronavirus in Tennessee have required hospitalization. The same is true for youth in their teens: only about one in 200 diagnosed with Covid-19 have been hospitalized. The percentages rise only slightly for adults in their 20s, where about one in 100 require hospitalization.