Coronavirus response | Local health official: Unvaccinated kids driving latest surge | Coronavirus

CHAMPAIGN — COVID-19 cases have been escalating recently in Champaign County partly due to infections spreading among mostly unvaccinated schoolchildren and teens, a local health official said Friday.

Over the past two weeks, 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases among youths ages 12-17 have been in unvaccinated individuals, according to Awaid Vaid, deputy administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

With vaccine available to that age group for some time, “that’s unacceptable,” Vaid said.

Because it’s difficult to avoid close contact with infected children at home, cases picked up at school are being spread to other family members, even some who are vaccinated, he said.

At the start of November, the number of active cases in Champaign County was in the 300 range.

On Friday, there were 941 active cases — a number fueled by 347 new positive tests in the past three days.

With vaccines now available for kids ages 5 and older and Thanksgiving coming up, Vaid said the health district has been pushing vaccinations for children — who will be in close contact with their more-vulnerable grandparents and family members under age 5 who can’t yet be vaccinated.

The health district hopes to see more vaccine clinics at schools, where kids can be vaccinated without their parents having to take time off work, he said.

With many families expected to celebrate Thanksgiving in small groups, Vaid said the longer holiday weekend away from school may be a chance to slow down the spread of infection at schools.

But it’s advisable for those traveling for the holiday to be tested for COVID-19 both before and after they travel, he said.

On a statewide basis, new cases increased 25 percent from last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Friday.

Due to the currently high rate of transmission in Illinois, booster shots are now available for everyone 18 and older, the health district said.

Requirements for those who are seeking a booster shot are being at least six months past a second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or at least two months past the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The health district has added five more days for its walk-in booster clinics at the I Hotel and Conference Center at 1900 S. First St., C — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 2.

Those coming for booster shots are asked to enter through the conference center on the east side of the complex, not through the hotel.

Carle Health is also continuing vaccinations for kids and booster shots by appointment only at its facility at the Kohl’s Plaza at 1901 N. Market St., C.

Eleanore Beatty

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