CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA)– Children are coming down with the coronavirus at the highest rate yet in at least a couple of Central Illinois’ metros.
COVID-19 was a contributing factor in the death of a Taylorville student just last week.
From a Freedom of Information Act request to the Illinois Department of Public Health and talks with local health departments, we were able to count at least 23 children — 18 and younger — died of the virus. We know of two confirmed cases in the last week, both from Central Illinois.
Sherman resident and mother Amanda Johnson said she came too close to that reality.
Johnson said at first, it seemed like her 13-year-old daughter Mackenna had recovered from COVID-19 after a couple of days of cold-like symptoms.
“I really didn’t have concerns initially,” Johnson added.
About a month later, things took a turn at their home in Sherman. Mackenna was vomiting, she had a high fever and developed a rash on her hands.
After an emergency room visit, doctors determined she had Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C. It’s a very rare condition that mostly affects kids during or after a covid infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A few days later, Mackenna was flown to St. Louis for treatment.
“It was so frightening because when we left St. John’s, they told us that she may have to go on a ventilator, and you know, the worst thing comes to your head,” Johnson said.
That was January 2021.
Mackenna is one of 30 kids (0-18-years-old) who have been hospitalized in Sangamon County since the pandemic began (specifically between March 2020 and Sept. 4, 2021).
In Champaign County, there were 13. There were 12 in Macon County, and in Vermilion County, nine kids have been admitted.
Three of those kids were in the hospital in August, according to statistics from the Vermilion County Health Department, two teens and an infant. Another teenager is currently in the hospital.
“If they’re hospitalized at this time, it’s something significant,” added Doug Toole, the Vermilion County Public Health Administrator.
Kids make up 15% of the state’s total coronavirus case count. That’s as of August 23, according to data FOIAed from the state.
In Champaign County, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Public Health District Deputy Administrator said: “About 30% or so of all the cases that we currently have active are in children under 18, and if you look at under 12 that are not eligible for the vaccine as of yet, about 21%.”
Vaid said that’s the highest percentage he’s seen yet.
For all of 2020, the tale in Vermilion county roughly matched the state’s. 15% of cases were in people younger than 20.
“It seems to be on the increase, percentage-wise anyway,” Toole said, adding that percentage multiplied this summer.
In August, 28% of positive tests came from those younger than 20, and so far in September, they account for 42% of total cases. 10% of the 42% are kids below school age.
“Is it a new, more contagious variant? It certainly could be. Is it because we’ve opened up more of those restrictions in the state?” Toole listed. “…It’s hard to say but it’s been, it was climbing even before school started. It’s jumped since then, but it was on the climb even before that.”
“Last year at this time schools were remote, the majority of the schools were remote, so we were not seeing cases in children…Our top exposure location in Champaign County today is at schools,” Vaid explained, adding that was expected.
There are no kids hospitalized in Champaign County right now but there has been one death, a teenager.
“There were some underlying health conditions associated with that. So there’s always a concern with that, but again, there’s also a concern that you cannot keep kids at home indefinitely,” Vaid shared.
As for Mackenna, she has since gotten the vaccine and is back in school.
“That’s something that I’m worried about too,” Johnson said. “… Is that somebody gets COVID and brings it to school, and she gets it again…We don’t know what could happen.”
Looking at the statewide numbers we got in a FOIA request to IDPH, there was a spike in hospitalizations overall and among kids in November and December 2020, and January 2021. IDPH would not provide statistics for August and September so far, so we cannot say whether the current rise in some Central Illinois counties is mirrored everywhere.
Johnson, Toole and Vaid encouraged parents to take kids who are able to get vaccinated.
Vaid said although it’s still early, there hasn’t been any concrete evidence of long-term complications in kids.