At least 257 Dane County residents have attended K-12 schools since Aug. 25 while infectious with COVID-19 or shortly before becoming infected, Public Health Madison and Dane County said Tuesday.
Schools were identified as a potential source of the people’s exposure through contact tracing, the city-county health department said in a blog post about COVID-19 in schools. School district dashboards have more complete data, including how many people are quarantining, department spokesperson Morgan Finke said.
With about 75,000 students enrolled in public schools in the county and most schools resuming Sept. 2, “we expected to see an increase in cases involving children and schools,” the agency said.
But while cases are higher among children in the county than at this time last year, they’re lower than later last fall, when most students were learning remotely and COVID-19 vaccines were not yet available, the department said.
“This early trend is encouraging and may suggest that creating a circle of protection around kids in the form of high vaccination rates and mask requirements in schools is working as a means to protect children who can’t yet be vaccinated,” the department said.
Dane County has the state’s highest vaccination rate and one of the highest rates in the country among large counties. As of Tuesday, 73.4% of county residents had received at least one dose of vaccine and 70.5% were fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health Services. About 14% of the population is age 11 or younger and not yet eligible for immunization.
Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and the company will soon seek U.S. authorization for the age group.
Many health officials expect authorization by the end of October. Public Health Madison and Dane County is preparing to help parents get immunizations for their children. The county has about 44,000 children ages 5 to 11.
“We are currently working with our health care and pharmacy partners to ensure that all children in Dane County within this newly eligible age group will be able to get an appointment to be vaccinated quickly,” Finke said.
In the Madison School District’s latest weekly COVID-19 data update, last Wednesday, 407 students, teachers or staff quarantined over the previous 14 days, compared with 106 a week earlier. Eighty-three people tested positive for COVID-19 over the previous 14 days, compared with 45 a week earlier.
The district has about 32,000 students, teachers and staff.