COVID cases among children increasing, new variant found in Mesa County

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DENVER (KDVR) — COVID restrictions are easing, kids are back in school but now cases are on the rise. Hospitalizations are up and researchers have found a new variant in the state.

Health leaders said cases continue to climb among our youngest Coloradans and a COVID variant wreaking havoc in India is now making its way around Colorado.

“Last night, we had five reports of that variant reported to us in Colorado. All of those are cases that are being reported to us from Mesa County. The B11617.2 variant is one of the variants that was first identified in India,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said Thursday morning.

Herlihy said none of the people who tested positive for the variant recently traveled outside of Mesa County, leading the health department to investigate what the mutation could mean for everyone here.

“We also know that there is some limited data that suggest that some of the monoclonal antibody treatments could potentially be less effective for this particular variant. There is very minimal data about vaccine effectiveness. Right now, it looks like minimal vaccine effectiveness with this variant,” Herlihy said.

In addition to the new variant, the state is seeing an uptick in cases among children preschool ages to 17 years old, state data showing children 0-19 making up 26% of new cases last week.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called on parents to get themselves and their teens vaccinated when they can – hoping to hit 70% of people vaccinated by July 1.

“Let’s show this country, our country, how it’s done by getting 60% of all Denver residents vaccinated with at least one dose by June 1. And of course, meeting the 70% goal by July 1,” Hancock said at a city press conference Thursday. “If the FDA authorizes the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds next week, that will definitely help us hit those targets.”

The real concern both for the city and state: kids and young people getting sick.

“The variants that are now taking hold in our community have more severe impacts. So if you thought early on you were a young, healthy adult, you don’t have to worry about the impacts of COVID-19, you need to worry about this,” Denver Public Health Executive Director Bob McDonald said.

This news all coming as the state loosened mask restrictions this week, leaving it up to businesses to confirm if people have been vaccinated before dropping their masks indoors.

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