WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa — In Southeastern Iowa, Des Moines County has one of the highest 7-day positivity rates in the state, at 16%. And according to Iowa's Covid dashboard, over a third of those cases are being found in children 17 years old or younger.
The state says Des Moines County currently has 142 total positive tests. 31% of those tests have been found in youth, with another 17% accounted for in ages 18-29. Together, that means just under half of the county's 7-day cases were found in individuals under 30 years old.
On the other hand, only 15% of new cases were reported in people over the age of 60. It's not a surprising trend, considering 79.2% of Des Moines County's 65-or-older population is fully vaccinated.
At the county's public health department, staff say they are seeing increased positivity rates, after a summer filled with "normal activities."
"We are seeing a high percentage of our positive rates between the 0 to 17 years of age," said Christa Poggemiller, Department Administrator. She says at the beginning of the school year, the county saw a push in 12-17 year olds to get vaccinated, helped, in part, by the county's in-school vaccination clinics.
But now, she says the ultra-transmittable Delta variant is causing young people, who might not have gotten sick last winter or spring, to catch the virus.
"I think that all of our populations are really vulnerable to the Delta variant," she said. "I think that younger people do feel like they are not as vulnerable for the Covid-19. In our community, we've had people at 65 and older with really high vaccination rates. But we're just not seeing quite that much for young people."
Meanwhile, nearby hospital Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center says beds are almost never available, staff are being stretched thin, and individuals as young as teenagers are being hospitalized with Covid-19.
Poggemiller hopes increased education about what the vaccine is, how it works and how it can save lives, will help get more shots into the arms of teenagers. She also says the county health department is trying to break down clinic barriers as much as possible, by offering drive-through options with flexible hours.
The county's next vaccination clinic will be Wednesday, Sept. 15, from 12-6 p.m. at the Catfish Bend Casino. An additional clinic will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 21, from 12-6 p.m. at the Southeastern Community College Fairgrounds.
At one vaccination clinic, 19-year-old Thalia Thomas received her first shot, after she said she was previously too scared to go.
"Just knowing that my mom and my brothers and sister was getting the shot made me want to get the shot too. I was like the only one that didn't get it," she told News 8.
Thomas says as an athlete, the vaccine was required for her. But she says she decided to get the shot for personal reasons as well, saying she wanted to spend time with her family and grandparents, without making anyone feel unsafe. Since the start of the pandemic, Thomas says she's known plenty of family and friends who have gotten Covid, including her own bout with the virus last winter.
"[The shot] will protect people and lower their risk of Covid," she said. "It wasn't that painful. But it'll be worth it."
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