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Rate Of School COVID Cases Dropping

The rate of school children who have contracted COVID-19 has decreased over the past week, according to statistics from local school districts submitted to New York state officials.

When the New York State School COVID Report Card went live on Sept. 27, 1.4% of the children enrolled in area schools had a positive COVID-19 test. That number has fallen to 1.12% as of Monday. In Jamestown, the percentage of enrolled students who have had a positive COVID test decreased from 2.53% to 1.49% while the percentage in the Dunkirk City School District has fallen slightly from 1.27% to 1.17%.

Also decreasing is the percentage of tests given to school children that are coming back positive from 11.66% in late September to 8.15% through Monday. The majority of positive cases in schools continue to come from students, with fewer teachers and staff locally testing positive through Monday than through late September.

Decreasing COVID-19 cases in schools runs counter to the increasing case counts in Chautauqua, according to data posted to the NY Forward database. Data released late Wednesday showed 80 new cases in Chautauqua County through Tuesday and 47 new cases on Monday. Over the past 14 days, 7.7% of those tested in Chautauqua County for COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus.

The NY Forward database also shows 30% of hospital beds in Western New York are available and 18% of ICU beds are available in the region.

State statistics show 65.3% of Chautauqua County residents over the age of 18 have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, the third highest percentage in the five-county Western New York area behind Erie and Niagara counties. Chautauqua County ranks in the middle of the pack in Western New York in terms of hospital worker vaccinations at 85%, ranking below Niagara and Erie counties and ahead of Allegany (80%) and Cattaraugus (75%). The county’s percentage of long term care facility staff who have received a COVID-19 vaccination is 99% through Tuesday, tied with Niagara County for the highest in Western New York.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has been working to increase the percentage of 12- to 18-year-olds getting the COVID-19 vaccine with her #Vaxtoschool pop-up COVID-19 vaccine sites, though the governor said Tuesday she sees the vaccination effort for younger children shifting from schools to pediatrician offices throughout the state.

“But one is when we’re going to be able to get younger children involved, pediatricians, get ready,” Hochul said during a news conference. “We want you to start signing up to make sure you have full access to the vaccine. So we don’t waste a single moment. Once the approval comes and pediatrician offices are the most logical place, you know, a lot of adults are used to going into a pharmacy for their flu shot. I’ve done that myself, but I think when it comes to your child, you’re going to feel more secure in your doctor’s office. And so we don’t want to have any problems with them, not being able to do this for families and making sure they have enough supplies. So pediatricians, please enroll so we can track you and make sure you have what you need.”

Preparations may have to be ready sooner than later. Pfizer asked the U.S. government Thursday to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 — and if regulators agree, shots could begin within a matter of weeks. Pfizer announced in a tweet that it had formally filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. Now the FDA will have to decide if there’s enough evidence that the shots are safe and will work for younger children like they do for teens and adults. An independent expert panel will publicly debate the evidence on Oct. 26.

Pfizer says its research shows the younger kids should get a third of the dose now given to everyone else. After their second dose, the 5- to 11-year-olds developed virus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teens and young adults get from regular-strength shots. While kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 does sometimes kill children and cases in youngsters have skyrocketed as the delta variant has swept through the country

Pfizer studied the lower dose in 2,268 volunteers ages 5 to 11, and has said there were no serious side effects. The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that sometimes occurs after the second dose of the regular-strength vaccine, mostly in young men.

If the FDA authorizes emergency use of the kid-sized doses, there’s another hurdle before vaccinations in this age group can begin. Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide whether to recommend the shots for youngsters, and the CDC will make a final decision.

To avoid dosing mix-ups, Pfizer is planning to ship vials specially marked for pediatric use containing the lower dose.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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