Saturday, April 20, 2024

Youths shop in Central Square in early May. (Photo: Tyler Motes)

Cambridge residents under 20 have become the age group making up the largest share of new Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, although overall numbers are tiny. For months before now, people in their 20s had accounted for more new infections than any other age group.

“These are very small numbers over a short period of time, so it’s hard to tell if this is a genuine trend,” Cambridge Public Health Department spokeswoman Susan Feinberg said Wednesday when asked about the pattern. She added that new cases in people under 20 and those in their 20s “have declined considerably when compared to March and April.”

Still, “we would expect there to be a higher rate of cases among children” who haven’t been vaccinated either because they’re too young to be eligible – under 12 – or for other reasons, Feinberg said.

Recent statewide figures show the same pattern as in Cambridge. The state’s Wednesday Covid-19 dashboard reported that 720 state residents under 20 tested positive for Covid-19 in the previous two weeks, compared with 397 people in their 20s. Of those under 20, there were 516, or 72 percent, who were 14 or younger. (The state does not break out figures for children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated.)

In Cambridge, nine people under 20 tested positive during the two weeks ending June 7 versus five residents in their 20s, according to the city’s trend data. The city does not report smaller age groups within the under-20 category.

On the vaccination front, city health workers have noticed that teens 16 to 19 years old are lagging behind other age groups, including younger adolescents 12 to 15 years old, in getting vaccinated. “Among those eligible for the vaccine, the least vaccinated age group in Cambridge are older teens age 16-19. [The city’s health department] is planning to do some additional outreach to older teens around vaccination,” Feinberg said.

Case numbers have plunged here and nationwide, but the pace of vaccinations has also slowed. Experts are worried about emerging Covid-19 variants that could be more contagious, deadly or resistant to vaccines; the more unvaccinated people, the more likely it is that changing versions of the virus will continue to pose a threat, they have said.

Counting variant cases

The variant first identified in Britain is much more transmissible than the original coronavirus and now causes most new infections in Massachusetts and nationwide. But another variant discovered in India is more contagious still, may cause more severe disease, and is making up an increasing share of cases in New England, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Indian variant, known as Delta, doesn’t account for enough infections in Massachusetts to be reported separately in CDC figures for the state. The state Department of Public Health said Wednesday that it knows of 150 cases in Massachusetts. The actual number is probably higher, since laboratories analyze only a small number of samples from positive Covid-19 cases for variants, though that number is growing.

The state health department hasn’t told the Cambridge Public Health Department of any Delta variants here, Feinberg said. As of Tuesday, there were 57 cases of variants among Cambridge residents, she said: 41 from the British variant; seven from a variant identified in Brazil; three from one discovered in South Africa; and six from a pair of variants first found in California.

The number of variants here increased by 22 cases from the previous week, but many were cases that actually occurred weeks ago and were passed along by the state only this week. City health officials “believe the increase in variant cases is largely due to the increase in cases being [analyzed] by the state,” Feinberg said.