RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- COVID-19 infections continue to spread across the state, affecting more young North Carolinians.
Children younger than 17 years old accounted for nearly a third of all cases reported the last week of August, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).
This is the largest share of cases the age group has accounted for since the pandemic began. During the summer, one out of every five COVID-19 cases was in a child.
During the past month, all other age groups have reported a decline in their share of weekly cases. Children are accounting for 12% more weekly cases than they did at the beginning of August.
Despite the increase in infection among children, individuals 25-49 years old still account for the largest share of cases. Last week 34% of cases were linked to people between 25-49 years old.
The increase among the state's youngest age group comes as schools resume in-person learning across the state.
Four times more children are infected with COVID-19 weekly than this time last year. At the end of August 2020, children accounted for one out of every 10 cases.
In the Triangle, the percent of cases linked with children is slightly lower.
Wake (29%) and Durham County (25%) each report a lower percentage of cases linked with this age group than the state average. At 31%, Cumberland County is mirroring the state average.
Tori Zillmann, the studio director at the Dance Collective in Wake Forest, said the increase in infections has been noticeable with a few more dancers choosing to miss classes than previously.
"The summer I would say, when people were sick, they stayed away, but especially this fall," Zillmann said. "If they had any signs or symptoms, even if they know it's not COVID, they've been good to keep their distance and just take the night off dance; my whole thing ever since this started is one night of dance is not worth the health risks associated with COVID-19."
The Dance Collective opened last fall and has been "rolling with the punches" to offer classes to children 7 and older.
"We're being extra careful with our kids who are under 12 years old, just because we know that they aren't eligible to be vaccinated yet and we are aware that they're going back to school now, which has been a big adjustment to they're exposed to more kids in the given day," Zillmann said.
So far, she said the studio hasn't had to shut down because of outbreaks and she is hoping to further expand during an open house event next Saturday.
"We're very much actively listening to the news and the numbers," Zillmann said. "We're just trying to stay updated and informed and make the best decisions."
Seven counties reported more than 40% of their cases last week involved individuals from 0-17 years old. Only 12 counties reported that fewer than 25% of their cases last week involved children; Orange and Granville County were two of them.
The increase in COVID-19 cases comes as many children are not eligible to be vaccinated. More than 4,600 children between 10-14 years old tested positive for COVID-19 last week; the highest of the 0-17-year-old group.
Health officials continue to urge vaccination for children 12 and older. NCDHHS announced a large spike in cases among middle and high school sports teams. School sports teams accounted for 45% of all clusters in North Carolina middle and high schools.
NC children make up a third of latest COVID-19 cases; the age group's largest share in the pandemic
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