Nearly 17 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan have been among kids aged 11 and under since the province began reporting infections in March 2020.
That figure, released last week, represents the provincial government's most specific breakdown yet of infections by age group.
The Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard was updated to include a new 11-and-under age category in the case summary table featured on the dashboard's "Total cases" page, which is being updated daily. Before the addition of that age category, only the case total for children aged 0 to 19 was provided.
Out of a cumulative total of 80,841 cases recorded as of Tuesday, 13,549 were among children aged 11 or younger.
Here's the full breakdown:
11 and under: 13,549.
80 and over: 2,481.
Age classifications were still pending for 563 cases.
2 children currently under acute care
On Tuesday, as thousands of Saskatchewan parents booked appointments to have their children aged 5 to 11 immunized later in the week, the health ministry and the Saskatchewan Health Authority were asked about the extent of serious cases in kids so far during the pandemic.
Derek Miller, the SHA's head of emergency operations, said two children with COVID-19 were under acute care at the children's hospital in Saskatoon as of Tuesday, though he was unsure how old they were.
"It certainly just indicates that this is an ongoing risk," Miller said.
Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said that while anywhere from a quarter to a third of current cases have been in school-aged children and perhaps even younger kids, "right from the beginning" hospitalization has thankfully been less common among young children infected with COVID-19 — even with the more transmissible delta variant circulating.
"There have been a few hospitalizations" in the recent past, Shahab said, adding that some lingering symptoms can be significant.
"Plus, of course, we've seen how, if a child tests positive or is a contact in a household, the child misses school, misses other important sporting or other events that are important for normal development."
Shahab said children and young adults have been very concerned about potentially exposing their parents or grandparents to COVID-19.
"I've heard so many stories of 12 and older who love their grandparent saying, 'I'm so glad I'm fully vaccinated now. I can hug my grandparents.'"
Shahab encouraged people to continue wearing a mask indoors.
"If we're getting ready for our Christmas gathering, maybe get ourselves tested as well, just to make doubly sure that we protect our grandparents. Grandparents should be getting their boosters as well before the holidays."
Shahab said he's hopeful vaccinating kids five to 11 will help bring Saskatchewan's COVID-19 case numbers down and reduce transmission inside families' homes.
"Especially also protecting the under-five children who still can't get vaccinated," he added. "That younger demographic is at slightly higher risk than the five to 11."