JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — COVID-19 cases are increasing among kids and teens in the St. Louis area, prompting health departments in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jefferson County to issue public health advisories Thursday.
St. Louis and St. Louis County also revised their masking recommendations, saying people should wear their masks indoors with people whose vaccination status is unknown.
The highly contagious delta variant could be contributing to "significant" community transmission among those who are not vaccinated in Jefferson County, health officials said.
Cases there have gone up from 59 to 84 over the last two weeks — an increase of 42%. Kids and teens ages 10-19 accounted for the highest number of cases.
"This is concerning since most of that age group is eligible for the vaccine, but only 10.82% have completed the full series of vaccination," the Jefferson County Health Department said in a news release.
St. Louis and St. Louis County health departments issued a joint health advisory, also noting the increase of cases among young, unvaccinated people.
In its advisory it says, assume 1 in 3 people in any crowd or gathering may be unvaccinated.
“As we monitor the delta variant, we are seeing that it’s spreading fast, and data shows it is more infectious and impacting younger segments of the population,” said Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of the City of St. Louis Department of Health.
Vaccines have shown to be effective against the delta variant, but it is still possible for vaccinated people to spread the virus to those who are not vaccinated, health officials said.
They urged those who are 12 years and older to get vaccinated, and reiterated that younger people should continue to wear masks when around others.
The City of St. Louis and St. Louis County further updated their mask guidance to say:
"Wear a face covering in indoor public places when other people are present, even if you are vaccinated. We only recommend removing masks when eating and drinking and when you know that others around you are fully vaccinated."
Dr. Faisal Khan, Director of St. Louis County Department of Health adds, "If you're outdoors, the only risk to you is if you're in close proximity with others. If you're in a crowded place outdoors, you need to be masked, if you're not at least 6 feet away from them because you're not sure you can't be sure about their vaccination status."
This guidance comes as Missouri ranks No. 2 in the nation in number of new cases of the delta variant.
St. Louis County announced Wednesday that it will soon launch a back-to-school vaccination initiative, aimed at increasing vaccination rates among school-age children.