Here's why teens 12-17 have the highest COVID infection rate in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- According to the latest San Francisco data, over 1,500 San Franciscans are testing positive for COVID-19 every day. The age group with the highest number of infections are 12- to 17-year-olds.

"I think a bunch of kids now are going to outdoor parties because nothing has changed in school other than the fact that omicron started," said 12-year-old Benjamin Katzman.

Benjamin is right about one of the main contributing factors to this increase.

"Probably there is a level of mixing that is happening with 12- to 17 year-olds that is not happening as much in the younger ages. Much of that mixing probably happened during the winter break," said Dr. Naomi Bardach, Professor of Pediatrics and Vice Chair of Health Research for the Department of Pediatrics.

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Dr. Bardach believes testing is also playing a role with more teenagers getting tested at higher rates.

"One testing reason which is that the older kids tend to have symptoms more and therefore they are getting tested also outside of the school context because they are more likely to have symptoms. The 5- to 11-year-olds are just a little less likely to have symptoms so we are not catching those cases as much," said Dr. Bardach.

Benjamin is vaccinated but testing and masking continue to be key in keeping him and his family safe.

"I tested today and I was negative. I try to be safe," said Benjamin Katzman.

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While 12- to 17-year-olds have the highest rate of infections in the city, 18-year-old Lyrik Powe says many around him are letting their guard down.

"I can tell from my point of view that slowly people didn't care. There are bonfires still happening at the beaches, people still going out," said Powe and added, "Nothing has changed really. We still need to be safe."

Dr. Bardach emphasized the importance to continue vaccinating.

"There are a couple things you can do. One is vaccines. If you haven't gotten your child vaccinated they are very protective against worse disease and getting it or transmitting it. So, it creates that safety layer for the individual. The other thing is creating a safety layer of vaccines in anybody else who can get the vaccines. So, adults in the house," said Dr. Bardach.

According to the latest California data 86.1% of 12- to 17-year-olds in San Francisco are vaccinated and 23.1% are boosted.

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