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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- People between ages 5 and 17 rarely are hospitalized from COVID-19, but a U of L researcher said even for young people contracting the disease still can pose some dangers.

Out of every 100,000 people, four children between ages 5 and 17 are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For people over 65, the rate is 77 times higher: 307 per 100,000 population.

Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at the University of Louisville, said the much lower hospitalization rate in children is a key stat as schools look to reopen in the fall.

"Kids are not affected in the disease process the same way," Smith said. "There's a theory that one reason that kids aren't affected as much as adults is something in the vaccine process that they've gotten previously is acting as a secondary immune booster."

But Smith said there's still a risk to consider if the coronavirus runs through the young population.

"While they may be fine, any time they have that case, it is who is going to get it?" Smith said. "Is it going to be a teacher? Janitor? Is it going to be a bus driver?"

Dr. Jason Smith

Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at the University of Louisville

The death rate, too, is drastically different when you look at age. In Kentucky, of nearly 600 COVID-19 deaths, there's just one under age 30. And just 1.1% of Indiana's deaths are under age 40.

But Smith said the most shocking thing about the coronavirus so far is how random it's impact can be. He's seen younger healthy people suffer greatly, and he said one patient who had no symptoms tested so high for the virus he broke the machine at U of L.

As cases of the coronavirus continue to go up in many states, the main concern — the number of used hospital rooms — stays the same. Indiana peaked in mid-April with nearly 1,800 hospitalized. It's now down to around 600. Smith said University Hospital has about half the COVID-19 patients it had at its peak, but he expects the masks, distancing and hand-washing to be around for quite some time.

"I will tell you that the fastest that an effective vaccine has ever been created in modern times is the mumps, and it took eight years," Smith said.

He remains hopeful that with the world focused on finding a vaccine or more treatments, success will come much sooner than that.

"No one has that crystal ball right now," he said.

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