The wisdom concerning how susceptible children might be to the coronavirus, and how much risk they present to other family members, is constantly evolving. Emily Oster is an economics professor at Brown University, with an impressive publications record including books on pregnancy and parenting. In early May she remarked on a study of 54 families in the Netherlands, “They have so far found no cases in which the child was the first one in a family to be infected.” A month later, she observed how “it is a travesty that we are not collecting more data to understand how child care is spreading the virus.”
At the end of June, the American Academy of Pediatrics, while acknowledging that not everything about the situation was known, opined that children were “less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection.” Their report also said, “In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.”
Around the same time, the United Kingdom’s Paediatric Intensive Care Audit Network compiled a statistical report providing “the first picture of how many children were severely ill with coronavirus, their ethnic and patient characteristics, and the number who died.” They reported that in children’s intensive care units the median age was nine years, with almost two-thirds of the young patients being male. This situation, however, obtained mainly in London.
At the same time, news from Mexico reported the birth of triplets who tested positive for COVID-19 on the day they were born. A week later, an American news outlet reported on a church-sponsored sleep-away camp in Missouri, containing children from 10 states. One day there were two positive cases, 42 the next day, and a total of 82 cases on the following day. Parents had been required to sign a waiver agreeing to freely assume any risk and not sue the company that ran the camp. Reportedly, this was not the only summer camp in a similar condition.
In mid-July came this chilling news:
Florida health officials have identified a troubling trend; approximately 31 percent, or one-third, of children in Florida tested for COVID-19 yield positive results.
At the same time, Dr. Lara Shekerdemian of Texas Children’s Hospital was asked if children could transmit the virus and answered, “I think the answer is conclusively, without a doubt — yes.” This was based on surveillance screening of the testing of all children admitted to the institution for whatever reason, which revealed “a higher percentage of them carrying the virus and not showing any symptoms.” This doctor noted that asymptomatic children present a danger to the community at large, because they are “less likely to stay at home sick and more likely to go out into the world unknowingly spreading the virus.”
Dr. Megan Culler Freeman of Pittsburgh’s UPMC Children’s Hospital announced that children have “the same amount of viral load in their noses as adults.” USA Today reporter Adrianna Rodriguez told America that only about one-third of positive-testing children had elevated temperatures. In the same week, although not specifically about children, CNN’s Paula Newton reported numbers showing that virus patients were, by and large, turning out to be younger than previous experience had led the medical profession to expect:
The Public Health Agency of Canada now says more than 55% of new infections over the past week have been in younger adults under the age of 39. Earlier in the pandemic that group represented about a third of all infections.
But at the same time, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons was still saying, “COVID-19 has the unusual feature that children seldom either get sick from it or transmit it to others.” Earlier this week, it was reported that in just one county (Nueces), 85 children younger than two years have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and a six-week old baby died of it. That information comes from a Guardian article by Alexandra Villarreal, about things that could happen when schools reopen, which are predictable because they are happening now in Texas childcare facilities.
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Source: “Can Kids Transmit the Virus?, Substack.com, 05/04/20
Source: “COVID-19, Learning Loss and Inequality,” Substack.com, 06/15/20
Source: “New Advice for Getting Kids Back to School,” Medium.com, 06/29/20
Source: “‘Relatively rare’ cases — the children critically ill with COVID-19,” Leeds.ad.uk, 06/23/20
Source: “Kanakuk Kamps battle a COVID cluster,” NBCNews.com, 07/09/20
Source: “Almost one-third of Florida children tested are positive for the coronavirus,” TheHill.com, 07/15/20
Source: “Can kids spread the coronavirus? ‘Conclusively, without a doubt — yes,’ experts say,” USAToday.com, 07/17/20
Source: “Canadian officials warn young people are fueling a spike in Covid-19 cases,” CNN.com, 07/21/20
Source: “With COVID, When Can Schools Re-open?,” AAPSOnline.org, 07/21/20
Source: “Texas childcare facilities thrown into chaos amid coronavirus crisis,” TheGuardian.com, 07/24/20
Image by Dan Gaken/CC BY 2.0