A new study out of a pediatric medical center in Chicago suggests that young children do not only spread COVID-19 more efficiently than adults, but they could be major drivers in the pandemic as schools start to reopen.
The report was published at the end of July and examined concentrations of COVID-19 in the nasopharynx, or the upper region of the throat that connects nasal passages. According to the results, children ages 5 and younger who develop mild to moderate symptoms have 10 to 100 times as much COVID-19 in their nasopharynx as adults.
“This is a very complex issue involving not just the virus, but everything else,” said Dr. Kwang Sik Kim, director of pediatric infectious disease at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. "We don’t have any real data to indicate to schools what they should do, what is the best recipe they need to follow.”
The study raised concerns about the erratic behavior of children and how it could play a factor in the virus’ spread, reading, "Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and daycare settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased. In addition to public health implications, this population will be important for targeting immunization efforts as SARS-CoV-2 vaccines become available.”
“Don’t, under any circumstance, even think about opening that school for in-class instruction until you’ve got the virus under control,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association.
Eskelsen Garcia teaches 39 6th-graders in Salt Lake City and says unless the infection rate of a community is below 5 percent, as outlined by the CDC and WHO, school districts should not even consider opening for in-person instruction.
Currently, the infection rate in the United States is 7.8 percent.
"If you open a school before you get the infection rate under control, you will turn that school into the community’s super-spreader,” said Eskelsen Garcia.
“Make a decision for today based on the information available today, and then act differently when you have data tomorrow. I think that’s the right approach,” said Dr. Kim.