BURLINGTON, VT – Health experts are seeking to reassure parents nationwide who are nervous about sending their children going back to in-person classes in public schools in August during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
“The data are striking,” said Dr. William V. Raszka Jr., an infectious disease specialist at the Larner School of Medicine at the University of Vermont, referring to international studies of COVID-19 transmission among school-age children. “The key takeaway is that children are not driving the pandemic. After six months, we have a wealth of accumulating data showing that children are less likely to become infected and seem less infectious.”
That opinion jibes with data previously provided by local health officials here in Cache Valley. In an address to members of the Cache County Council in late June, Dr. Ed Redd of the Bear River Health Department emphasized that children under 14 years of age represented only 6 percent of the diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Utah at that time. Of those, slightly more than 1,100 cases in school-age children, less than 1 percent required hospitalization and all of those children recovered.
Along with university colleague Dr. Benjamin Lee, Raszka co-authored a study recently published in “Pediatrics,” a leading peer-reviewed medical journal. That article emphasized that children don’t transmit COVID-19 to others as frequently as adults do.
That conclusion, according to Raszka and Lee, is based on four recent studies examining COVID-19 transmission among children in Switzerland, China, France and Australia.
The infectious disease specialists agree that those study models indicated that community-wide social distancing and the widespread use of face coverings are better options to curtail the spread of the disease than closing schools.
The articles in “Pediatrics” noted that the reopening of many schools in western Europe and Japan without a rise in COVID-19 infection rates via community transmission supports the conclusions reached by Raszka and Lee.
On July 21, the Logan City School District adopted a return-to-school plan that will have students attending classes every weekday either in the morning or afternoon. Details of reopening plans for Cache County schools are still pending.
State guidelines mandate that both teachers and students will wear masks or face coverings when those classes resume.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, children under 17 represented only 6.7 percent of the 4.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of July 26. To date, the CDC reports that only 36 American children under 15 have succumbed to COVID-19.
By comparison, CDC analysts said, the flu killed an estimated 477 people under 17 years of age in the 2018–2019 season.
From 2010 to the end of the 2019 flu season, the CDC said that various forms of that contagious respiratory illness killed an average of 511 children each year.