“Unwelcome Wrinkle” in School Reopening Debate

Children play in front of a school in Orlando, Florida, March 20, 2020. Image: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto/Getty
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Children play in front of a school in Orlando, Florida, March 20, 2020. Image: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto/Getty

Young children infected with SARS-CoV-2 carry high amounts of the viral RNA in their nasal cavities, even if they have only mild symptoms, according to new JAMA Pediatrics research—indicating they may spread COVID-19 as easily as adults, NBC reports.

Compared to adults, children under 5 had equal or more viral RNA in their upper respiratory tract—anywhere from 10 to 100 times the amount, according to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago researchers led by Taylor Heald-Sargent.

The findings introduce an “unwelcome wrinkle” into the complex debate surrounding the reopening of schools, The New York Times notes.


“It has been a comforting refrain in the national conversation about reopening schools: Young children are mostly spared by the coronavirus and don’t seem to spread it to others, at least not very often,” writes Apoorva Mandavilli.

This study doesn’t prove that children are spreading the virus, but provides an important clue on children’s role in transmission.

It’s a small study—just 145 people—but the results are consistent with prior studies in Germany and France.
 

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