• Harlan Gallinger, MD

Don't believe the eye-catching titles!

So, there is a lot of misinformation swirling out there about young children, COVID-19, and reopening schools safely. The Seattle Times posted an article titled:

Older Children Spread the Coronavirus Just as Much as Adults, Large Study Finds

(this was actually a New York Times article that was re-published by the Seattle Times)

The article would have you believe that children age 10-19 spread COVID-19 at higher rates that any other age band. Here is the article that the New York Times links to:

Unfortunately, the article is misleading in TWO important ways. If you look at Table 2 provided, which I have shown here. You can see that it shows the % positive for household contacts and you can see that for children age 0-9 + age 10-19 the total number Household contacts traced was 288, which is much less than any other age band, so it is much harder to draw any particular conclusion about infectivity. Certainly it supports that young children what the evidence around the world continues to show, which is that young children age less than 10 do not acquire or transmit COVID-19 very frequently. With regard to school reopening, the transmission you are looking at, and should care about is the Nonhousehold contacts. In these columns you can see that children passed COVID-19 to a person outside their household VERY RARELY. For children age 0-9, it was 2 out of 180 Nonhousehold contacts (1.1%) and for children age 10-19 it was 2 out of 226 Nonhousehold contacts (0.9%). This is the most relevant data in the article: children rarely spread COVID-19 to Nonhousehold contacts, and do so at rate 1/2 adult transmission to Nonhousehold contacts.

So as this article and title get spread around social media, make sure you understand the data behind it which directly counters the headline because in fact the data shows that children actually spread COVID-19 to Nonhousehold contacts at rates 50% less than adults on average.

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