Should schools reopen? Kids’ role in pandemic still a mystery (Science)

For families eager for schools to throw open their doors, the tale of a 9-year-old British boy who caught COVID-19 in the French Alps in January offers a glimmer of hope. The youngster, infected by a family friend, suffered only mild symptoms; he enjoyed ski lessons and attended school before he was diagnosed. Astonishingly, he did not transmit the virus to any of 72 contacts who were tested. His two siblings didn’t become infected, even though other germs spread readily among them: in the weeks that followed, all three had influenza and a common cold virus.

The story could be a bizarre outlier — or a tantalizing clue. Several studies of COVID-19 hint that children are less likely to catch the novel coronavirus, and don’t often transmit it to others. A recent survey of the literature couldn’t find a single example of a child under 10 passing the virus on to someone else, for example.

Relying on those encouraging if scant data — and the reassuring knowledge that very few children get severely ill from COVID-19 — some governments are beginning to reopen schools. Denmark sent children up to age 11 back on 15 April, and Germany welcomed back mostly older children on 29 April. Some Israeli schools reopened on 3 May; the Netherlands and the Canadian province of Quebec plan to reopen many primary schools on 11 May. The steps are tentative; most schools are resuming with reduced class sizes, shortened school days, and extra handwashing.

Ending school closures has clear benefits for children’s education and mental health — not to mention their parents’ well-being — but scientists disagree about the risks. Some worry that even if children transmit less efficiently than adults, they may make up for it by their far more expansive web of contacts, especially at school. “From the data we have so far, it is very dangerous to open schools and day cares at the moment,” says Marco Ajelli, an epidemiologist at the Bruno Kessler Foundation in Trento, Italy…

To read the entire article from Science Magazine, click


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here