Can Kids Spread COVID-19? What We Know | #covid19 | #kids | #childern | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

Photo: Marko Geber/Getty Images

When the coronavirus outbreak first hit the U.S. in March, the vast majority of schools canceled in-person classes for the foreseeable future. Now, the question of how to safely reopen schools — which, in normal times, bring hundreds of students and staff together indoors every day — is among the most challenging of the pandemic.

But an increasing number of doctors and experts say that given the harm of keeping children home, the benefits of reopening schools may outweigh the risks, particularly in areas with low infection rates. On June 25, the American Academy of Physicians issued a strong recommendation that “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” In a new report this week, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, came to a similar conclusion, recommending that schools prioritize in-person learning, especially for younger children.

The AAP has acknowledged that the considerations are more complicated for adults who work in schools, who are more vulnerable to infection and transmission of the virus. In a subsequent statement in response to the Trump administration’s aggressive push to reopen schools, seemingly without regard for the safety of staff and students, the organization clarified that “schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgement of local experts,” noting that “a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for return to school decisions.”

The New York Times reported this week that of the nation’s ten largest school districts, only two — New York City and Chicago — currently have a daily infection rate below 5 percent, the standard recommended by epidemiologists to safely reopen. Yet the AAP’s guidance suggests that in areas that have successfully contained outbreaks, the risk reopening schools poses to children may be relatively low. “Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection,” they write. “In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.”

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