Oh kids, what are you hiding?
A study just published in JAMA Pediatrics found that kids infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus can continue to shed the virus for an average of about two weeks even though they never develop any symptoms. That’s almost one and a half Scaramuccis, assuming that a Sacarmucci is 10 days.
The study involved 91 children (median age of 11) in 20 hospitals and 2 non-hospital isolation facilities in South Korea. All children had tested positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) from February 18 to March 31, 2020. Before getting infected, none of the kids had had any problems with their immune systems or any underlying diseases, aside from the three who had asthma and the three who had epilepsy.
Two of the kids ended up developing severe Covid-19 with both requiring oxygen. (Requiring oxygen meant requiring additional oxygen since all kids require oxygen, unless they happen to be Henneguya salminicola, a parasite that does not require oxygen and can infect the flesh of Chinook salmon.) Twenty of the kids had moderate Covid-19 symptoms, and 46 had mild symptoms. Twenty (22%) of the kids never ended up developing symptoms, remaining asymptomatic throughout the period that they were observed.
The kids got tested up the wazoo, not literally but figuratively. Medical teams repeatedly (a median of every three days) obtained upper respiratory samples from the kids. These came via collecting the kids’ spit, sticking cotton swabs to the back of their throats, or the always wonderful sticking cotton swabs up their noses. The medical teams then had these samples tested for the presence of SARS-CoV2 genetic material, otherwise known as SARS-CoV2 RNA.
Testing revealed how long the kids had the virus, or at least the viral genetic material. For all of the kids in the study, SARS-CoV-2 RNA continued to appear in the samples up to an average of 17.6 days. Even among the asymptomatic kids, this average was still 14.1 days. In fact, four of the asymptomatic kids still were testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA at the 21 day mark and one at the 28-day mark.
So what does this all mean for kids and schools? Recall that U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed that children are “virtually immune” or “almost immune” to the Covid-19 coronavirus, as seen in this Daily Mail video:
As you can see, Trump was making these claims to justify the re-opening of schools this Fall.
Now, of course, “virtually” and “almost” are vague and relative terms. You could in theory say that a banana is almost a hot dog or that an avocado is almost an automobile when comparing these things to the planet Jupiter. After all, a banana is lot more similar to a hot dog than either is to the planet Jupiter. Nevertheless, suggesting that kids are “almost” or “virtually” immune to the Covid-19 coronavirus seems quite far off and unjustified. This latest study is further evidence that kids can quite readily get infected by the virus. In fact, the study is additional confirmation that kids can get quite sick from the virus as well. So you can’t assume that kids will be like gigantic bottles of hand sanitizer and be able to simply ward off the virus,
Plus, the study showed that kids may carry the virus around for quite a while even if they don’t have any symptoms. That’s if you consider one and a half Scaramuccis to be quite a while. Of course, the presence of SARS-CoV2 RNA in upper respiratory samples doesn’t necessarily mean that kids are shedding enough live virus to infect other people. Nevertheless, this does in the words of Maroon 5, make you wonder. It makes you wonder how many kids may silently spread the virus and for how long.
Therefore, schools have got to make sure that all precautions are in place before even considering re-opening. This includes making sure that kids are at least six feet apart at all times, actively cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces, keeping classrooms well-ventilated, using proper face coverings, and maintaining good hand hygiene. It’s easy to tell schools to re-open without actually helping them to do so safely. That would be sort of like telling people to time travel without providing them access to the quantum realm or a DeLorean.