A not-yet-finalized study of COVID-19 contact tracing in South Korea indicates that children under the age of 9 have the lowest virus transmissibility rate among all age groups. While that’s good news in considering the risk to the youngest children and their close contacts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, points out that the converse conclusion—that children 10 and up are fully capable of transmitting the disease—could spell disaster as municipalities across the country unveil plans to reopen schools soon. “It’s been shown that children from 10 to 19 can transmit the virus to adults as well as adults can,” Fauci said in an interview on MSNBC, adding that these data should be considered in decisions on how to proceed with the next school year. Fauci also acknowledged there are consequences of restricting children to distance learning, such as food insecurity for kids whose most nutritious meal of the day might be provided at school, however. In Fauci’s view, these opposing risks should be weighed with consideration to local conditions; areas in which the virus is surging might be better served by keeping children home, while those in which there’s been relatively little virus activity should probably send their children back to an on-site classroom. Regardless of how those issues are resolved, urgent care clinicians should be aware of how transmissibility breaks down by age, and alert families with elderly or high-risk members that older children should be especially adherent to risk-reducing practices like wearing a face covering and social distancing.
A Wrinkle in Schools Reopening: Kids Over 9-Years-Old Can Spread COVID-19 as Much as Adults