Studies yield mixed findings on children’s role in coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Findings complicate debate over sending children back to school this fall

Studies yield mixed findings on children’s role in coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Studies yield mixed findings on children’s role in coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

DETROIT – Government and school officials in Michigan have said they want to follow the science when it comes to reopening schools this fall, but studies continue to yield mixed findings in terms of the connection between children and the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

There are objective numbers in these studies, but everyone has their own take on what the numbers mean, especially in terms of reopening schools.

A new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that between January and May of this year, children under 16 years old represented only 1.1% of SARS-CoV-2 cases in Great Britian.

In the same timeframe, there were eight pediatric deaths, representing a case fatality rate of 0.3%.

Using historic mortality data, the authors were able to show that there were no additional deaths that might represent undetected cases of COVID-19.

In the end, the authors concluded that their findings “provide further evidence against the role of children in infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”

That data contrasted with the findings of a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association.

Using data within the United States, researchers found that as of Aug. 6, pediatric cases represented 9.1% of all SARS-CoV-2 cases in the U.S.

Back in May, when the United Kingdom study ended, it was only about 3%.

The reason behind the rise in U.S. cases isn’t proven, but experts noted two factors:

  1. Increased testing in children, even if they are minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic.
  2. Generally increased spread in the community, both in adults and children, in recent months.

Even with increased pediatric cases, according to the data, children represented between 0%-0.4% of all COVID-19 deaths in individual states, with 19 states reporting zero child deaths.

That’s compatible with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention data showing that compared to people ages 18-29, children under 18 have a 9-16 times lower risk of death.

It’s likely more will be learned about the topic to refine expert opinion over time, especially as schools reopen. The bottom line is that children get infected, but not nearly as often as people over 18 and not with as severe consequences, generally.

The question remains how much risk is reasonable.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.