Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The more we learn about kids and the coronavirus, the riskier reopening schools for in-person learning appears to be, at least in areas with high caseloads.

Why it matters: There have already been many reports about the virus spreading through schools and summer camps, and evidence has begun to support the notion that children can play a key role in community transmission.

The big picture: Children, thankfully, still aren’t getting severe coronavirus infections as often as adults do. The bigger question around reopening schools has been whether they become conduits for the virus’ spread among adults.

  • If children can spread the virus to more vulnerable family members and school staff, that quickly becomes a huge problem.

Driving the news: Based on a growing body of anecdotal evidence, children don’t seem to have any problem spreading the virus to one another.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week reported a large outbreak at a sleepaway camp in Georgia. Within a week of the camp’s orientation, one counselor went home, and the camp shut down a few days later. But by then, nearly half of the roughly 600 campers and counselors had already been infected.
  • Staff were required to wear cloth masks, but campers weren’t.
  • “The study affirms that group settings can lead to large outbreaks, even when they are primarily attended by children,” Johns Hopkins’ Caitlin Rivers told the NYT.

Piling on to the bad news, a recent study found that infected children carry at least as much — if not more — of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as adults.

  • The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that children under 5 may host as much as 100 times the amount of the virus that adults do.
  • “Young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population,” the authors write.
  • Yes, but: Although viral load is generally an indicator of infectiousness, the study didn’t establish that.

Between the lines: We’re also slowly learning more about the biggest outstanding question: how likely children are to transmit the virus to adults.

  • A recent study from South Korea found that, within their households, children between 10 and 19 transmitted the virus at least as well as adults, while those younger than 10 were significantly less likely than adults to spread the disease.
  • Given how many schools are attempting to open for in-person learning in areas experiencing significant community spread, we’re probably not going to have to wait long for more evidence.

The bottom line: “We’ve seen that kids can transmit it to adults. Whether they transmit it as efficiently as adults transmit, we still need to learn more,” said Johns Hopkins’ Anita Cicero.

  • “But I think we’re now beginning to scratch the surface and seeing that we can no longer presume that kids are not going to be a significant factor in transmission once schools open.”

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Sep 28, 2020 - Health

Why kids get less severe coronavirus infections

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A new study suggests that the reason why children get less severe coronavirus infections than adults is because they have a different immune response, NYT reports.

What they're saying: "The bottom line is, yes, children do respond differently immunologically to this virus, and it seems to be protecting the kids," Betsy Herold, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Albert Einstein College of Medicine who led the study, told the Times.

Updated Sep 28, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

India became on Monday the second country after the U.S. to surpass 6 million cases.

By the numbers: Globally, nearly 997,800 people have died from COVID-19 and over 33 million have tested positive, Johns Hopkins data shows.

Sep 28, 2020 - World

India's coronavirus cases top 6 million

A health worker checks vitals of a coronavirus patient inside the Commonwealth Games Village Covid Care Centre, in New Delhi, India, on Sunday. Photo: Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India's Ministry of Health confirmed the country's coronavirus case numbers surpassed 6 million on Monday after reporting 82,170 new infections in 24 hours.

Why it matters: India is the second country after the U.S. to hit 6 million cases. The South Asian country's COVID-19 tally hit 5 million on Sept. 16 and 4 million on Sept. 4. The ministry said that over 5 million Indian residents have recovered from the virus. But, AP notes, "New infections in India are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.