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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

Nov 12, 2020 - Health

Chicago issues stay-at-home advisory as COVID-19 cases spike

Photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced a stay-at-home advisory and a 10-person cap on social gatherings to combat a surge in new COVID-19 infections.

Why it matters: Lightfoot warned that Chicago could see 1,000 or more additional coronavirus-related deaths this year if steps are not taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Chicago has recorded an average of 1,920 cases a day over the last seven days, up from an average of 1,410 daily cases the week prior, per data from the city's Department of Public Health.

Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski tests positive for coronavirus

Corey Lewandowski. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Corey Lewandowski, a senior adviser for President Trump's re-election campaign, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the New York Times reported. Lewandowski confirmed to CNN that he tested positive.

Why it matters: Lewandowski is the latest person to test positive after he attended last week's White House election night party. His diagnosis comes after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson tested positive for the virus.

Nov 12, 2020 - Health

87-year-old Rep. Don Young tests positive for COVID

Young arrives for a news conference outside of the Capitol in March 2019. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the oldest member of Congress, tweeted Thursday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Why it matters: At 87 years old, Young is part of the age group at "greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19," according to the CDC.