Are Kids Spreading SARS-CoV-2 in School and Daycare Centers

If kids aren’t spreading SARS-CoV-2, then why are three percent of the students at a high school in Texas sick with COVID-19?

Why are people starting to think that kids are spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causing COVID-19, in school and daycare centers?

There have been over 500,000 cases of COVID-19 in children in the United States.
There have been over 500,000 cases of COVID-19 in children in the United States.

Probably because we are seeing more and more cases in kids, especially kids in daycare centers and schools in states with spiking cases.

SARS-CoV-2 in School and Daycare Centers

For example, let’s take a look at what’s going on in Texas…

“As of Friday, 410 total cases of coronavirus — 267 staff members and 143 children — had been reported at 318 licensed child care operations across the state, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.”

Texas child care centers see sharp increase in coronavirus cases after months of relative calm

So far in Texas, 83% of child care centers (12,196 facilities are open) haven’t reported a COVID-19 case.

But 17% have…

Either in a child or adult.

Altogether, since March, there have been 1,271 cases in children and 2,416 cases in adults in 2,034 different daycare centers in Texas.

So far the largest cluster was in a Houston daycare, in which 17 adult staff members and 6 kids tested positive.

In another large cluster, in Pleasanton, 11 kids, but only 2 adult staff members tested positive.

COVID-19 has also already led to several school closures in Texas, just weeks after the start of the fall semester.

In one high school in East Texas, the number of active COVID-19 cases has already reached 3%. The school was only open for about three and a half weeks before having to move to online only education.

Are Kids Spreading SARS-CoV-2 in School and Daycare Centers?

A rise in cases in daycare centers doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the kids that are doing the spreading though.

Are staff members getting exposed and bringing SARS-CoV-2 to work with them, exposing the children? Or are the children acting as the spreaders?

A new study, Transmission Dynamics of COVID-19 Outbreaks Associated with Child Care Facilities — Salt Lake City, Utah, April–July 2020, provides some answers.

Children who likely got COVID-19 at two Utah daycare centers spread it to other family members at home.

These outbreaks all started with an infected staff member, but quickly spread to other staff members and children.

“Analysis of contact tracing data in Salt Lake County, Utah, identified outbreaks of COVID-19 in three small to large child care facilities linked to index cases in adults and associated with transmission from children to household and nonhousehold contacts. In these three outbreaks, 54% of the cases linked to the facilities occurred in children. Transmission likely occurred from children with confirmed COVID-19 in a child care facility to 25% of their nonfacility contacts.”

Transmission Dynamics of COVID-19 Outbreaks Associated with Child Care Facilities — Salt Lake City, Utah, April–July 2020

Not surprisingly, cases then spread outside the daycare centers, to some of the parents of these children and other family members at home.

Of course, that this study found evidence that children can spread SARS-CoV-2 isn’t surprising because it isn’t the first to make this claim.

“These findings demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among persons in all age groups, despite efforts by camp officials to implement most recommended strategies to prevent transmission. Asymptomatic infection was common and potentially contributed to undetected transmission, as has been previously reported.”

SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Infection Among Attendees of an Overnight Camp — Georgia, June 2020.

There is also the report about children at the overnight camp in Georgia in June, which found an overall attack rate of 44% among the campers.

And the report about the Rhode Island COVID-19 daycare outbreaks.

“A total of 101 possible child care–associated COVID-19 cases were reported during June 1–July 31. Among them, 49 (49%) symptomatic persons were excluded after receiving negative laboratory test results, 33 persons (33%) had confirmed cases, and 19 (19%) were classified as having probable cases.”

Limited Secondary Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Child Care Programs — Rhode Island, June 1–July 31, 2020

Fortunately, community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was lower in Rhode Island than many other states at the time, which is likely why “possible secondary transmission was identified in four of the 666 programs that had been allowed to reopen,” and not more.

Of course, these results stand in contrast to early reports in other countries which found that children didn’t seem to be spreading SARS-CoV-2.

“These data all suggest that children are not significant drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear why documented SARS-CoV-2 transmission from children to other children or adults is so infrequent.”

COVID-19 Transmission and Children: The Child Is Not to Blame

Early reports that were maybe flawed because children simply weren’t being exposed to SARS-CoV-2 at the time because of school closures and other factors.

“Here, we report that replication of SARS-CoV-2 in older children leads to similar levels of viral nucleic acid as adults, but significantly greater amounts of viral nucleic acid are detected in children younger than 5 years.”

Age-Related Differences in Nasopharyngeal Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Levels in Patients With Mild to Moderate Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

So with conflicting reports, what are we to believe?

What to Know About Kids Spreading SARS-CoV-2

We will have to see more research, but with cases continuing to increase in daycare centers, schools, and colleges, it is very hard to believe that kids aren’t spreaders of SARS-CoV-2.

Not that they have to be…

There is an easy way to keep kids from spreading SARS-CoV-2 at daycare, school, and college.

Even easier than making them wear masks.

A recent study in Germany found that child-to-child transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools/childcare facilities appeared very uncommon, but this was at a time of very low rates of community transmission.
A recent study in Germany found that child-to-child transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools/childcare facilities appeared very uncommon, but this was at a time of very low rates of community transmission.

Yes, that’s keeping the COVID-19 case count down in your community!

More on Kids Spreading COVID-19

What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Folks need to understand that they should begin self-quarantine as soon as they learn that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Do you know what to do if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

Because they could have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, anyone who attended the party should self-isolate.
Because they could have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, anyone who attended the party should self-isolate.

Hopefully you already know that you shouldn’t go to a party and expose lots of other folks…

What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Unfortunately, lots of mistakes are being made that are causing COVID-19 cases to again rise.

“For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick until the time the patient was isolated.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

One of them is that many people simply don’t understand the importance of self-quarantining themselves after they have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

In addition to watching for symptoms, it is important to self-quarantine for 14 days after a COVID-19 exposure, the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2, something the Florida Department of Health forgets to mention...
In addition to watching for symptoms, it is important to self-quarantine for 14 days after a COVID-19 exposure, the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2, something the Florida Department of Health forgets to mention…

What happens if you don’t self-quarantine?

You may expose others in the days before you start to show symptoms (presymptomatic transmission).

But can’t you just get tested after your exposure to see if you have it?

Sure, you can get tested, but if it is negative and you are early in your incubation period, it doesn’t mean that you still won’t become sick later on. For example, you could have a negative COVID-19 test four days after being exposed to the virus, but then develop symptoms of COVID-19 two days later.

“Yes, you are still considered a close contact even if you were wearing a cloth face covering while you were around someone with COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are meant to prevent someone from transmitting the disease to others, and not to protect someone from becoming infected.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

What if you’re not sure if you have COVID-19 and you are waiting on your test results?

That should be a no-brainer.

Self-isolate yourself why you are waiting for your COVID-19 test results!

Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.
Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.

And if you think you have COVID-19, be sure to tell all of your close contacts, which includes everyone who was within 6 feet of you for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before you began feeling sick.

Of course, social distancing and wearing a mask are important too.

But folks need to understand that they should begin self-quarantine as soon as they learn that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. That’s the easiest way to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the size of outbreaks.

More on COVID-19

What to Do if You Have Been Diagnosed with COVID-19

Do you know what to do if you get diagnosed with COVID-19?

Do you know what to do if you think you might be sick or have already been diagnosed with COVID-19?

What's worse than having a party when you have symptoms of COVID-19? How about refusing to cooperate with contact tracers who are trying to control an outbreak?
What’s worse than having a party when you have symptoms of COVID-19? How about refusing to cooperate with contact tracers who are trying to control an outbreak?

Hopefully you know that you shouldn’t host a party and expose lots of other folks…

What to Do if You Have Been Diagnosed with COVID-19

Unfortunately, lots of mistakes are being made that are causing COVID-19 cases to again rise.

“For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick until the time the patient was isolated.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

One of them is that many people simply don’t understand the importance of staying away from others if they have been diagnosed (isolation) or exposed (self-quarantine) to SARS-CoV-2.

“If possible, have the person who is sick use a separate bedroom and bathroom. If possible, have the person who is sick stay in their own ‘sick room’ or area and away from others. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from the sick person.”

Caring for Someone Sick at Home

What happens if you don’t stay away from other people?

You may expose others, beginning in the days before you start to show symptoms (presymptomatic transmission).

Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.
Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.

Once you are diagnosed with COVID-19, be sure to tell all of your close contacts that they have been exposed, which includes everyone who was within 6 feet of you for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before you began feeling sick. That way, they can begin to self-quarantine and avoid exposing others if they get sick too.

How Long Will Your Quarantine Last?

How long will you have to stay home, away from other people?

It depends…

The CDC provides a variety of scenarios to help explain how long folks should stay in quarantine.
The CDC provides a variety of scenarios to help explain how long folks should stay in quarantine.

If you are in self-quarantine because you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, then you should stay home for 14 days after your last contact with that person. That’s the incubation period for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Keep in mind that your quarantine restarts every time you have a new exposure.

On the other hand, if you are in isolation because you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, then you should stay home until:

  • at least 10 days have passed since your positive test (if you have been asymptomatic)
  • you are fever free for at least three days, have improving respiratory symptoms, and it has been at least 10 days since your symptoms began

You might also be able to end your quarantine early if you have two negative tests in a row at least 24 hours apart, of course, while fever free and with improving respiratory symptoms.

If You Have COVID-19

What if you need to go to the doctor or ER after you have been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Call ahead so that they can be prepared and don’t end up exposing any staff or patients.

Hopefully you will have mild symptoms that will go away as you rest and stay hydrated, but if you develop emergency warning signs or symptoms (trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, and trouble staying awake, etc.), then seek emergency care, being sure to mention that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

What if you need to go somewhere else?

You shouldn’t go anywhere or be around other people if you are in isolation after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

“People who are in isolation should stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others. In the home, anyone sick or infected should separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom (if available).”

Isolate If You Are Sick

When in isolation, you should stay home except to get medical care.

What if you need food, medicine, or something else that you don’t have in your home? Ideally, you would order it and have it delivered, being sure to not expose the delivery person. If that isn’t an option, call your local support services for help.

More on COVID-19