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As Schools Consider Reopening, How Much Can Kids Spread The Coronavirus?

Research suggests that kids tend to get infected with the coronavirus less often, and have milder symptoms than adults. There's less consensus on how much kids can spread the illness.
kids in a school playground

As scientists study the burden of COVID-19 around the globe, it's pretty clear that despite some cases of serious illness, kids tend to get infected with the coronavirus less often and have milder symptoms compared to adults.

"It seems consistently, children do have lower rates of infection than adults," says Dr. Alison Tribble, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan.

What's much less understood is the extent to which kids can spread the illness among themselves — or to the adults with whom they come in close contact.

A lack of testing early in the pandemic has been part of the problem, says Dr. Judy Guzman-Cottrill, an infectious disease pediatrician at Oregon Health and Science University. "We need more robust epidemiologic studies to evaluate how children are part of the transmission chain," she says.

Given the uncertainty, the decisions on how to safely reopen schools are tricky.

"Kids don't seem to be super spreaders," says Dr. Aaron Carroll,

But, since most schools around the country closed in March as the virus began to circulate more widely, it's really an unanswered question.


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