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What doctors know about the risk of COVID-19 for kids: “The science is constantly evolving”


President Donald Trump is facing criticism after falsely claiming that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus, as schools nationwide continue to grapple with when and how to reopen. While experts generally believe that children under 10 years old are less susceptible to the coronavirus than teens or adults, there’s evidence that they can still catch it.

Doctors also are still learning about the ability of people under 18 to spread the virus to others who may be more vulnerable, Dr. Ron Elfenbein, an emergency care physician in Maryland, said on CBSN Thursday.

“The science is constantly evolving,” he said. “More data is coming out on a daily basis, so it’s very confusing.”

About 339,000 children in the United States were reported to have the coronavirus through July 30, making up 8.8% of all cases, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Elfenbein said children under 10 years old seem less likely to get sick.

“Science sort of has shown us that kids under 10 really don’t get it very often, in fact, very rarely get it at all, and if they do get it, they’re asymptomatic,” he said.

But there are a growing number of examples of young children who did catch the virus. A study published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented the case of a summer camp in Georgia where more than 200 kids tested positive for the coronavirus after a teenage staff member was diagnosed in June. Out of 100 kids between the ages of 6 and 10 who were tested, 51 were positive, the study found. 

In the next-oldest age group, 11 to 17 years old, 180 out of the 409 kids tested had positive results. Overall, 260 out of the 344 campers and staff who were tested had the virus. There were more than 600 people at the camp.

The camp required all trainees, staff members and campers to provide documentation of a negative coronavirus test within 12 days before starting camp. It also required staff to wear masks, but did not require campers to do so, the CDC said.

The researchers said they planned to follow up and see if the children ended up spreading the virus to other members of their households.

In several communities around the country, cases of children testing positive for COVID-19 have already disrupted the beginning of the school year, forcing classmates and teachers into quarantine.

Though the kids overall have a lower risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus, some have ended up hospitalized with severe complications. The CDC reports at least 45 children age 14 and under have died from COVID-related causes since the pandemic began.

Mr. Trump made the claim about children and immunity in an interview with Fox News Wednesday, and it was shared on his Facebook page and his campaign’s Twitter account. The social media companies said the video violated their policies on COVID-19 misinformation, and the posts were removed.



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