The CDC Now Says This Might Play an "Important Role" in COVID Transmission

Early reports said kids were largely safe from the virus. This study turns that notion upside down.

Just as the national debate about reopening schools in the fall heats up, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an important piece of information about how coronavirus is likely transmitted—and it could give many parents and educators pause. The health authority announced this week that "contrary to early reports" suggesting that children were largely unaffected by the virus, kids getting coronavirus may in fact "play an important role in transmission."

The CDC's study centered on a superspreader event that took place among attendees of a sleep away camp in Georgia this July. Despite the camp utilizing several strategies for limiting COVID transmission (including social distancing, a mask policy for staff, and small-group cohorting) it took just one week for the virus to spread throughout the camp population, and for the camp itself to shut down.

Out of the 597 campers (who had a median age of 12), test results were available for 344 individuals or 58 percent of the camp population. Of those tested, 260 were found to have coronavirus—a positive test rate of 76 percent. As the study concluded, "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."

While a sleep away camp poses particular challenges that schools and other social settings may not face, the outbreak has certainly raised alarm bells for medical professionals, parents, and educators alike. Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Irvine, recently told The Washington Post, "This is a significant weight added to the side of the scale that says close the schools. It's solid evidence to suggest we should be extremely cautious about opening schools."

Beyond its potential impact on the school reopening debate, the study serves as an important reminder that parents should keep their guard up any time children are in social settings. Mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand washing are all key tools for fighting the virus—regardless of a person's age. And for more on how COVID is affecting the reopening of schools, find out why These Are the Only 2 Ways Schools Can Open Safely, Harvard Doctor Says.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more