Children may play bigger role in community spread of coronavirus: Harvard study says


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Damaris Allen has two sons enrolled at Plant High School who will spend the fall semester learning from home amid coronavirus concerns.

“They believe that staying home is the safest option and they are the ones that advocated to e-learn even though they miss their friends,” Allen said.

She told 8 On Your Side a new COVID-19 pediatric study from Harvard Medical School that found children may play a larger role in the community spread of the virus supports her family’s decision.

The researchers from the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital included 192 children under the age of 22 in their study, 49 of which tested positive for the virus and an additional 18 had late-onset, COVID-19 related illness.

The researchers discovered children are especially contagious during the first two days of infection and they had higher levels of the virus than hospitalized adults.

“I was not expecting the viral load to be so high,” said Lael Yonker, director of the MGH Cystic Fibrosis Center and lead author of the study. “You think of a hospital, and of all of the precautions taken to treat severely ill adults, but the viral loads of these hospitalized patients are significantly lower than a ‘healthy child’ who is walking around with a high SARS-CoV-2 viral load,”

Allen said if students start spreading to adults in schools, “we have a serious community health problem on our hands.”

While appearing Friday on CNN, Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran downplayed the possibility of students passing along the virus to their teachers.

“It is absolutely a better path to take for our school children to be in school,” Corcoran said.

When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked if there’s a risk of lives being lost because of schools reopening, the commissioner replied, “no.”

“What Governor DeSantis said is give that choice to parents, he didn’t mandate that schools be open,” he said of the order being challenged in court by the Florida Education Association.

Parent Dr. Mary Anderson had a different take on that argument from state officials.

“What it’s done has pitted parents against one another and that’s shameful,” she said.

Anderson told 8 On Your Side her choice for her three children changed to e-learning after the state rejected the Hillsborough School Board’s plan to keep schools closed for the first month.

“We were fine thinking about returning to brick and mortar at the end of September,” she explained, “but when Commissioner Corcoran sent that letter, I’m not ready to send my family back on Aug. 31.”

The positivity rate for new cases reported Friday in Hillsborough County was 6.15%, according to the Florida Health Department. The report revealed a six-year-old girl from Hillsborough County is now the youngest in Tampa Bay to die after testing positive from the virus.

8 On Your Side will keep you informed if the county’s positivity rate goes up after schools reopen at the end of the month.


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