A Study Shows Children Can Carry Tons of Virus. What Does That Mean for Schools?

A Study Shows Children Can Carry Tons of Virus. What Does That Mean for Schools?

In normal times, academic research moves slowly. The arrival rate of new information on any given question—Is it healthy to drink coffee, or eat broccoli? Are screens bad for kids?—is fairly slow. Typically, we have time to think through new studies and ask what they add to what we already know. This is not the case with COVID-19. We know very little about this disease and the virus that causes it, so each new study seems significant. And there are lots of new studies, coming out every day—it’s hard not to feel the study sensory overload, and the speed makes it hard to incorporate any information before new research arrives. The practical consequence is people seem to be grabbing on to each piece of new information as if it supersedes anything we saw before. Nowhere is this more true than in the discussions of COVID-19, kids, transmission, and schools. On Thursday, JAMA Pediatrics published a study that had some information on viral DNA in children’s noses. The study was widely covered, with headlines like “New Evidence Suggests Young Children Spread Covid-19 More Efficiently Than Adults.” The general tone of coverage was that this means we cannot possibly open schools. But is that really a reasonable conclusion from this data? The question of opening schools—whether we should, and what will happen if we do—is a huge one. It involves understanding levels of community transmission, thinking about who will be in school and what protective measures they will take. It ...
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