COVID-19 and schoolchildren: “There will be transmission” say experts. But how sick will they be?


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Fisman says that test positivity in children – the number of cases found for those tested – is no different in Ontario, per capita, than in the 20- to 40-year-old age group. “So the idea that there’s something magical about children that makes them uninfectable, we don’t seem to see that at all in Ontario,” he says.

As experts debate how to open schools safely, parents grapple with their own agonizing dilemma: Do I send my child away? How do you make an informed decision when the evidence keeps changing under your feet?

From the first days of the pandemic, from the first shipments from China, children seemed relatively resistant to the virus that causes COVID-19. Seven months later, researchers are still trying to understand why childhood transmissibility might be different, why young children seem to acquire COVID-19 less frequently than adults – a biological benefit or insufficient testing? – and why children get less sick than adults even though they have similar viral loads.

The idea that there is something magical in children that makes them uninfectable, we don’t seem to see it

In Canada, as of July 21, children 19 and under accounted for 7.6% of confirmed COVID-19 infections. But it’s still not clear whether children, especially young people, actually contract COVID-19 less often than adults. With schools, playgrounds and water parks locked, children had little chance of getting infected.

And although it seems they are less vulnerable to the virus, children can become seriously ill. In Canada, 124 children under 19 were hospitalized, 23 required intensive care and one death was reported, one Ontario child under 10.


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