President Trump has claimed that children are “virtually immune” to the coronavirus, yet child cases continue to rise in many states. Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Dara Kass separates fact from fiction as schools begin to reopen across the U.S.
DARA KASS: So you may have seen recently a report saying that at 97,000 American children contracted the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July. You may also have seen leaders in the White House discuss how children might be virtually immune from the coronavirus, and you may not understand, what does this mean. If children are getting infected, how can they be virtually immune? What exactly is the truth?
– You said children are virtually immune from COVID-19, but children have contracted this virus and some have died from it.
When I say that, I’m talking about from getting very sick. If you look at children, I mean, they’re able to throw it over easily.
DARA KASS: I think it’s important to get to a common definition of the term immunity as it relates to children and the coronavirus. Immune means that if they were exposed to the virus, their bodies would fight it off without any chance of them getting infected. We know 100% that is definitively false. There is nothing innate in children that means that every time they’re exposed to the virus there will be zero chance that they will be infected or spread this coronavirus.
This coronavirus does not seem to have the same impact on children that it does on adults or the elderly. But that does not mean that children are immune or 100% protected from being infected. We have seen numerous children with no medical problems and no preexisting conditions be hospitalized, have to go to the ICU, and unfortunately pass away from this coronavirus. So right now, there just are no guarantees.
The reason the numbers of children affected by the coronavirus is higher than ever before can simply be explained by exposure and risk. What happened is, children started going to camp, and the virus started spreading out of control in states like Texas and Florida and Arizona. And unfortunately, a lot of those states are also the ones that are opening camps and schools.
So now that we know definitively that children are not immune to the coronavirus, what do we do? Do we open schools or not? The truth is, it’s not a binary choice. This virus has always been infectious and was always affecting children and adults. That information hasn’t changed. You need to have the ability to test people and trace them. You need to have protections for your staff and your community. You need to know what your public health measures are. And then your children can safely go to school. It’s not about how infectious is it to them, it’s about how prepared your community is going forward.