Morning Miscellania, with a Focus on Children

By May 5, 2020 Commentary

First off, Sweden appears to be passing the peak of the epidemic.  I am delighted and everyone should be (but haters gotta hate) that their strategy has shown the way to the rest of the world, it is not too late for us to follow and avoid perpetual lockdown.  Look at the graphs on Worldometers.  (Sweden Graphs)   Some ups and downs but the trend line on the cases graph has flattened and appears to be going into decline.

Second, a number of articles, etc. on the risk to children.  First a column advocating for returning children to school.  (Bennett Column)  The column notes what by now is well accepted, there is almost no risk to children from the disease, and we are exposing them to social problems like missing educational and extracurricular activities, while many children they are endangered at home.  They cite some of the well-known by now statistics, less than 20 children have died nationwide from the virus, while over 80 have died from flu.  In hardest hit New York City, 6 children died, all with underlying health conditions.  And they discuss the risks to children being at home.

A more scholarly article is found here.  (Science Article)  This article focuses on children’s risk of infection and their potential role in transmission of the disease, citing studies and interviews with experts, in the context of decisions to keep schools open or close them.  The research they cite finds that children are much less likely to be infected and to pass the virus on.  Based on this emerging evidence, some countries have sent children back to school.  Sweden never closed schools.  Iceland’s mass screenings found no children with the disease.  A recent meta-review, summarized in an earlier post, could not identify a single case of transmission of the disease by a child under the age of 10.  And please note how the experts disagree.  If the “science” is so clear to the experts, how is it that they disagree so often?

And a British physician writes quite passionately about the risks of having children at home and not at school.  (BMJ Article)  He expresses concern about not only the loss of educational opportunity but for the risks to children who are now potentially more at danger in homes, and less likely to have abuse noticed, since other adults would rarely see them under a lockdown regime.

Finally, a paper based on experience in multiple countries that finds that “Children are unlikely to have been the primary source of household SARS-CoV-2 infections.”  (Medrxiv Paper) (Now published in Lancet)  The authors looked at household transmission clusters from China, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and the US, as described in articles or studies.   Only three of these clusters had a child as the index, or first, case in the household.  That is despite children having significantly more social contacts than adults.  This was in stark contrast to the case with influenza, where children were the index case more than half the time.  The authors also cite prior research from China into household clusters, with one study finding that of 66 family clusters, a child was never the index case, and another of 419 households where no child under 15 was the index case.

I don’t know how anyone could look at the CDC and state data, read the research and commentary I have cited here and in earlier posts and not conclude that it is an atrocious error to have taken children out of school and to prohibit them from engaging in normal childhood group activities.

Finally, for all the cloth mask nuts, or masks in general, read this study.  (Mask Study)    The authors conclude that use of masks, especially cloth masks, isn’t nearly as protective as people may think and they have their own risks.  The study was done before the epidemic and the authors issued a statement saying basically they may be better than nothing but cloth masks should be used with caution and a mask alone isn’t an assurance of protection from infection.

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