Twelve children who likely got infected with COVID-19 at three daycare centers in Utah have spread the virus to their relatives, according to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.
CDC says that previous research has shown that children ten years old and older can spread the virus in their schools. This new study tells us that younger kids, even as young as 8-month-old, can still spread the virus, regardless if they are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19, the researchers said.
The study investigated the COVID-19 outbreaks in Salt Lake City in the three daycare centers, from April to July. The researchers utilized the data they got from contact tracing during the time of the outbreaks. They “retrospectively construct transmission chains” to identify precisely how the rapid virus transmission came to be. The study has a total population of 83 kids who have attended one of the three child care centers, the researchers said.
Among the three child care center outbreaks, the researchers identified 12 kids infected with COVID-19 at the centers – three did not develop any symptoms while nine presented with mild symptoms. The study says that the 12 kids had close contact with 46 more people not directly associated with the daycare facilities, which appeared to have infected twelve, or more than a quarter, of them. According to the researchers, the 12 people infected by the kids include six mothers, one of whom was brought to the hospital, three siblings, and three others.
According to the study’s authors, COVID-19 among children is less severe than those in adults, but they still play a role in transmission. The researchers wrote that virus transmission was traced from two children with a confirmed case of COVID-19, although asymptomatic. It provides more evidence that people who do not manifest any COVID-19 symptoms can still spread the virus.
The role that children, especially asymptomatic ones, play in the transmission of the virus has become a crucial topic as debates over the reopening of schools and universities for in-person learning continues. While the researchers focused their study on child care settings and not particularly on schools in general, they recommended COVID-19 testing as a useful research and mitigation tool to help prevent and control the virus transmission.
However, the researchers also acknowledged that their study has few limitations. Between April and July, there were 17 identified child care centers with at least two confirmed cases at Salt Lake Country within 14 days, but the study only focused on three of those centers. The researchers added that the guideline for contact tracing changed during the pandemic, which could have led to inconsistent data collection systems. Moreover, initial testing criteria for COVID-19 was more restrictive and could have resulted in an undercount of infections. Lastly, the researchers also noted that they could not identify the outbreak’s source in one of the centers. Thus, there’s a possibility that cases at that center were brought in from another source.