No. It’s the teachers we have to worry about.
By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD
A heartfelt, honest post is making the rounds on FB, written by a parent trying to decide whether their children should be allowed to attend in-person school. In that post, without citing a source they ascribe a number to how dangerous COVID-19 is to children. That number is massively wrong, and it undermines the entire argument.
I’m not going to repost the thing, but I’m sharing here my reply. To be blunt, whether or not to reopen schools is all about the staff, not about the kids. COVID-19 mortality for children is so low as to not be a factor in the decision. The challenge is how to protect the well-being of teachers in a classroom full of little potentially infected people.
“On the key point of how deadly COVID is for children, the author is completely wrong. They cite a mortality rate for children as .0016. I don’t know where they got that number, but it is off by several orders of magnitude. Based on that number, they predict >300 deaths in a district of fewer than 200,000 students. Which is a lot of dead kids. In fact it is more than a hundred times more kids than we should actually expect to die of COVID in a population that size.
Because we don’t know how many children have been infected and went undiagnosed because they lacked symptoms, the data on “rate” are soft. But here is an indication of how far off the number is. I’m looking at data from New York City Health. Source: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data.page
To date, for the entire course of the pandemic, NY reports 0.75 deaths per 100,000 kids age 0–17. That is a rate of .0000075, not .0016. In the author’s example, that means 1.5 children in her district might die of COVID, not 300.
For comparison, the death rate for children from “unintentional injury” is on the order of 30 per 100,000. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_04.pdf Majority of those deaths are motor vehicle accidents. In other words, your kid is roughly twenty times more likely to die in the car, maybe on the drive to school, than to die of COVID from a coronavirus infection they pick up there.
According to the CDC, only about 30 children under the age of 15 have died of COVID in the US so far. Out of 130,000 American deaths. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm#AgeAndSex
Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, and educator. Learn more about Amy’s science thriller novels, or download a free ebook on the scientific backstory of SARS-CoV-2 and emerging infections, at AmyRogers.com.
Originally published at https://www.amyrogers.com on July 13, 2020.