40% spike in known new child COVID-19 cases raises questions about school

Nearly 100,000 children in the United States tested positive for the novel coronavirus during the final two weeks of July, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association. And with the start of the school year quickly approaching, doctors are racing to learn how the virus impacts children.

We talk with a Beaumont doctor about what we know right now. 

"The spike that we're seeing seems a little atypical especially because this should occur less in children," said Dr. Sam Allen. He's the head of Troy Beaumont's Pulmonary Critical Care and says with 97,000 new coronavirus cases diagnosed in children, the numbers speak for themselves.

Kids have a far less chance of developing symptoms more severe than a sore or scratchy throat - but he says they are not immune.

"Absolutely not. We just showed it here now. What we do know is that the children, especially those around the age five, carry a higher viral load than some adults do. And even though they carry the higher viral load they may not have necessarily the symptoms but may be more contagious especially to older, more immunocompromised adults or adults in the home with them have chronic conditions."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the 40% spike in child coronavirus cases during the last two weeks of July comes as thousands of students across the country have started returning to the classroom.

Dr. Allen says some masks may not be enough to protect students and staff since cloth or two-layer masks only prevent 17% of virus transmission.

"How can we do this and do this right? Although it may not be practical or fun, put an N95 mask on every child because you take the risk of transmission from 83% to 5%. Much less."

At this point, Dr. Allen plans to send his teenage kids back to the classroom but understands the concern among parents and why many districts are going virtual. He says a lot still needs to be learned about this virus.

"What is going to happen at the school level now that you have a teacher with antibodies that carried the virus for at least the previous two weeks, potentially exposed children in the classroom but was unaware of it? So it makes me a little bit nervous because I don't know if those protective mechanisms are in place at these schools. The idea is to keep them six feet apart and wear a mask, but that's going to be tough."

The study also showed that of the number of children infected, the rate was higher among Black and Hispanic children. 

Eighty-six kids have died in connection with the virus since May.