NEW YORK (AP) — Children who caught the coronavirus at day cares and a day camp spread it to their relatives, according to a new report that underscores that kids can bring the germ home and infect others.
The study comes as Southern Utah and the state have seen their highest rate of new coronavirus infections since early August.
Scientists already know children can spread the virus. But the study published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using data from Utah “definitively indicates — in a way that previous studies have struggled to do — the potential for transmission to family members,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious disease researcher.
The findings don’t mean that schools and child-care programs need to close, but it does confirm that the virus can spread within those places and then be brought home by kids. So, masks, disinfection and social distancing are needed. And people who work in such facilities have to be careful and get tested if they think they may be infected, experts said.
In the new study, researchers from Utah and the CDC focused on three outbreaks in Salt Lake City child care facilities between April and July. Two were child-care programs for toddlers, and the other was a camp for older kids. The average age of kids at all three programs was about 7.
At two of the facilities, investigators were able to establish that an infected adult worker unknowingly introduced the virus.
The study concluded 12 children caught the coronavirus at the facilities, and spread it to at least 12 of the 46 parents or siblings that they came in contact at home. Three of the infected children had no symptoms, and one of them spread it to a parent who was later hospitalized because of COVID-19, the researchers said.
That kind of rate of spread – about 25% – is on par with studies of spread in households that have included both children and adults. It also shows that children with no symptoms, or very mild symptoms, can spread the infection just like adults can.
Hanage cautioned that it’s not clear whether the findings at the three programs are broadly applicable. Also, the study didn’t involve genetic analysis of individual infections that might have given a clearer picture of how the disease spread.
But many infected kids experience mild illnesses and testing of children has been very limited, so it’s likely that more than 25% of the outside contacts were infected, Hanage added.
The epidemic could get worse and more complicated this fall, said Dr. David Kimberlin, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“This should be another wake-up call to all of us that we need to be diligent and all do our part,” he said.
After a week where it appeared the rate of new infections was on the wane in Southern Utah, the area saw its highest rate of new coronavirus infections in a month over the last two days, as has the state of Utah according to the Utah Department of Health and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.
There have been more new infections in Washington County in the last two days – 47 – than the previous four days combined (42).
The increase in infections has gone beyond Washington County, which still bears the brunt of the new cases. Beaver County reported on Saturday its first new case since Aug. 9.
Hospitalizations remained unchanged and there have been no new local deaths reported since the death of a Washington County female older than 85 was reported Thursday.
St. George News weekend editor/reporter Chris Reed contributed to this story.
COVID-19 information resources
St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Utah Department of Health
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Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Sept. 12, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)
Positive COVID-19 tests: 3,831 (15.9 new infections per day in seven days, dropping)
- Washington County: 2,985 (12.7 per day, rising)
- Iron County: 693 (2.1 per day, dropping)
- Kane County: 73 (1.0 per day, steady)
- Garfield County: 46 (0 per day, steady)
- Beaver County: 34 (0.1 per day, rising)
Deaths: 29 (0.1 per day, dropping)
- Washington County: 24
- Iron County: 2
- Garfield County: 2
- Kane County: 1
Hospitalized: 7 (steady)
Current Utah seven-day average: 421 (rising)
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