Please read this piece in the German publication Der Spiegel and show it to anyone who says children don't spread coronavirus.
If you've ever heard teenagers chattering away and laughing during the breaks, or seen them crowd into a supermarket; if you've ever experienced the chaotic running and roughhousing of schoolchildren at recess – you might be surprised that things have gone so comparatively well at schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
As recently as the end of October, the science journal Nature published a data survey that came to an apparently reassuring conclusion: "Data gathered worldwide are increasingly suggesting that schools are not hot spots for coronavirus infections," and further, that schools could "reopen safely when community transmission is low."
That, though, has since changed.
Such "community transmission" has become quite high in many parts of Germany and the effect of the current "lockdown light" has been disappointingly minimal. Case numbers have stagnated at a high level, while in some regions they have continued climbing at an alarming rate. What are the reasons? Where are people contracting the infections? Is transmission only occurring in shops, which have remained open this fall in contrast to the spring lockdown? Or is transmission actually transpiring in schools, after all?
Because of the persistently high number of cases, the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has this week called for a strict lockdown before Christmas – including the closure of schools as quickly as possible. Chancellor Angela Merkel likewise pleaded with the state governors to send children into the Christmas break early and extend the holidays.
From the perspective of epidemiologists, that would, indeed, be a sensible move. Evidence is provided by a still unpublished analysis of a widespread testing campaign at schools in Austria, which found that SARS-CoV-2 affects just as many students as teachers.
Schools are not islands of serenity," says study leader Michael Wagner, a professor of microbiology at the University of Vienna. Leaving them open is "a significant risk."
I say it's about time science is catching up to reality. We all saw what happened in the spring where NYC lost over 75 school employees from COVID-19 in part because schools stayed open too long. We only haven't seen a repeat thus far in the fall in New York in my non-scientific opinion because the overwhelming majority of parents have wisely ignored officials and some scientists and kept their kids out of school buildings.
The Spiegel piece provides a great amount of evidence from throughout Europe and North America to support their view that young kids do indeed spread COVID-19 at school.
"Of course, it’s the case that the virus is carried into schools," says RKI head Lothar Wieler. "And that it is then carried back out again."
In England, the incidence rate fell after the fall break. And Scottish researchers analyzed all anti-corona measures in 131 countries in a large modelling study. The R number, one way to measure the spread of infections, began falling once large events were banned and contacts were limited.
But they only plunged significantly once schools were closed.
To which I say, Duh!