The national discourse surrounding reopening the nation has working parents all over the country wondering: Should we be sending kids back to school in the fall?
The hot topic has put working parents in an impossible situation, in which they have to choose between putting the community at large at risk, or risk harming their own careers (and sanity) by keeping kids at home.
Though some school districts, such as Los Angeles’, have already announced they’ll be fully virtual come fall, most data thus far has shown that kids aren’t major carriers or victims of the virus that has killed over 600,000 and infected over 14 million people worldwide. Other school districts, such as New York City’s, are preparing to open for just a few days a week for in-person schooling, but new data might change their plans.
A just-released South Korean CDC study flips the script on what scientists thought they knew: It turns out that kids ages 10 to 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults. Further, older children in middle school and high school were found to be more likely than adults to spread the virus to others when they went to school, likely because they had poor hygiene habits and were more likely to socialize with their peers.
Experts are hailing the study of 65,000 people as one of the best so far because it was done meticulously and tracked South Korea’s first COVID-19 cases in January, two months before the virus spiked in the US, through a second wave after the reopening of schools.
“I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won’t get infected or don’t get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they’re almost like a bubbled population,” Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota, told The New York Times. “There will be transmission. What we have to do is accept that now and include that in our plans.”
As for children under 10, the study confirmed what most past studies had already hypothesized, that those kids are about half as likely to spread the virus to others. Because most children show no symptoms, it’s harder to track transmission rates from those kids to their family members. The study confirmed what most past studies had already hypothesized, that kids under 10 are about half as likely to spread the virus to others.
But what does this all mean for working parents? Well, hold on tight.
While the CDC have given their recommendations for reopening schools safely, parents might not want to send their children to school buildings because this study confirms it puts family members, and the community at large, at greater risk for contracting the virus. Some moms have instituted at-home teaching pods, sharing one teacher with a few other families, so there are fewer people coming into contact with each other than there would be at a traditional school building. Others have decided to homeschool their kids entirely. But, barring some mass childcare solution, some working families will have to send their kids to school come fall—if in-person schooling happens in their area; they will have to be diligent about keeping their kids safe, separate from certain family members and following best practices for keeping the virus at bay.