Hundreds of thousands of children infected: Fauci undercuts Trump

America’s top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a three hour US Congress hearing, undercut US president Donald Trump’s claim that children are almost immune to the coronavirus, saying that “hundreds of thousands” of children have been infected.

At the same hearing, Fauci expressed confidence that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by early next year. More than a quarter-million Americans have volunteered to take part in clinical trials, the doctor said on Friday.

Fauci’s comments about transmission risk in kids come as school reopening dates draw closer all across America and new research around the behaviour of the virus in children points to transmission rates at least similar to adults.

For weeks, Trump has been pushing the view that kids “don’t catch it easily, they don’t bring it home easily, and if they do catch it, they get better fast”.

Over 2.2 million US children have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 900 children have needed intensive care hospitalisation until July 30, according to the public database COVKID Project. The same site projects that at 10 per cent of all children infected, America could see 20,000 hospitalised. There are currently about 74 million children in the United States.

Trump, looking to shore up his tanking poll numbers, has made opening schools a key priority as he looks to restart the economy. Students need to return to the classroom so their parents can return to work, he has said, putting him at odds with public health officials. Public opinion against school reopening has only been rising ever since Trump waded in. Some of the nation’s largest districts have already rejected the idea of a full reopening.

A new study, released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analysed 597 children and staff who attended an overnight camp in Georgia between June 21 and June 27. At the end of the week, 76 per cent of campers who were tested came back positive.

Results from a study from South Korea, published by the CDC, show older kids most likely transmit COVID-19 to their household at rates similar to adults. Younger kids transmit the virus too.

Another study published July 30 in JAMA, an international peer-reviewed general medical journal shows the level of the virus in kids is at least as high as the level of virus in adults.

Young children can be “important drivers” of coronavirus, this study says, and raises concerns of virus transmission linked to behavioural habits of young children in close quarters in school and day care settings as public health restrictions are eased.

A July 29 study published in JAMA shows that states with early closure of schools between March and May had reduced levels of COVID-19 spread compared with states which had late closures, even after adjusting for social distancing policies.

“States that closed schools earlier, when cumulative incidence of COVID-19 was low, had the largest relative reduction in incidence and mortality.”

One of the nation’s largest teachers unions has green-lighted its members’ plan to strike if their schools reopen without proper safety measures in the middle of the ongoing pandemic.