Could children actually be “stoppers” of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus?
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is pressing the Trump administration’s case for sending kids back to school in the fall, made the claim during a radio interview: “More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don’t get it and transmit it themselves.”
The Education Department sent us four sources in support of DeVos’s claim, emphasizing a German study that found no evidence that schoolchildren play a role in spreading the virus, with a researcher quoted in a news report as saying that “children may even act as a brake on infection.”
Well, there’s a problem with that. The German study has not been peer-reviewed; it is still in preprint review by the Lancet, meaning it should not be used to guide clinical practice.
The German researchers told The Fact Checker that the results do not apply to a country such as the United States, where infections have been soaring. Germany, by contrast, is among the countries that are considered to have handled the outbreak with skill and diligence, keeping infections per million people relatively low.
It’s easy to find studies and news reports that contradict DeVos’s assertion. In South Korea, a large study using contact tracing found that children ages 10 to 19 can spread the virus at least as much as adults do; children younger than 10 were half as likely to transmit the virus, but there was still a risk. In Israel, at least 1,335 students and 691 staff members contracted the coronavirus after the country reopened its entire school system without restrictions on May 17, believing it had beaten the virus. The spike in infections among the children spread to the general population, according to epidemiological surveys by Israel’s Health Ministry.
We gave Four Pinocchios to DeVos