WHO: Schools Not a “Main Contributor” to Coronavirus Pandemic

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WHO: Schools Not a “Main Contributor” to Coronavirus Pandemic

What does the latest data tell us?

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has admitted that there is mounting evidence that suggests children do spread the novel coronavirus to others at social gatherings, but that classroom settings are not believed to be a major driver of the infections.

“There’s also more and more publications that adds to the body of evidence that children do play a role in the transmission but that this is, so far, more linked with social gatherings,” Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said Thursday during a news briefing.

 

“So, this is one of the unknowns but definitely top priorities for the policymakers at the World Health Organization.”

Kluge even went on to say that school settings have not been a “main contributor” to the ongoing global pandemic, which has now infected more than 24.2 million people and caused at least 827,000 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

He did add that “vigilance is really the key word.”

According to a recent review of state-level data by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association, at least 97,000 children in the United States tested positive for coronavirus during the last two weeks of July. Overall, children represent roughly 7% of all U.S. cases to date.

The release of the report comes as many schools across the nation grapple with how best to reopen classrooms safely. The Trump administration has pushed for in-person classroom learning while others have voiced support for virtual or hybrid educational models.

“It may be that the younger people are not necessarily going to die from it, but it’s a tornado with a long tail. It’s a multi-organ disease, so the virus is really attacking the lungs, but also the heart and other organs,” Kluge said.

“Younger people, particularly with the winter coming, will be in closer contact with the elder population.”

The WHO, however, recently sounded the alarm that the pandemic is now being largely driven by young people who are unaware they are infected.

According to Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, most of the young people either never develop coronavirus symptoms or have very mild ones.

“This increases the risk of spillovers to the most vulnerable—the elderly, the sick, people in long-term care, people who live in densely populated urban areas” and rural areas with limited health care, he said during a virtual press conference.

Earlier in the month, the WHO had warned about young people spending time at nightclubs and beaches, putting themselves at heightened risk for infection. An analysis by the agency of six million infections between February 24 and July 12 found that the share of people aged fifteen to twenty-four increased from 4.5% to 15%.

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has also echoed similar sentiments, saying that young people need to recognize their “societal responsibility” in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters