In response to a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City has decided to close public school buildings. Many other large cities have not faced this choice, only because they have chosen not to reopen schools in September. However, the data to support school closures is limited at best, while the consequences of doing so will have ripple effects for years to come.
First, children are at lower risk of infection than adults. In fact, with similar exposures, children appear to be 50% less likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 than adults. In addition, in infected children, the course of the disease is often asymptomatic or produces mild symptoms compared to adults.
Second, the role that children play in perpetuating the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the general population is unclear. It is clear that children can spread the virus, but it appears that children do not pass the infection as easily as adults. In schools in particular, transmission by children seems to be a rare phenomenon. Additionally, a recent study noted that among the many public health interventions many countries have taken, school closures have had very little effect on the spread of the coronavirus.
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