In this May 27, 2020 file photo, a daycare worker in Tacoma, Wash. Wears a mask as she cleans a tricycle after classroom use, an activity that is repeated several times at the day.
Ted S. Warren | AP
According to a new study released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, twelve children who likely contracted Covid-1
The study authors note that research had previously shown that children aged 10 and older could spread the virus in schools. The new study is evidence that even young children, including an 8-month-old baby, can still spread the virus, despite not becoming seriously ill from Covid-19, the researchers said.
The study looked at three outbreaks that occurred at three childcare centers in Salt Lake City between April and July. Using contact tracing data collected at the time of the outbreaks, the researchers used the data to “retrospectively build chains of transmission” to accurately determine how the virus spread. A total of 83 children attended the three childcare centers included in the study, the researchers said.
Among the three outbreaks, the researchers said 12 children were infected with Covid-19 in childcare centers, although three of them never developed symptoms and nine developed only mild symptoms. The study states that those 12 children came into contact with 46 people not associated with childcare facilities and appear to have infected 12, or more than a quarter. Those infected by the babies include six mothers, one of whom was hospitalized, three siblings, and three others, the study says.
“Transmission was seen by two of three children with confirmed asymptomatic COVID-19,” the researchers wrote, providing further evidence that those who have no symptoms of Covid-19 can still spread the virus. “COVID-19 is less severe in children than in adults, but children may still play a role in transmission.”
The role that children, especially asymptomatic children, play in the spread of the virus has become a highly controversial topic as debate continues on whether and how to reopen schools for in-person learning. Although the researchers focused specifically on childcare facilities and not necessarily schools, they recommended testing as a useful mitigation and research tool.
“Two of the three asymptomatic children probably passed on SARS-CoV-2 to their parents and possibly their teachers,” they wrote. “The availability of SARS-CoV-2 tests, timely results and patient contact tests in child care facilities regardless of symptoms can help prevent transmission and provide a better understanding of the role children play in transmission.”
The researchers noted some limitations of their study. Between April 1 and July 10, Salt Lake County identified 17 child care centers with at least two confirmed Covid-19 cases within a 14-day period, but the study only includes data on three of the these centers.
The researchers added that the guidance for contact tracing methodology changed during the pandemic and may have led to inconsistent data collection systems. In addition, they said the initial test criteria were more restrictive and could have led to an underestimation of infections.
Finally, the researchers noted that in one of the centers they could not find the source of the outbreak, so it is possible that the cases at the center were brought from another source. In the other two facilities, the researchers said they traced the source of the infection to staff members who contracted Covid-19 through a family member.
“Contact testing of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in childcare facilities, including children who may have no symptoms, could improve the control of transmission from childcare participants to family members,” concluded the researchers.