Fact Check: Betsy DeVos Says Children are Stoppers of COVID-19

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What was said by the Secretary of Education:

“More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don’t get it and transmit it themselves, so we should be in a posture of — the default should be getting back to school kids in person, in the classroom.”

Citing four reports:

  • — American Academy of Pediatrics: Evidence suggests that children don’t contract or spread the virus the way that adults do, in contrast to how they spread influenza.
  • — New South Wales, Australia: Eighteen infected people who had contact with nearly 900 people only resulted in a maximum of two additional infections, with “no evidence of children infecting teachers.”
  • — France: An infected 9-year-old in France came into contact with 172 people while attending three ski schools, and none of them — not even the child’s siblings — appeared to contract the virus.
  • — Saxony, Germany: A study (in German) 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.”

Betsy DeVos says they are mainly looking at the German study. “One of the people who helped run it is the one who first said that kids can act as ‘brakes’ on virus transmission.”

First, the study hasn’t been peer-reviewed, and therefore should not be used as a clinical guide.

Second, the German researchers said that the results do not apply to a country such as the United States, where infections have been soaring.

Germany is among the countries that have handled the outbreak well with skill and diligence. Infections have been kept relatively low per million.

“Our results depict a situation with low infection rates after the initial transmission peak is under control,” Jakob Armann, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at University Children’s Hospital in Dresden and co-author of the study, said in an email. “If you have rising infection rates — as in the United States currently — putting people in close contact will obviously lead to transmission of respiratory viruses as SARS-CoV-2.”

He went on to say that it is important to get the situation under control, and only then is there a safe way to get children back to school.

Reinhard Berner, a colleague of Armann’s, made the “brake” comment, but said it was widely exaggerated in the media.

“The point he was trying to make is that these findings are in contrast to the earlier assumptions that children will spread the virus to a much higher degree than adults,” Armann said. “We are not trying to argue that children do not spread the virus at all and you are absolutely right that in high-infection communities, children will get infected and will transmit to close contacts.”

Find more to this story at the Seattle Times.