Before pushing to reopen schools, consider how many Florida kids are testing positive for COVID-19
Health officials in Florida have started reporting a truly scary trend: They say 31.1 percent, or nearly one-third, of children in Florida who are tested for COVID-19 end up returning a positive result. With as many questions as we still have about how this virus affects children — and their role in spreading it to the adults we already know are vulnerable to more severe infections — this is pretty alarming, especially considering the national push to reopen schools in time for the fall semester, which is just weeks away in some states.
State data from Florida shows that the 31.1 percent positivity rate is much higher than the overall statewide rate, which is around 11 percent. That means almost three times as many children who are tested are getting positive results than adults who are tested. That creates two main concerns for health officials: First, it shows that COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly among children than adults. And second, it creates huge fears because of how little we know about the virus’s long-term effects, especially in kids. There’s already evidence that COVID-19 causes lasting lung damage in adults, even if they don’t have severe cases.
“They are seeing there is damage to the lungs in these asymptomatic children. … We don’t know how that is going to manifest a year from now or two years from now,” Alina Alonso, the health department director of Palm Beach County, told reporters this week. “Is that child going to have chronic pulmonary problems or not?”
During the pandemic, scientists have noted that children have seemed to be largely exempt from the kinds of serious symptoms that have landed adults in intensive care units and on ventilators. A small number of children exposed to COVID-19 have shown a rare, multisystem inflammatory syndrome. But there are still so many questions about how the virus impacts long-term health and there’s a lot left to discover.
This news comes as schools across the nation grapple with questions about when and how to reopen safely for in-person classes. The Trump administration is pushing hard for all schools to reopen in the fall, even threatening to withhold federal funding if school districts don’t comply. Some cities and counties have already announced that classes will be online-only in the fall as COVID-19 cases spike. The CDC has warned that reopening schools is a top threat when considering the spread of the virus throughout communities.
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