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What COVID cases in daycares right now could show us about kids returning to school

For parents a daunting decision awaits. Is it a good idea to send your kids back to classrooms? We are looking at kids who are in daycare now and how this may show us what is to come for when kids go back to a similar setting at school.

The guidance for returning to school is conflicting if not downright confusing.

“When we think about the school we have to think about COVID spread among kids and the long term implications of that,” Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, University of Texas School of Public Health.

Although rare, the mysterious organ failure disease linked to COVID-19 in children is a scary wildcard for parents.

“The systemic inflammatory response, it’s still exceedingly rare in children,” said Dr. Charisma Garcia, Texas Children’s Health Plan, The Center for Children and Women. “That being said, mostly seen in children so that’s why people are worried about that. Children have that immune response that is strong that wants to fight and sometimes it gets confused and starts attacking the body. I have not seen a case myself in the patient setting.”

Daycare COVID cases

When it comes to kids, school and COVID there is a canary in this coal mine. Kids currently enrolled in Texas daycares. They’re already operating and COVID-19 has spread in some of them.

Using data from the state, Channel 2 Investigates found on May 15th there were 59 reported COVID-19 cases (36 staff and 23 children). By June 15th that number rose to 210 (141 staff and 69 children). That’s a 256% increase over one month. But it represents a tiny fraction of the state’s overall daycare population. What’s more, is kids appear to be uniquely resistant to this coronavirus.

“Our current evidence shows not only are kids not getting it at the same infection rate but they are also less likely to spread it so at the schools the children would not be the concern, it would be the adults,” said Dr. Garcia.

COVID threat for teachers and staff

That threat is real for older teachers and teachers with pre-existing conditions.

USA Today on Friday told the tale of an Arizona teacher who shared a summer school classroom with other teachers but no students. She just died from COVID-19.

The reality is there’s more than safety at play here. There are practical concerns for parents who must work to put food on the table.

“My job expects me to return to work so part of it is that,” said Tarsha Goode.

Goode has the American Academy of Pediatrics on her side. Like President Trump, that trade group of doctors is recommending that schools across Houston and the United States physically reopen.

“In general we are pushing for everyone to go back to school,” said Dr. Garcia. “The benefits of in-person school exceeds the risk of COVID.”

It remains a tough sell for some when you move from theory and recommendation into reality and the safety of your own children.

“I don’t think they can learn and wear a mask and manage all the other symptoms the kids are having around them,” said one mom.

The CDC has a long list of recommendations for schools when it comes to re-opening. We have a Back to School section on our website where we have details on individual school districts.