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Kids get coronavirus at gatherings more often than at school, study shows

A third-grader jumps from one chalk lined box to the next while playing a game with schoolmates, all of them in masks.
Tabitha Sirignano, a 3rd-grader, jumps while playing a game with other students during an exercise period in Culver City. New research from Mississippi shows that schools are not the primary source of coronavirus infections among children.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Children are more at risk of contracting the coronavirus at a social gathering than in a classroom or childcare setting, according to a study of nearly 400 youth in Mississippi.

Researchers surveyed patients younger than 18 who had tested positive for the virus in emergency departments and outpatient health facilities during September, October and November.

Compared with children who tested negative, those who tested positive were more likely to have attended gatherings and have had visitors at home, the researchers found.

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Additionally, parents or guardians of children who were infected were less likely to report wearing masks at those gatherings.

“Household contacts versus a contact at school appeared to be more important in a child’s risk for being infected,” said Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the study’s lead author.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, who contributed to the study, said the report highlights what health professionals have seen “played out time and time again” during the pandemic.

“It is imperative that we arm parents and families with the information needed to prevent infection in themselves and their children,” Byers said.

The study also said that the “lack of consistent mask use” in schools led to some spread of the virus.

If nearly all Americans would wear face masks when they leave their homes, they could save over 100,000 lives by the end of February, a study says.

Hobbs said protecting children from becoming infected with the coronavirus is essential to keeping the state’s schools and daycare open.

“We all know the vital nature of school for our children developmentally, academically and socially,” she said.

The study was conducted in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was published this month in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


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