Study: Kids get virus at gatherings more often than school

FILE - Shiloh Hills Elementary School principal Kelly Byrne shows in a 1st grade classroom how an area has been marked off for the teacher, to help remind them where they can stand to still maintain social distancing. (Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Children are more at risk of contracting coronavirus at a social gathering than in a classroom or childcare setting, according to a study released by the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The study, conducted in partnership with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was featured in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dec. 18 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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.

The study found that compared with children who tested negative, those who tested positive were more likely to have attended gatherings and have had visitors at home. 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 UMMC and lead author on the study’s findings. Co-authors include experts from the University of Mississippi School of Nursing and the Mississippi State Department of Health.

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State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, who contributed to the research 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.

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

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

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