LA GRANDE — The discussion about whether to reopen schools and day care centers in the fall has gained fervor, with concern that doing so could further the spread of COVID-19 among youth, their teachers and others around them.
But a Brown University report that came out last month analyzed the data of nearly 1,000 day cares nationwide through June 29 and found that less than one-fourth of 1% of the children and just more than 1% of staff in the study contracted the coronavirus.
Children have not been as severely impacted by the virus as the rest of the population in the nation. From Feb. 1 to July 4, it claimed the lives of 29 people age 14 and younger, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number is lower than the number of youth in that same time frame who died from pneumonia (176) or the flu (100).
The survey from Brown University, available at explaincovid.org/explainers/covid-19-and-children-our-crowd-sourced-data, is up front about the data being “crowdsourced” from locations that wanted to participate as opposed to a random sample.
“Even better would be to have random testing of children and staff so we could see asymptomatic cases,” according to the survey summary, which Emily Oster, a professor at Brown, spearheaded.
The summary also stated the count of COVID-19 cases in the study likely is low, adding, “It is hard to evaluate biases here, but our guess is that this somewhat understates COVID-19 cases since children without symptoms are not reported here. As we get more data, or push to more systematic sampling, we hope this will improve.”
A day care and a school may not make for the most apt comparisons when considering student population and time among peers, and the study does not say how many youth were served at one time or how long they were at the care center each day.
Still, the study suggests the virus may not be as severe among the nation’s youth.
Out of the 983 locations in the survey — centers that served nearly 27,500 students during the pandemic — only 42 students were reported to have cases of COVID-19. Additionally, 107 cases were counted among close to 9,700 staff who worked at those centers.
Larger centers — in this study, those that served more than 10 students — made up just more than half of those surveyed and accounted for all but three of the student cases (out of 25,007 students) and all but seven of the staff (out of 8,761). Those centers held an average of 46.6 percent students and 16.3 percent staff, and some, though not all, did close at times during the pandemic.
That, though, rolls into the other main summary from the survey, which found that of 693 day care centers that never closed (accounting for 20,979 students and 7,495 staff) there were 30 COVID-19 cases reported in students and 67 in staff members.
Close to 40 of the centers served at least 100 students — some of them across multiple locations. The largest entity served more than 3,200 students with 1,000 staff members in four states. But it had only four cases in children and seven in staff — not even the highest totals among those surveyed.
A King County, Washington, day care center held that distinction, as it had nine cases among staff and nine among its youth. That facility served 200 children and had 10 staff members.
Center size didn’t always point to more cases, either. A Maryland location that served just six students had two contract the virus, and a Texas center saw four children out of 13 get sick.
Meanwhile, several single-location centers with more than 100 youth — among them a center in Texas with 165, another with 130 and a Florida location with 170 — saw no cases. The Florida and larger Texas sites did close for a time, but the smaller Texas center remained open.
Oregon had 40 day care centers listed on the survey, none of which reported a case in a child or staff member. The largest single-location center served 47 children. Three had more than 50 and two served 100 or more, but in multiple locations.
The centers varied in range, taking care of infants as young as six weeks old to children as old as 10, and a handful older.
The survey summary does note that Yale University is conducting a more thorough study.