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Are students super spreaders of COVID?

"They're certainly capable of spreading disease"
Posted at 6:28 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 18:41:02-04

“What's clear at this point is — children can be both get infected and they can also infect others,” remarked Dr. Thomas Russo, professor & chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

There is a lot of concern that children could be the carriers of COVID-19 while remaining a-symptomatic. Children have been referred to as super spreaders.

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High school students back in classrooms during pandemic.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash used the word super spreader last week when he announced the district would reopen with remote learning only.

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Dr. Kriner Cash, superintendent, Buffalo Public Schools.

“But they might be super spreaders — and that's just starting to come out in some studies,” states Cash.

A new study out of England finds that teachers and staffers are more likely to spread the virus than students.

Dr. Russo says there is an "increasing body of data supporting" that children are capable of spreading the virus.

“But I think it's safe to assume right now that they're certainly capable of spreading disease and there's an increasing body of data to support that,” Dr. Russo explained.

Dr. Russo responded to the new study by Public Health England.

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Dr. Thomas Russo, professor & chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, spoke with us via Zoom Tuesday.

The study examined a cross-section of COVID clusters and out breaks in early childhood in primary and secondary schools and colleges.

It concluded that teachers and staff members — not students — were more likely to spread the virus.

“We should really assume or it's safest to assume that both teachers and children are capable of spreading this disease,” said Dr. Russo.

Russo said what is unclear right now is whether children less than ten years of age are as infectious as an older child or adults.

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Many schools are prepared to keep students six feet apart in classrooms.

But no matter who is more likely to spread COVID, Dr. Russo says as some school districts plan to reopen for in-school learning — behavior will be key to stopping the spread.

“Whether you're going to Wegmans, whether you're going to school, whether you're playing with friends — it's all about behavior and if you're able to go ahead and follow the public health measure,” Russo said.

Buffalo Pediatrics pediatrician, Dr. Rachel Kaufman, tells 7 Eyewitness News there are preliminary studies, but it’s important not to take the data and run with it as a “final answer.”

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Buffalo Pediatrics pediatrician, Dr. Rachel Kaufman, spoke to us via Facetime.

”We just don’t understand how contagious people are at different stages of their life, especially if they’re a-symptomatic and have the virus. In the end, behavior and how people interact is a very powerful factor and very likely in how the virus is spread,” Dr. Kaufman said.

Both doctors said behavior is important in stopping the spread of the virus. That includes mandatory mask usage and physically distancing combined with hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting where appropriate.

Many area school districts are planning a combination of in-school and on-line learning when schools reopen in early September. But school districts like Buffalo, West Seneca and Maryvale are among those planning to start the school year with remote learning only.