Coronavirus: Kids About as Likely as Adults to Become Infected; What Happens When School Closures Become Widespread?

Early on, I repeated an assumption about coronavirus that proved to be incorrect, that children weren’t very susceptible to becoming infected and hence weren’t prime transmitters the way they were for seasonal flus.

A preprint of a paper based on a study of coronavirus incidence and transmission in Shezen found that children do contract coronavirus, albeit typically getting mild cases, and can transmit it. We’ve embedded the full article at the end of this post. The sample size is large, 391 cases, and the contact tracking looks to be good.

Key sections:

Attack rates were similar across infectee age categories (Table 3), though there is some indication of elevated attack rates in older age groups (Figure 1). Notably, the rate of infection inchildren under 10 (7.4%) was similar to the population average (7.9%). There was no significant association between probability of infection and age of the index case.

We’ve had confirmation in the US. The Mayor of White Plains put out a press release yesterday stating that three children has tested positive for coronavirus and their school will be closed until at least March 16:

According to the Westchester County Department of Health there are now up to 18 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Westchester County. As has been widely reported, there are three confirmed cases associated with a private school in White Plains, Westchester Torah Academy. The three students who tested positive are the children of the man who is a friend of and spent time with the original patient. Westchester Torah Academy has been closed until March 16 and the NY State Department of Health has required all students, faculty, and staff to isolate themselves at home through that date. The re-opening of the school is conditional on whether any new positive COVID-19 cases are identified.

Those who get sick are sick for a while:

Based on 228 cases with known outcomes, we estimate that the median time to recovery is 32 days (95% CI 31,33) in 50-59 year olds, and is estimated to be significantly shorter in younger adults (e.g., 27 days in 20-29 year olds), and significantly longer in older groups (e.g., 36 days in those aged 70 or older). In multiple regression models including sex, age, baseline severity and method of detection, in addition to age, baseline severity was associated with time to recovery. Compared to those with mild symptoms, those with moderate symptoms wereassociated with a 19% (95% CI, 17%,22%) increase in time to recovery, and severe symptomswere associated with a 58% (95% CI, 55%, 61%) increase. Thus far, only three have died.These occurred 35-44 days from symptom onset and 27-33 days from confirmation.

The median incubation period was 4.8 days and in this sample, there were more female cases than male.

Needless to say, this work supports the logic of school closures in Italy and ones underway in the US. An update from CivilEats:

The rapidly growing spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has forced the closure of schools in 22 countries on three different continents, according to UNESCO. In the U.S., as of Thursday, just a small number of schools are closed in Washington, California, and New York—so far—but 13 countries have taken the drastic step of closing all their schools nationwide. As a result, nearly 300 million school children are at home right now, with some able to keep up with their studies remotely while others are surely losing educational ground….

Earlier this week, when Los Angeles declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19, parents in the nation’s second-largest school district were told to plan for school closures. In Washington state, where 11 people have so far died from the illness, a number of schools were closed temporarily for deep cleaning, while others will remain closed for the next two weeks. And in New York’s Westchester County, four schools recently closed after a local man there tested positive for the virus.

As much as this is a prudent public health measure, it’s also a nightmare for families and communities. How are working parents supposed to take care of children who are too young to be left home alone? Most families have working wives. Generally speaking, only the relatively affluent have the slack in their schedule or the disposable dollars to adjust without too much pain to minding their housebound kids.

The BBC reports that Italian parents, faced with nation-wide school closures, are “stressed.” Even parents who don’t have scheduling frictions are finding it hard to cope, in part because they feel they can’t ask elderly parents and relatives to help:

At the San Cosimato playground in Rome, parents have that unmistakeable look of “how on Earth am I going to entertain them?”

The perennial problem has struck early this year: with schools and universities now closed across Italy until at least 15 March, in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, some 8.4 million children are out of class well before the Easter break. It’s an unprecedented response by Europe’s worst-hit country.

Malvina Diletti watches her eight-year-old, Edoardo, play on the climbing frame. “We think 10 days off is totally useless, it’s not even enough to discover if you’re sick,” she says….

They are heading home for lunch with six other children, as parents are taking it in turn to host, sharing the babysitting load during this difficult period.

“It’s so we avoid grandparents having to stay with us,” Malvina tells me, “because if more elderly got sick, hospitals would just crash.”

Some schools say web-based teaching is filling the gap, but I’m not sure how well this would work with elementary-school aged children. Again from the BBC:

In the northern town of Busto Arsizio, part of the region worst hit by the virus, the Tosi High School is using web-learning to stream classes.

“Our lessons continue uninterrupted,” says Amanda Ferrario, the headteacher.

“The teacher enters a virtual classroom, does the roll call and can see students connected on their devices. They can work in groups, make presentations and show videos.”…

Some schools are recording entire lessons on WhatsApp, while others are incorporating the news into their lessons, one teacher telling an Italian newspaper that she’d asked pupils to come up with stories about “the monster of coronavirus”.

The New York Times gave a broader view:

The speed and scale of the educational tumult — which now affects 290.5 million students worldwide, the United Nations says — has little parallel in modern history, educators and economists contend. Schools provide structure and support for families, communities and entire economies. The effect of closing them for days, weeks and sometimes even months could have untold repercussions for children and societies at large.

“They’re always saying, ‘When can we go out to play? When can we go to school?’” said Gao Mengxian, a security guard in Hong Kong whose two daughters have been stuck at home because school has been suspended since January.

In some countries, older students have missed crucial study sessions for college admissions exams, while younger ones have risked falling behind in reading and math. Parents have lost wages, tried to work at home or scrambled to find child care. Some have moved children to new schools in areas unaffected by the coronavirus, and lost milestones like graduation ceremonies or last days of school….

Governments are trying to help. Japan is offering subsidies to help companies offset the cost of parents’ taking time off. France has promised 14 days of paid sick leave to parents of children who must self-isolate, if they have no choice but to watch their children.

But the burdens are widespread, touching corners of society seemingly unconnected to education. In Japan, schools have canceled bulk food deliveries for lunches they will no longer serve, hurting farmers and suppliers. In Hong Kong, an army of domestic helpers has been left unemployed after wealthy families enrolled their children in schools overseas.

In our stingy US, what happens to the pay of teachers and school administrators and workers, like bus drivers and janitors, who are temporarily furloughed? If they get full or reduced pay, what happens to school budgets when terms are extended to make up for lost days? Parents at home with children might engage in a level of homeschooling, or give their children special projects, but in most cases, that won’t make up for class time.

One consequence in the US will be hunger. Again from CivilEats:

But missing school can mean more than lost instructional time; it can also deprive children of critically needed nutrition. In this country, more than two-thirds of the 31 million students who regularly eat school lunch are economically dependent upon the meal, and low-income kids similarly constitute the majority of the 14.6 million who eat school breakfast and the 1.3 million who receive an after-school supper.

So what will happen to at-risk children if this school-based social safety net falls prey to the growing pandemic?

Yet in communities where the school closures haven’t started, I’m picking up signs of freakout. A friend in Westchester County who used to attend one of the afflicted synagogues was doing a frantic mental scan of recent contacts (the Torah Academy is orthodox and hence does not overlap with her social circles). Her concern is that one of her close family members is pregnant, and pregnancy increases the odds of contracting lung infections like pneumonia.

So social stresses look set to become more acute, and the US, with its hollowed out communities and threadbare safety nets, does not look positioned to cope well.

00 Epidemiology and Transmission of COVID-19 in Shenzhen China: Analysis of 391 cases and 1,286 of their close contacts - 2020.03.03.20028423v1.full
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71 comments

  1. Karen

    This is very helpful, thank you. Thanks to NC’s precient and comprehensive early reporting I contacted my kids’ schools in early February to encourage them to plan ahead to (a) reduce transmission risk at school and (b) come up with distance-learning options in the event of a closure. I followed up several times over the past month and my suggestions were met with complacency and denial. When the denial wore off about a week ago, the answer became: we’re doing what our state health board recommends–even though, as we know, the CDC’s management and guidance has been terrible. It seems that schools (even private/parochial ones) do not feel able/prepared to made decisions independently, given the anticipated backlash from parents. As a result, infections are probably already spreading in schools, and to families (Boston area). My husband is recovering from a virus that attacked his heart muscle in early Jan, threatening his life. Probably not coronavirus (but who knows?) My teenagers have been good sports about taking precautions, despite other kids treating it like a big joke.

    Reply
    1. Larry

      I’m Boston area too. Our schools have no contingency plans that I’m aware of. And crowds for sporting events have not yet been discouraged. Cases are starting to pop up though, so it seems like a matter of weeks before we face this reality.

      Reply
      1. Kurtismayfield

        Remember what happened ten years ago with SARS? That is going to be the playbook.

        #1. Don’t do anything to prevent transmission until..
        #2. The first kid comes back positive for the virus, which will lead to..
        #3. Closing the district for a week.. and the best part..
        #4. The state will let you not make up the days.

        Snow storm, make up the days.. Ice storm.. make up the days.. SARS.. oh we will forgive you.

        Reply
        1. CallMeteach

          Depends on where you are. I’m certain the state will make us make up any missed days. They always do. And it’ll take more than one case to close a school. Probably many more.

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          1. Kurtismayfield

            During H1N1 we had some schools close, and some remain open. The schools that were closed had their days forgiven. Some districts were not happy

            Reply
      2. Polar Donkey

        So the Coronavirus case here in Tennessee was a guy that went to Boston. Came back and infected his family. The school his kids go to is closed.

        Reply
        1. Jack

          Did he catch in Boston and bring it back or leave Tennessee with it and give it to Boston? Lot of unknowns with incubation and transmission periods.

          Reply
    2. Ian Ollmann

      Our county Santa Clara has a dozen or maybe really thousands by now cases — testing? What testing? It would interfere with the re-election.

      The county has released guidance for local businesses to try to limit meetings and cancel large gatherings. It isn’t doing anything about schools. As they say, since kids are not seriously harmed by the disease it is more important that school continue.

      I don’t know about you, but if someone is sick at my house it is almost always because a kid brought it home. They really should have put in some language to allow families with at risk individuals to self select for at home schooling and work. This isn’t us, but it sure is a lot of people.

      Reply
      1. smoker

        Currently, there are 20 verified in Santa Clara County, possibly 21, a Sunnyvale man died at home yesterday and is suspected to have possibly contracted it on a cruise. (Scroll down to Santa Clara County – confirmed cases).

        Reply
    1. Ian Ollmann

      “The final quarantine”
      Quarantine with extreme prejudice
      Nasal profiling
      Community inhumation
      Drunk tank — sleep it off with the fishes

      I met a CHP officer at an event last summer who I bet is ready to take the cuffs off these bad boys, and get some value for his tax money.

      Reply
  2. Krystyn Walentka

    I think this will be nothing but good times for a homeless disabled person like myself. I have friends who will suddenly need my free time to help them with their kids (and people that will need my disability money to help when no one wants to rent their AriBnB.)

    It will feel good to be wanted again.

    Reply
    1. Dirk77

      Your mentioning being disabled causes me to wonder if you or anyone else is getting enough exercise. I mean the virus appears to target the lungs, and, for example, my tai chi teacher always thought that qigong or even just breathing exercises tend to strengthen the lungs. I wonder though if such exercises would help in the short term. They are pretty gentle so I would think so, but I’m no expert.

      Reply
  3. David

    Macron was asked about this yesterday by the French media and made, for him, a sensible point. He said that although France would soon have to declare an actual epidemic (423 cases as of last night and a significant increase over the previous day) the government had decided that there was no point in closing all schools now, or soon. His argument was that many of the health workers who would be needed to fight the epidemic themselves have children, and would be obliged to stay home and look after them, thus potentially bringing the services themselves to a halt after a time. (France’s extensive nursery system would have to be closed as well).
    This strikes me as a reasonable argument, and one with wider implications. What are the second- and third-order effects of school closures on societies where it’s now taken for granted that in the majority of families with children of school age, both parents work?

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      On the surface it does sound reasonable but I think about the numbers here. So an infected kid goes to school and infects several dozen kids (and teachers) who infect their families when they go home. When they go for medical treatment, then several dozen nurses and the like are infected who have to be taken out of the fight for a fortnight. In short, this approach actually floods the hospitals with patients all at the same time whereas if that kid had stayed home,he could only infect his own family. It seems that with Coronavirus, it is mostly a numbers game.

      Reply
    2. Lost in OR

      Chris Martensen at Peak Prosperity states this dilemma better than I’ve seen anywhere else.
      Here’s his latest. https://www.peakprosperity.com/a-crisis-within-a-crisis

      1. The need to get RO below 1.0 requires Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions or tight containment and isolation actions (quarantine).
      2. The need to keep the economy going (or risk a crash).
      3. The need to keep the infection level below that which would swamp hospitals.

      While young people may be minimally affected by the virus, they can certainly be disease vectors for us not so young people.

      Reply
      1. Travis Bickle

        These are among some of the leverage points/ point of conflict to watch.

        Then, do the numbers based on the statistics from Korea if you don’t like the ones from China, extrapolating on to the world population. It’s going to simply be too pervasive not to be economically devastating unless the R0 is driven down.

        That R2+ in China may reflect their culture; in the US there’s simply less touching and crowding, at least outside a handful of big cities. State/local public health is capable of educating at those levels, and at this point they represent the only hope I can imagine.

        The vulnerability of the US in the current political environment comes because this regime, versus that of the Chinese, doesn’t realize it’s better to take their economic lumps at the front-end, stopping this thing before it goes wild. That is certainly what Trump etal are allowing to happen under the radar. (Scratch that: having deliberately turned the radar OFF!)

        What I foresee is a lag of some time in the US before it hits, and hits hard. Until then, individual cases will be effectively shrugged off as one-offs, lumped in with flu/pneumonia.

        Was also interested in noting the revised incubation time noted, of 4.8 days. That would make strangling this thing immediately quite the strategy to take, before it breaks-out into the exponential and overwhelming growth that’s now just a matter of time.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Huh? You need to stay 6 feet away from people to be sure of not being infected by coughing. Are you telling me Americans don’t stand in lines at grocery stores? Sit near each other waiting to see doctors or in the waiting areas of service firms or government offices? How about elevators?

          But the bigger infection vector seems to be surfaces and the virus can live on them for up to 9 days. So shopping cart handles, any ATM or payment device, parking meters, the valet who handles tons of cars handling your steering wheel and key fob….

          Reply
          1. rjs

            the trick is to avoid the cities altogether….in the rural wetlands i live in, i’ll often go weeks at a time without getting close enough to another person to pick up a disease…this winter, i had to go to town to do shopping once, and got the flu three days later, the first time i’d been sick in 13 years

            Reply
    3. HuckFinn

      Hmmm…. that is interesting. About 10 years ago, I worked in the Canadian health care sector, for the feds delivering a project that involved identifying best practices for emergency response plans for hospitals. The long and short, most hospital emergency response plans already included responses to support staff by providing childcare options during crises, to account for schools being closed. It was already rather widely embedded, something we did not initially expect. For those who may be interested, two BPs we did identify that were surprising in different way – local sourcing of food supply because in Ontario, for example, the food was often prepped in Toronto and shipped around the province, as well updating/standardizing generators and other emergency power systems.

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    4. Titus

      A couple of points. The virus itself is mutating constantly with new variations occurring every 3 weeks. There are now at least 3 versions of the virus floating already – all pernicious. People can be re-infected from at a minimum from the new versions and perhaps the original. So, there really isn’t anyway good way to just let in run through the population and be done with it. The re-infection by new variants is a big deal, and extremely troublesome.

      Reply
      1. Travis Bickle

        This is one of those technically important issues I’d want to have real expertise comment on.

        I just read a credible summary of the 1918 flu, and there were a series of waves, or possibly mutations, with it. Much of this history has been reconstructed forensically, given the lack of science at the time. HOWEVER, there were definitely waves. It may have been a case, in my reading, of the bug working its way through virgin hosts who somehow ducked it the first time around. But there were several of these “waves”.

        Towns like Crested Butte in Colorado and a small handful of other towns, had some smart doctors who knew what was up and were largely able to manage it through closing access to their town until it finally “ran its course,” whatever that actually means.

        It does have the same genetic structure as flu, so seasonal vaccines would presumably be possible. But, the mutations you mention, two of which were documented in China, make me want to be educated. Modest genetic variations allow scientists to track the bug, as has happened in Washington State. But…..someone really needs to provide more resolution to this picture.

        Reply
  4. Mr Broken Record

    Serious question – why do this? From what I’ve read, the mortality rate is quite low if you are under 40, low if you are under 50, and really not bad for 50-59 unless you have exacerbating conditions. Why not let the thing run it’s course and spend our resources protecting those over age 60, and younger with exacerbating conditions? Would it be possible to just get it over with and then clean up? Is there really any hope of getting the genie back in the bottle now?

    Reply
    1. Adam1

      While health officials might be publicly saying they want to contain it, I suspect they know it’s not likely at this time. That said, slowing it down buys time and helps spread the impact over time and across limited resources. While it’s mortality rate as a number seems low, in the US you’re still talking in the ballpark of 10 million dead people if everyone catches it. How fast do you want that body count to pile up? That could easily be mass grave material. If it happens too quickly you’d also risk more people dying as care can’t be delivered so some who would have survived end up dead.

      Reply
    2. xkeyscored

      I gather that one effect of school closures in Italy has been grandparents looking after the kids, while parents continue with their paid employment.

      Reply
    3. Brooklin Bridge

      The WHO has declared the death rate to be 3.4% overall. That is not low by any definition. Unless extreme measures are taken, a lot of people are going to die and not just old or infirm people.

      Since Trump has decimated the CDC , as well as due to the nature of our health care system where people will be passing COVID-19 along to others since they can’t afford to go to a medical facility, we are likely going to use your approach of “let this thing run its course.” So, you will likely find out “why do this,” or more accurately, why we should have done it when we had the chance. A hint: many many un-necessary deaths.

      Reply
      1. Ian Ollmann

        Also, don’t get hurt while Glorious Leader is busy ripping off the senior citizen bandaid. You’ll find the hospitals so overwhelmed that they are triaging people who can still breathe on their own to the sidewalk.

        Reply
      2. Travis Bickle

        Best to be careful with the language here; The WHO declared nothing.

        The joint WHO/Chinese CDC report OBSERVED a 3.4 death rate. There were plenty of qualifiers on that figure, mainly due to potential asymptomatic cases. However, their search for cases to test has been as robust as an authoritarian state can make it, and they worked hard to factor all the variables in, so the report minimized how much lower it could be.

        What may be more pertinent for the US is the South Korean experience, with their true western healthcare system. I think there was a link to the figures on NC. Both experiences have something to contribute to our understanding: consider them together.

        With 5300+ cases there were 32 fatalities, making for a overall .6 mortality rate. Assuming any number of infected that weren’t screened would only drive that % down, while fatalities you could pretty reliably expect to should up in the dead column.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, you have this wrong. Don’t get authoritative your supposed facts when you don’t have them right. So stop misleading readers. It’s called agnotology, or informally, “making shit up” and is a violation of our written site Policies, which I strongly suggest you read before commenting again.

          The China CDC’s study released mid February found a case fatality rate of 2.3%.

          The WHO most assuredly DID say the fatality rate was 3.4% based on global data.

          The dispute began March 3 when the head of the WHO announced that the mortality rate for the new coronavirus was 3.4%, which was higher than previously believed and made it far more deadly than the seasonal flu.

          “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 (the disease spread by the virus) cases have died,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a briefing. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.”

          https://www.factcheck.org/2020/03/trump-and-the-coronavirus-death-rate/

          Moreover, the study, as we indicated, says it takes ~30 days for the coronavirus to run its course. Fatalities will usually occur late in this time frame, since the coronavirus typically acts like a normal flu for 5-7 days, then generates viral pneumonia in severe cases.

          With a rapidly rising infection rate, the number of infections mainly includes people at early phases in the infection process, and hence naive computation of mortality rates (deaths/reported cases) are misleading on the low side.

          Reply
          1. likbez

            Yves,

            Estimates of mortality are always too high because a lot of mild and asymptomatic cases are not reported.

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The WHO has explicitly said otherwise, that they are confident that the mild/asymptomatic cases are too few proportionately to make any difference. And they are probably NOT saying that enough pneumonia deaths are not being captured as coronavirus deaths to be more than a wash.

              Pray tell, how do you know better, particularly since it has been well reported that the WHO is under a lot of pressure from China to downplay the severity of the disease? Their incentives would be to play up a claim like yours if they saw evidence of it.

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        2. Brooklin Bridge

          Dr. Tedros, Director General of the World Health Organisation, said that 3.4% of all reported cases have died. This is a CFR (case fatality rate) of 3.4% The British Chief Medical officer claims that approximately 1% of reported cases are fatal. Both of those statements are covered in the first minute or two of Dr. John Campbell’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HpU_x9OgQ4 I leave to the those who watch the first 100 seconds of the video to decide for themselves which estimate Dr. Campbell finds more realistic.
          Spoiler: It’s a case of bite one’s tongue silence, “I’m tempted to say something…,” and speaks volumes.

          What in the world do you mean by “western healthcare system”??? do you mean a “for profit” system as in the United States, or a civilized one such as in Canada, France, UK (still), etc.? Either way, your vagueness on that, like the tenor of your comments seems to exist in happy land. The United States is woefully ill prepared for a pandemic of even a tenth of this mortality rate and it has 350+ million people. No matter how you slice up the numbers from that figure, we are in for a very high rate of infection, a very ill prepared, swamped, health care system that will be unable to handle all the severe cases it is swamped with, and one that few can afford. The death and suffering is highly likely to be far higher a than country like South Korea where anyone can get tested within a day or two.

          Reply
    4. Yves Smith Post author

      The reason the death rate was vastly lower in the rest of China (0.7%) due to Hubei was due to the extreme containment measures before the disease spread rose much. Too many people sick at once overwhelms hospitals, particularly scarce respirator capacity. It also results in many more health care workers getting sick, impairing care for coronavirus and everything else.

      Children in schools infect each other. The sit near each other all day, contaminate surfaces. They infect teachers, school admins, bus drivers, their parents.

      You want the contagion to spread, keeping them in school is a good way to do that.

      And as Brooklyn Bridge pointed out, plenty of younger people have died. I’ve read of cases in the 30s to 50s. Diabetes in particular increases the risk of flu complications like pneumonia. 9.4% of Americans have diabetes.

      Flip side, Macron also has a point re health care workers being parents. But I’m not sure he has a good handle on their increased risk of getting infected if their kids stay in school

      Reply
      1. Karen

        Yves,

        You deserve a million kudos for having identified this thing early, so people like me could understand, plan and prepare. THANK YOU! You deserve 100 million kudos for patiently and compassionately explaining to latecomers what is coming next. None of us really wants to get our mind around something so terrible–something that none of us has seen in our lifetime (nor even heard of, even in our parents’ lifetimes). You did this all at the same time as you are managing the business of this blog, your team, your family, etc.

        We owe you, and the whole NC team, an enormous debt of gratitude.

        Reply
    5. PlutoniumKun

      Two reasons:

      1. Hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed and you will end up with a very high level of mortality, not just from the virus, but from everything else as nobody will get treated properly. Just imagine, for example, what it would do running through an oncology ward.

      2. This is not the flu. There is no reason to think it will blow over once it runs out of vulnerable targets. Its entirely possible (we don’t know yet), that this could become permanently endemic and will strike people repeatedly, maybe even doing more damage with each return. It makes sense to slow it down as much as possible until we can get a handle of what type of a little beast we are dealing with.

      Reply
  5. Martin

    I’d like to see an informed review of the WHO report from China. There was a very useful and informative summary in the Financial Times’s Alphaville blog today under Further Reading. The entire report, quite succinct, can be downloaded at the WHO’s site. I think it could serve as a corrective to a lot of anti-Chinese guff, but does raise a major issue about the extent to which European or other countries can follow their lead in terms of identifying and then isolating the infected.

    Reply
  6. Lina

    So I have a question for those with kids. I’m in SE Mass and a local school district (Plymouth) closed today to deep clean all the schools and buses after a student fell ill post a school trip to Milan.

    My question is – than what? They clean the school but when they open again on Monday, if anyone else attends the school that is asymptomtic (but clearly can still spread the virus), it all gets infected again, yes?

    It’s a matter of time when this happens where I live and I’m trying to get a handle on what to do. Sure, kids may only get mild symptoms if they catch it (from what I’m reading and guessing is that this is HIGHLY contagious so once it’s in a school, game over. Most kids will probably catch it)… but they can then pass it to the rest of the family who may not be so lucky (particularly my parents, the grandparents who are 70+ with heart conditions, etc).

    Do we pull our children from school once we hear of a case even if they don’t close the schools?

    This is getting more and more unnerving. I need a therapist. LOL.

    Reply
    1. Karen

      Yes, this is exactly the problem. I have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with our school administrators to explore options (this is North Shore). I’m thinking that, short of outright closing the school, they will want to provide tele-schooling accommodations for families like ours who have vulnerable members. If enough families choose that–and I’m guessing many will–there’s less stigma associated with it.

      I sent them the article Yves linked, as well as this one:

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        I’d mentioned yesterday, that my friend who is a 7th grade teacher had 4 to 5 absences in each of his classes this week, versus the usual 1 or 2. He also related that the school is being inundated with calls regarding Coronavirus from parents of the students who are primarily Mexican-American.

        I’ll keep everybody posted as to what’s up, as it sounds like a mutiny brewing.

        Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I read a story that looked like it was based on a report from a hospital infection journal (there are entire journals that publish academic studies on hospital housekeeping practices!)

      They say if you clean 2x a day (floors, surfaces, and very important, handles) with disinfectants, you can kill flu viruses on those surfaces.

      But do you thinks schools will do that? That is pretty much the deep clean. Think school desks get cleaned again, for instance?

      Reply
      1. Lina

        Here’s the reality: my daughter is in Kindergarten at public school in MA. In Sept, on the 2nd day of school, I brought in a bag of cleaning supplies for her classroom – hand soap, paper towel, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, Lysol. The teacher was thankful and then went on to tell me she is not allowed to use Clorox wipes, she can only clean with baby wipes (eg, Pampers wipes). She said she likes to keep Clorox wipes on hand because baby wipes don’t really “clean”.

        So I brought in baby wipes, but also continued to send in the harder core cleaning stuff in hopes she’d use it. This was all before Coronavirus.

        Last week, I brought in a bag of supplies and the teacher said, phew, we are almost out of cleaning supplies. Are you kidding me!?! How can they be almost out? That’s criminal in this situation.

        The superintendent is sending emails advising they are being “vigilant” about cleaning, but I emailed asking her to elaborate on this vigilance. How often, are they using bleach cleansers, etc etc. I expect a canned response. And a reminder that the flu is much more of a threat (why does EVERYONE KEEP SAYING THAT?).

        Reply
      2. Travis Bickle

        My mother is in a nursing home that focuses on these sort of Best Practices more than is required, and they’re quite optimistic of what is possible with this bug. It’s largely a matter of money and management.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          With all due respect, that confidence reflects a lack of being on top of facts.

          At the UC Davis ER, 124 hospital personnel were quarantined over a POSSIBLE exposure to an actual case:

          About 124 health care workers — including at least 36 nurses — are under self-quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus patient admitted to UC Davis Medical Center last week, a nurse union said.

          “Despite University of California medical facilities being generally better prepared and equipped to treat challenging medical cases, the recent UC Davis Medical Center COVID-19 case highlights the vulnerability of the nation’s hospitals to this virus and the insufficiency of current Centers for Disease Control guidelines,” the National Nurses United said in a news release Friday.

          https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/29/health/uc-davis-health-care-workers-self-quarantine/index.html

          The case, a student, was also quarantined.

          This was the response in a hospital which I guarantee has more stringent housekeeping standards than any nursing home.

          I can also guarantee that nursing home is unable to quarantine staff or members of the home in case of exposure.

          Management has to be optimistic to keep employees showing up and keep relatives of residents who could keep the resident at home for a month or two from withdrawing residents.

          Reply
  7. jm

    It’s interesting that hardly anyone is thinking about the economic consequences of 10% of aging baby boomers checking out this year.
    Lots of empty homes coming on the market.
    Deaths will be especially concentrated among those in poorest health, e.g. those morbidly obese with diabetes. There will be a lot of life insurance payouts. But a significant drop in Social Security payouts. The survivors will be selected for good health and live longer than current averages. Major expenses for public and private health insurance short term, but lower long term

    Reply
    1. periol

      Some of my darker thoughts on CV have noted that if this spreads through the country, Social Security and pension funds will be able to relax, homes will come on the market and prices will go down, and we could even be looking at generational political turnover.

      I’m not wishing for it in the slightest, but the potential is there.

      Reply
    2. Tom Bradford

      I sometimes wonder if God, giving up on our taking to heart the warnings He has been giving regarding pending environmental collapse, has decided to take more direct action.

      Then I remember that I don’t believe in God.

      Reply
    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Plenty of younger people have died, starting with the 34 year old doctor in China who whistleblew on the coronavirus.

      And you don’t know what the mortality profile will be in the US with our crap healthcare system. Diabetes greatly increases the risk of getting pneumonia with ordinary flus, and 9.4% of Americans have diabetes.

      Plus older people are not boomers. They are the Greatest Generation or the Silent Generation. Keep your ageist prejudices straight.

      Reply
      1. periol

        My folks are both in their 70s, basically oldest edge of the boomer generation. I’m worried for them.

        The CV numbers I’m seeing so far are a general mortality rate of:

        60-69: 4%
        70-79: 8%
        80+: 12%

        3 of my 4 grandparents are alive, all in their 90s. Very worried about them.

        I honestly don’t think it’s ageist taking a realistic look at what seems to be coming down the pike.

        Reply
  8. Parker Dooley

    If closed schools are providing “distance learning” will teachers continue to be paid? Or will “distance learning” be off-shored to some corp. somewhere and teachers be laid off?

    Reply
  9. Ana

    I know someone who is the head of security in the SF Bay for a large big box membership store that all of us in the States are familiar with.

    Their stores in the SF Bay area have been selling out of water, hand sanitizers, gloves, masks and other similar cleaning supplies, along with boxed mac and cheese and similar long shelf life foods.

    Their regional supply center that brings replacement supply in over night by semi trucks has not been able to refill it’s own pallets from suppliers

    He just texted me pics of local big box stores in the Bay with empty shelves and no back stock is available. I can’t find info on sales of things like generators.

    I don’t care what soothing nonsense the TV and feds blather at us. People are trying to get what they think they need to cope with serious disruption.

    Ana in Sacramento.
    By the way, I was one of the paper pushers who designed emergency response and business resumption plans for the State of California. This event was never considered or planned for. I’m retired so it may have been added after I left.

    Reply
  10. NV

    One unforeseen issue with closing middle or high schools: If the parents are not supervising and laying down the law, the viral spread could actually be exacerbated by the school closure.

    I live in Westchester County, where a few nearby schools have been closed and kids told to self-quarantine due to exposure to a family with Covid. The problem is that the parents of these kids are going to work during the day. Many of the unsupervised kids are going out during the day to local food shops and friends’ homes. Last night, many of them went to a basketball game at the gym of a school that is not closed.

    Reply
  11. ShamanicFallout

    As was stated above, this is a potential nightmare scenario on so many levels. I’m a single father of a six year old daughter. My wife/ her mother died a year and half ago to suicide. What are my options during a long term school closure? Like most people, I have to work. What will parents do with their children if/when schools close? Will they stay home? Probably have to if they don’t have support. What about those with no children who no fault of their own are forced into furloughs or whose businesses become so slow they are laid off etc.? Then you start to envision the economic impact. And remember where we live- most people in situations like this are just thrown to the wolves. I am lucky that I have support from my parents for child care and a small measure of security but they are in their 70s now. Doesn’t seem like a good idea to subject them to potential infection.
    The knock on affect of this I think is just beginning. Like an earlier NC article was saying- we’re probably going to need massive economic support for people’s rents, bills, insurance etc.; probably will need major stimulus too. I contacted my senators (Murray and Cantwell) telling them they better get out in front of this before it’s too late. Don’t know if this ever does any good but I tell people to write and call their legislators

    Reply
    1. ForFawkesSakes

      I am deeply sorry for your loss. I hope that you and she are doing as well as you might be under the circumstances. I appreciate your empathy and obvious concerns for others. For what it’s worth, I am raising a glass of somewhat mediocre bourbon up in you and your daughters’ honor tonight, as I send you my best wishes. Be well, brother.

      Reply
      1. ShamanicFallout

        Many thanks. We know that Naked Capitalism is one of the few sane places on the web and you can feel that the people here actually have hearts

        Reply
    2. Lina

      Maybe this situation will create more community where people come together and help each other. We can certainly use more of that.

      Reply
    3. richard

      I will also contact those two ne’er do wells in the same effort. I have more hope from Murray, but they are both really hopeless.

      Reply
  12. Jeremy Grimm

    The yearly flu virus is bad enough to justify measures like promoting hand washing, and changing customs like handshaking. We used to encourage people who were sick to stay home from work, and sick days were provided, The problems working parents face in caring for sick children kept home from school are not new — only the scale of the problem. And what are working parents supposed to do during the summer break in the school year? Our Society can and must do better at caring for its members and their welfare.

    Reply
  13. Harvey

    The one thing that is missing in many official pronouncements around here is treating the general population as adults. Or at least telling the truth about the situation, which is that this is some serious sh*t, especially for those aged 60 and up.
    But no, we have government downplaying the situation, saying things like:
    – Don’t stock up on stuff (hoarders are overreacting idiots)
    – Don’t wear masks in public (totally unnecessary, just wash your hands)
    – The flu kills people too you know (so don’t get too worried).

    So really the message is, Don’t do anything until we say its ok.
    How much better would it be to say to everyone, yes this is serious, yes we will probably quarantine people to stop the spread and save lives, so do what you need to do to cope with a few weeks of being stuck at home.

    And btw, I’ve had it up to here with the people wandering around in public with hacking coughs, mouths half open or fully open. Why don’t these people wear masks FFS? Even if they don’t have CovID.

    Reply
  14. Harvey

    So the two demographics being hit hard by CovID are health care workers and the elderly.

    Our government here has a brilliant plan along the lines of “hey here’s how to solve the staffing problem, let’s bring a whole lot of elderly retired doctors back onto the front lines to care for patients with the virus”.

    Sheer genius.

    Reply
    1. MLTPB

      I think the UK government floated that idea. Not aware if DC has said that.

      Demographically, does this hit urban people more than rural dwellers?

      Reply
      1. Brooklin Bridge

        That’s a really good question. I think Dr. John Campbell covers that somewhere but I forget which video. https://www.youtube.com/user/Campbellteaching

        Obviously, isolation helps rural demographics assuming there is little traffic with more urban areas. I imagine the answer is considerably more nuanced than that, however.

        Reply
  15. dk

    NC’s coverage of coronavirus has been stellar, been thoughtful and informative, and comments as well. I have been sharing the resource with this link that brings up the recent topic-specific posts https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/?s=coronavirus

    The economic and behavioral impacts are visible by satellite showing emission in China in January, and reduction of regular crowds in cultural and commercial centers. We should consider the medium and lont term resource impacts particularly water use from hand-washing, especially with a high temperature + drought year ahead. And if sick one should drink plenty of water, and prefer soups to solid food during illness and first recovery.

    We might want to compare transmission rates between humid and arid climates, monitored outbreaks in Seattle WA and Tucson AZ can give us some opportunities for comparison; and others will surely emerge. Both Wuhan and the Lombardy-Veneto region experiences several periods of very high humidity in the weeks/months immediately prior to first reports. Aerosol and moist-surface transmission rates are generally lower in arid climate.

    Reply
  16. information v. noise

    There is a disconnect between measuring death rates based on the number of those infected versus the number of those infected and displaying symptoms. In addition, the rates vary depending on healthcare availability and quality, population age and distribution, incidence of other underlying health conditions, evolving treatment regimens, mitigation measures employed, mutation rate (the Chinese are now reporting two strains, one more virulent than the other)…and so on. The process is retrospective and constantly changing as conditions change. At best, one might get an approximate snapshot in time. “Typical” flu death rates are supposed to be about .1%. If Coronavirus death rates are .9% (the current low estimate), that is still 9x greater. As healthcare systems are stressed and healthcare providers are sickened, healthcare availability and quality suffer and mortality increases.

    These two links discuss the two different death rate methodologies.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/health/coronavirus-deaths-rates.html

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-rate/a

    It is, of course, too early to determine whether regional or seasonal climate differences make a significant difference in transmission or mortality. Also, much of the underlying data is suspect as some areas aren’t testing for or aren’t reporting new cases, or are actively suppressing this information. Anyone who thinks that somehow India, Africa or South America have magically dodged the corona-bullet (beyond the few reported cases) are kidding themselves .

    Reply

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