Fact Check: Are Kids Really ‘Almost Immune’ to COVID-19?

Kids are less likely to get sick with COVID-19, but this does not mean they're immune.

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In an interview with FOX News this past week, President Trump said that schools should reopen because kids are “almost immune” to COVID-19. This is blatantly false. In fact, Facebook, which has been reluctant to address Trump’s false statements in the past, even pulled the video of the interview from their site. While it’s true that kids are less likely to get sick with COVID-19, many have still landed in the hospital. Some have died. And kids will continue to get sick and die.

Only about 5 percent or less of COVID-19 cases in the US have been in children, and those who end up in the ICU generally have a shorter stay than adults. Kids with the disease are more likely to be asymptomatic and have milder symptoms than adults. But as of Thursday, 570 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the COVID-related Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, and 10 have died because of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 45 children in the U.S. aged 14 and under have died due to COVID-19.

There are a couple reasons why kids are less likely to get COVID-19 and fall ill with it. One is that they have strong immune responses in general. They also may have had more recent exposure to other coronaviruses and have some amount of protection from fighting off those infections. The novel coronavirus is also probably less able to bind to cells that line the upper respiratory tract in kids compared to adults.

Though kids generally do well with the disease, they can spread it to others who are at higher risk. Children age 10 and up spread COVID-19 just as much as adults — if not more. Experts don’t have good info about how much younger kids spread COVID-19. But infected children probably have just as much virus up their noses as infected adults, so it seems likely that they do get others sick.

Those are the facts. There’s no way around them. And though there may be plenty of strong arguments in favor of reopening schools, children’s “immunity” is not one of them.

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