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Expert: Kids may spread COVID at high rates

Science Shows Children May Spread COVID-19 at High Rates; How Air Filtration in Schools Can Help
Posted on 01/21/2021
Child with mask

As COVID-19 cases have continued to steadily increase in San Diego County over the past three months, scientific studies are suggesting children may be much more likely to spread the virus than previously thought.

Dr. Kim Prather, one of the nation's leading experts in aerosols and director of the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment, recently spoke with KCBS Radio to discuss the impact schools can have on the spread of COVID.

While acknowledging the importance of safe and effective strategies to open schools, Prather said schools should stay closed when there is a high rate of community spread; one recent study found that closing educational institutions was the second most effective strategy out of all worldwide COVID-19 government interventions.

“Around the globe people have looked at the effects of school closures on community transmission," she said. "When schools have closed they’ve seen that has a huge effect on reducing the spread in the community."


Another study found that without mitigation, kids aged 12 to 16 may be seven times more likely to bring the virus home to their families than kids 17 and older.

“While they may not get as sick, they may not show symptoms, they are the ones that can contribute to the spread," she said.


Locally, San Diego County has recorded nearly 35,000 cases of COVID among people in the 0-19 age bracket.

When San Diego Unified announced plans for reopening last year, it made news for adopting safer standards than those of California - which included outfitting classrooms with MERV 13 air filtration units.

The MERV 13 filtration was one of several safety measures the district has worked to implement following the recommendations made by a panel of UC San Diego experts.

This means every San Diego Unified classroom without good natural ventilation will have a MERV 13 air filter or a portable air cleaner, everyone will wear masks and physical distancing will be enforced, as seen in this video from Foster Elementary School.


For more information on the district's efforts to safely reopen schools, see https://sandiegounified.org/covid-19_status.