As Bay Area children return to school, here's when expert predicts rise in COVID-19 cases

Luz Pena Image
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Doctor says it's 'inevitable' children will get COVID in school
A Stanford doctor says it is "inevitable" that children will get coronavirus in school, and predicts when we are likely to see that happen.

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- With more than 35,000 students going back to in-person classes in Oakland, ABC7 News had a frank conversation with Dr. David Cornfield, Head of Pediatric Pulmonary at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford.

RELATED: Bay Area schools plan to stay open in spite of any COVID cases

"I think it's inevitable that there will be more COVID cases among children, but as we know, most children who get COVID do relatively well," Dr. Cornfield said.

The CDC says transmission of coronavirus in schools depends on the local transmission rates.

Luz Pena: "What are some of the scenarios that could be followed to keep children safe in the classroom?"

Dr. Cornfield: "I think there are four straight forward steps that ought to be taken to ensure safety in schools.

  • "The first is to get every eligible person vaccinated, that includes children 12-years-old and older. That includes parents, grandparents in the home, and teachers and staff in the schools.
  • "The second step includes making sure every child and every staff wear a mask in the school in order to mitigate the likelihood of transmitting asymptomatic infection."
  • "The third step means that if there is an exposure to COVID in the community that a child or staff member experiences they stay out of school to mitigate the likelihood of asymptomatic virus will be transmitted to the rest of the classroom."
  • "The fourth is just a logical, common sense step that you space out children in the classroom as much as possible. Provide access to anti-infective agents for kids to wash their hands and make sure there is optimal ventilation."

Dr. Cornfield says the best way to protect children is to make sure their teachers and parents are vaccinated, even though in many cases children will be asymptomatic.

Luz Pena: "Why are children less severely affected by COVID than adults?"

Dr. Cornfield: "We are uncertain as to why children are relatively less affected by the virus than adults, but it's been pretty clear that since the onset of this pandemic children have been less severely affected."

Luz Pena: "Do you think a year of social distancing weakened their immune system?"

Dr. Cornfield: "I don't think it weakened their immune system, but I do think that there may be some long-term effects that we haven't yet teased apart."

Dr. Cornfield says many of the cases won't be severe unless they have preexisting health conditions.

Dr. Cornfield: "Many children are getting COVID, but those with severe infections have been kids who are significantly overweight."

Luz Pena: "With all this in mind, is it safe for children to go back to in-person classes?"

Dr. Cornfield: "I think the overwhelming likelihood is that for any individual child, it's safe to go back to school, however as a collective there are risks... The majority of observers believe that the benefits to children and education significantly outweigh the potential risk of going back to school."

Luz Pena: "When do you think we're going to start seeing the first cases of COVID among children who went back to the classroom?"

Dr. Cornfield: "I think we are going to start see cases within a month."

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