Preschoolers are mask-licking germ bombs — yet few catch the coronavirus, data show


The infection starts with a sniffle. Next comes a barking cough. Soon, there’s a fever, maybe vomiting and diarrhea, possibly an ear infection or tonsillitis or pink eye.

These are common symptoms in preschool, where viral outbreaks are as ubiquitous as finger paints and apple juice. In a typical year, an otherwise healthy preschooler will bring home 12 to 18 upper respiratory infections — at least six to eight colds, two cases of croup and, more often than not, a bout of the flu, among others.

But 2020 is not a typical year, and SARS-CoV-2 — the technical term for the novel coronavirus — is no day-care germ. Now, with hundreds of large centers reopening across California, many families are asking: Is preschool safe?

Though scientists can still only guess at why, a growing body of evidence suggests preschoolers are uniquely resilient to the novel coronavirus. Recent studies from the U.S., U.K., Singapore and Australia, among others, suggest they are far less likely to contract and spread the illness than older children, and dramatically less likely to get sick from it than children even slightly older or younger.

Children 18 and under make up about 0.01% of patients hospitalized with the virus, and 0.0005% of associated mortalities, data show. About one and a half times as many children died of the 2018-2019 flu, though that flu killed 80% fewer people overall.

Those statistics are even more striking because unlike infants and older children, hundreds of thousands of preschoolers have been in their classrooms since March. In California alone, 33,773 preschools and day cares are open — almost 80% of the pre-pandemic total — yet state data show that only about 450 students have tested positive for the virus in the past six months. Even when caregivers and parents are counted, the overwhelming majority of preschools and day-care centers have not reported a single case. US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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