As schools reopen, scientists say some children could spread COVID-19 even if they already have the antibodies


As schools and colleges reopen across the country, scientists say social distancing remains a critical public-health response to COVID-19. New research released Thursday sheds more light on children who test positive for COVID-19, and the contagiousness of coronavirus. Children often remain asymptomatic or display very few symptoms, and the research also offers insights into the course of the disease at an important time for families and communities.

A study published in the latest edition of the Journal of Pediatrics finds that the virus and antibodies can coexist in young patients. “With most viruses, when you start to detect antibodies, you won’t detect the virus anymore. But with COVID-19, we’re seeing both,” says Burak Bahar, lead author of the study and director of Laboratory Informatics at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. “This means children still have the potential to transmit the virus even if antibodies are detected.”


‘Children still have the potential to transmit the virus even if antibodies are detected.’


— Burak Bahar, director of Laboratory Informatics at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The researchers reviewed an analysis of 6,369 children tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and 215 patients who underwent antibody testing at Children’s National between March 2020 and June 2020. Out of these 215 young patients, 33 tested positive for both the virus and antibodies during the course of the disease. Nine of those 33 also showed presence of antibodies in their blood while also later testing positive for the virus.

What’s more, researchers found that patients aged 6 years through 15 years old took a longer time (a median time of 32 days) to clear the virus, meaning that it had left their systems, versus patients aged 16 years through 22 years old (a median of 18 days). Females in the 6 to 15 age group also took longer to clear the virus than males: A median of 44 days for females versus 25.5 days for males. “We can’t let our guard down just because a child has antibodies or is no longer showing symptoms,” Bahar said.

The study also found that 25 days was the median time from viral positivity to negativity — the moment when the virus can no longer be detected; it took 18 days to go from viral positivity to seropositivity — or the presence of antibodies in the blood — and it took 36 days to reach adequate levels of neutralizing antibodies. These “neutralizing antibodies” are important in potentially protecting a person from reinfection of the same virus, the researchers wrote.

Four important caveats: Firstly, the study looked at a relatively small number of children. Secondly, the next phase of research will be to test whether coronavirus that is present along with the antibodies for the disease can be transmitted to other people. Thirdly, scientists need to explore whether antibodies correlate with immunity and, fourthly, they need to establish how long antibodies and potential protection from reinfection actually lasts. As such, Bahar reiterates the need for social distancing.

Related:Dr. Fauci: It’s ‘conceivable’ we’ll know by November if a safe, effective vaccine is coming

A separate study published this week in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that children can spread SARS-CoV-2, even if they never develop symptoms or even long after symptoms have cleared. It found a significant variation in how long children continued to “shed” the virus through their respiratory tract and, therefore, could potentially remain infectious. The researchers also found that the duration of COVID-19 symptoms also varied widely, from three days to nearly three weeks.

A recent systematic review estimated that 16% of children with a SARS-CoV-2 infection are asymptomatic, but evidence suggests that as many as 45% of pediatric infections are asymptomatic, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in children are similar to other infections and noninfectious processes, including influenza, according to the CDC.


A separate study in JAMA Pediatrics said children may spread SARS-CoV-2, even if they never develop symptoms or even long after symptoms have cleared.

Under pressure from the teachers union to delay the start of the school year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that in-person classes will be pushed back until Sept. 21, 11 days later than planned. Remote learning, also originally slated to start on Sept. 10, will now commence on Sept. 16. Other countries have not fared so well with school reopenings. Israel, which also reopened schools this week, experienced outbreaks when it reopened schools on May 17.

Bahar also advised teachers and students to wear masks. To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, it may be preferable to use high-quality cloth or surgical masks that are of a plain design instead of face shields and masks equipped with exhale valves, according to an experiment published Wednesday by Physics of Fluids, a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal covering fluid dynamics that was first established by the American Institute of Physics in 1958.

As of Sunday, the U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,262,989), followed by Brazil (4,123,000), India (4,113,811) and Russia (1,022,228), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. California became the first state in the country to surpass 700,000 confirmed cases. COVID has killed 188,711 people in the U.S. Worldwide, cases are near 27 million.

AstraZeneca
AZN,
-1.07%

, in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE
BNTX,
-1.19%

and partner Pfizer
PFE,
-0.11%

; GlaxoSmithKline
GSK,
-1.38%

; Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.64%

; Merck & Co.
MERK,
-0.95%

; Moderna
MRNA,
-3.45%

; and Sanofi
SAN,
+5.09%

are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index
DJIA,
-0.56%
,
the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.81%

and the Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-1.26%

ended lower Friday. Doubts about traction for further fiscal stimulus from Washington may be one factor discouraging investors who have been betting on Republicans and Democrats striking a deal to offer additional relief to consumers and businesses.



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Asymptomatic children who contract COVID-19 may ‘shed’ coronavirus for weeks


Should families double down on social distancing now that their kids are going back to school?

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that children can spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, even if they never develop symptoms or even long after symptoms have cleared. It found a significant variation in how long children continued to “shed” the virus through their respiratory tract and, therefore, could potentially remain infectious. 

While the virus was detectable for an average of about 2.5 weeks in the entire group, a significant portion of the children —about a fifth of the asymptomatic patients and about half of the symptomatic ones — were still shedding virus at three weeks, meaning they were releasing it into the environment. The researchers also found that the duration of COVID-19 symptoms also varied widely, from three days to nearly three weeks. 

A recent systematic review estimated that 16% of children with a SARS-CoV-2 infection are asymptomatic, but evidence suggests that as many as 45% of pediatric infections are asymptomatic, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in children are similar to other infections and noninfectious processes, including influenza, according to the CDC

Such research comes at an important time for communities. Under pressure from the teachers union to delay the start of the school year.

While children infected with SARS-CoV-2 are less likely than adults to develop severe illness or complications, they are still at risk of becoming ill. “Recent COVID-19 hospitalization surveillance data shows that the rate of hospitalization among children is low (8 per 100,000 population) compared with that in adults (164.5 per 100,000 population),” the CDC said.

Such research comes at an important time for families and communities. Under pressure from the teachers union to delay the start of the school year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that in-person classes will be pushed back until Sept. 21, 11 days later than planned. Remote learning, also originally slated to start on Sept. 10, will now commence on Sept. 16.

Other countries have not fared so well with school reopenings. Israel, which also reopened schools this week, had less success when it reopened schools on May 17 amid high temperatures that made it difficult for students to wear masks, full classrooms that made social distancing near-impossible and, perhaps, the illusion that the virus had been vanquished, creating a false sense of security.

The risk, as Israel discovered, is providing an environment where children unwittingly spread the virus to each other, which can lead to community transmission. That’s particularly worrying for those who have underlying conditions, and the elderly, who are more vulnerable to the most severe effects of the virus. Community transmission also makes contact tracing more difficult.

A school outbreak can lead to community spread, hence the need for staggered school reopenings, social distancing and reduced class sizes. “If we find a certain number of symptomatic people testing positive, we expect the same number of asymptomatic carriers that are much more difficult to identify and isolate,” said Enrico Lavezzo, a professor in the University of Padua’s department of molecular medicine, who coauthored a study released in June of a quarantined town in Italy.

Children may shed virus for weeks

The latest study in the peer-reviewed JAMA Pediatrics focused on 91 pediatric patients at 22 hospitals in South Korea. “Unlike in the American health system, those who test positive for COVID-19 in South Korea stay at the hospital until they clear their infections even if they aren’t symptomatic,” said Roberta DeBiasi, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at the Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The patients were identified for testing through contact tracing or after developing symptoms. About 22% never developed symptoms, 20% were initially asymptomatic but developed symptoms later, and 58% were symptomatic at their initial test. The hospital staff tested them every three days on average, providing a picture of how long viral shedding continues over many weeks.

Among the important findings from the study: Children, a group widely thought to develop mostly mild disease that quickly passes, can shed virus for weeks, DeBiasi and Meghan Delaney, chief of the Division of Pathology and Lab Medicine at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., wrote in a commentary piece to accompany the study in JAMA Pediatrics. 

There were a large number of asymptomatic children: About one-fifth of the group of children studied across 22 South Korean hospitals.

Other key points: Even asymptomatic children continued to shed coronavirus after testing positive, making them potential key vectors. In this study at least, there were a large number of asymptomatic patients: About one-fifth of the group in South Korean hospitals. Researchers said the study provides important insight on the role children might play in the spread of COVID-19.

But the study also had obvious limitations. One of these relates to the link between testing and transmission. A “positive” or “negative” result may not necessarily mean that a child is infectious, “with some positives reflecting bits of genetic material that may not be able to make someone sick,” or, on the other hand, “negatives reflecting low levels of virus that may still be infectious.”

Researchers may have tested different parts of the respiratory tract and different testers may yield different results. It’s unclear whether symptomatic children shed different quantities of virus than symptomatic patients. They tested for the active virus — not antibodies — excluding those who may have had and cleared an asymptomatic or mild infection, an important factor for understanding herd immunity.

However, DeBiasi said studies such as these can add to the knowledge of public-health efforts being developed and refined to bring COVID-19 under control. “Each of these pieces of information that we, our collaborators and other scientists around the world are working to gather is critical for developing policies that will slow the rate of viral transmission in our community,” she said.

Coronavirus update

As of Thursday, COVID-19 had infected 26,118,288 people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed 864,801. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,131,344), followed by Brazil (3,997,865), India (3,853,406) and Russia (1,006,923), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

Cases keep rising in the U.S. with California becoming the first state in the country to surpass 700,000 confirmed cases; infections hit 721,281 there as of Thursday with 13,317 COVID-related deaths. New York has recorded 436,218 infections and the highest number of deaths in the U.S. (32,972). COVID has killed 186,293 people in the U.S.

AstraZeneca AZN, -1.10% , in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE BNTX, -5.61% and partner Pfizer PFE, -2.40% ; GlaxoSmithKline GSK, -1.61% ; Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -1.23% ; Merck & Co. MERK, -0.31% ; Moderna MRNA, -2.41% ; and Sanofi SAN, -1.34% are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index DJIA, +0.75%, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.75% and the Nasdaq Composite COMP, +1.39% were trading lower Thursday. Doubts about traction for further fiscal stimulus from Washington may be one factor discouraging investors who have been betting on Republicans and Democrats striking a deal to offer additional relief to consumers and businesses.



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Bill Ackman on saving capitalism: Every child in the U.S. could be given enough money at birth to become millionaires by retirement


Bill Ackman has an idea for saving the system that made him a billionaire.

The Pershing Square chairman told investors in a recent note that, to preserve capitalism, steps need to be taken to close the inequality gap. One possible measure: investment accounts for every child.

Under Ackman’s plan, each child born in the U.S. would receive $6,750 in a government-funded basket of in index funds that could only be tapped at retirement. Assuming 8% returns over 65 years from birth to retirement, that total would ultimately exceed $1 million, and it would cost the government about $26 billion a year, if the birthrate holds.

“Compounded returns over time are indeed one of the great wonders of the world, and every day we wait to address this issue, the problem looms larger,” the hedge-fund manager wrote.

He added that a government-led push for equities-investing accounts could “encourage greater financial literacy” and spread the stock-market’s gains across a wider swath of the U.S. population.

“Americans that have no ownership in the success of capitalism, and who are suffering economically, are more motivated to turn toward socialism or other alternatives,” he said in the note.

Meanwhile, Ackman’s strong showing this year continues, thanks in large part to a well-timed bearish bet on corporate bonds in early 2020. That investment yielded a profit of more than $2 billion during the March coronavirus meltdown in the stock market.

Currently, Pershing Square’s investments are dominated by seven stocks: Lowe’s
LOW,
-0.35%
,
Restaurant Brands
QSR,
-1.66%
,
Chipotle
CMG,
+1.52%
,
Agilent
A,
+0.57%
,
Hilton
HLT,
-2.35%
,
Starbucks
SBUX,
-0.47%

and Howard Hughes
HHC,
-4.13%
.

As for the broader market, stocks got off to a rough start this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.77%

and S&P 500
SPX,
-0.03%

both moving lower. The Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
+0.76%
,
however, managed to break into positive territory in Monday’s trading session.



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I didn’t get my stimulus check because I owe back child support. It’s not fair. My stepchildren rely on me — what can I do?


Dear Moneyist,

Stimulus checks should not be taken for back child support.

Not all people who don’t pay or are behind on child support are deadbeat parents. Sometimes s— happens in life and we are forced to miss payments due to various reasons: losing a job, family emergencies, health reasons, etc. There are legitimate reasons why some parents can’t pay.

Everyone’s situation is different. I was unemployed for a year. Up until that happened, I paid on time every month for six years. As soon as I got back to work, I started paying again. So I got back on track and continued to make payments for three years consecutively, and I was on time every month.

I switched jobs and missed several months. Once I got back on track, the payments started. I’m currently making payments and I’m current for the last year. I went to court to address the back support; we agreed I would pay an extra $50 a month until the $16,000 in back support is paid.

Related: ‘I’m astounded that I have NOT received my payment’: When will I receive my stimulus check?

Out of 11 years of paying child support, I’ve missed 1.5 years. So I feel like it is unfair for the government to take my stimulus check. My girlfriend of seven years is a dialysis patient and on disability; she has two kids from a previous marriage. They call me Dad and I take care of them.

She’s not working because of health reasons, so I’m the one supporting us. Luckily, I’m still working and my job is considered ”essential.” I was really counting on that to help us out. I’m doing the right thing. I am trying to get back into the black. After all, something is better then nothing.

What’s your take on this situation? I know there must be a lot of people who are really upset like me and were really counting on the $1,200 stimulus payment to provide for their families. I sure hope that I will receive the next stimulus check if one gets approved.

Fed Up and Sick of the Bureaucracy

Dear Fed Up and Sick,

Life isn’t fair. Once we accept that salient fact, the rest should — in theory — be a doddle. The pandemic isn’t fair. Millions of hardworking people losing their jobs because of a pandemic that started thousands of miles away, in a food market in Wuhan, China is not fair.

Your former wife and children not receiving their child support is not fair. Your receiving no stimulus check because you lost your job, let’s assume, is not fair. Your stepchildren doing without is not fair. And the 583,450 people who died alone from COVID-19? That too is not fair. None of this is fair.

So how does one assess your situation? You shoulder a lot of responsibility. Your girlfriend is on dialysis, and you have been on top of your child support when you were working full time. I don’t know whether you could have set money aside every week. I assume you did the best you could.

To answer your question, I only need to shift the perspective. Take a moment to sit in your former wife’s chair at her kitchen table, or step into your children’s shoes. I imagine they don’t think it’s fair that your child support payments never arrived when they were supposed to.

Related:I told my family I boycott Chick-fil-A over its support of anti-LGBTQ causes — now they ‘like’ it on Facebook and go there for lunch

The pandemic presents an opportunity for you to take responsibility for the unpaid child support and to help your biological children. They too probably had to do without lots of things while you were out of work. This $1,200 is an obvious way for you to make some progress in paying off this debt.

Your biological children are your No. 1 financial priority as a father. At least, they should be. Whether or not you agree, the law ensures that you must pay them first. If you truly believe this situation isn’t fair on you, it makes me wonder: Who is the adult in this situation — and who is the child?

Child support is a very emotive issue, so I want to be 100% clear. I am not saying you are a deadbeat dad. You can be a father and carer of your partner’s children who falls behind on payments, and be a good guy who does his best to keep the show on the road. All of those things can be true.

However, it would have been more heartening to read an acknowledgment that your children too are missing out when those child-support checks stop coming. They too are living through a pandemic. In the meantime, I wish you and your family — all of your family — the very best of everything.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here

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Pressley rips DeVos’s push to reopen schools: ‘I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child’



“I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child.”

That’s Rep. Ayanna Pressley, ripping U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Sunday over the Trump administration’s efforts to restart schools this fall.

DeVos appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning calling for schools to reopen, despite surging coronavirus cases around the nation.

“There’s going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” DeVos told CNN. “And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis.”

CNN host Dana Bash pressed DeVos to clarify the federal government’s plans to reopen schools safely, and what it plans to do if there are outbreaks at schools.

DeVos dodged the question, saying “every school should have plans for that situation,” while avoiding saying what, if anything, the government recommends those plans to be.

In a tweet shortly after the interview aired, Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, tore into DeVos.

“[Betsy DeVos] you have no plan,” Pressley said. “Teachers, kids and parents are fearing for their lives. You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers. I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child.”

Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Katie Porter, both California Democrats, sent a letter to DeVos and the heads of the CDC and Health and Human Services Department saying they were “deeply disappointed” by the lack of federal reopening guidelines for school districts. “You have wasted months, without apparently joining forces to conduct science-based research on the best ways to re-open schools or continue educating students,” they said, calling for specific plans for the upcoming school year.

On Sunday, a number of public health officials urged a cautious approach to reopening schools, saying decisions to open should be based on health data, not politics.

While some argue that children appear to be less at risk of catching and spreading COVID-19, Israel recently saw a nationwide spike in cases after reopening its schools.





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