The new school year begins on Monday in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on Thursday it is time in Hamburg and the last week of the summer vacation is also starting in Berlin. However, it is unlikely that the students can return to normal. In the middle of the corona pandemic, probably just before a second wave of infections. On Friday, over 1,000 people in Germany contracted the virus, and the Robert Koch Institute is concerned.
The latest findings from the United States also confirm the assumption that children of all ages can become infected with the pathogen and play an “important role” in the transmission of Sars-CoV-2. The CDC investigated a coronavirus outbreak at a summer camp in southern Georgia – the results of the study released on Friday should fuel the debate about school openings again.
The organizers of the summer camp had taken several precautionary measures to prevent the virus from breaking out. However, the wearing of masks was not one of the participating children and adolescents, nor were interiors regularly ventilated.
During their stay of several days, there were numerous outdoor and indoor activities, including “vigorous singing and cheering,” according to the CDC study. The consequences are enormous.
Around 350 children and young people took part in the ten-day camp, and around 250 employees and volunteers worked on the camp. Of the approximately 600 people present, only 344 had the result of a corona test – 260 of them, or 76 percent, had been infected with the corona virus. This corresponds to almost half of the entire camp participants. The New York Times first reported on the study.
Corona outbreak: Camp only closed after five days
The camp took place in late June, but the CDC did not give the exact location. The statistics of new infections for the state of Georgia show a rapid increase from June 16. There were around 783 new cases that day, but on July 1 the number was already 2,764.
The corona outbreak was noticed at the camp because a teenager showed cold symptoms two days after the arrival of the guests, i.e. on June 23 (1560 new infections in Georgia). He was then sent home by the camp staff. The next day, other camp participants were also sent home.
When the affected teenager received a positive test result a few days later, the camp was closed on June 27 (2038 new infections in Georgia) – five days after it showed symptoms.
Among the infected were 51 children up to ten years of age, 180 adolescents and 29 adults. Due to the lack of test results, it can be assumed that there were more infections, the study said.
Study: Children could transmit virus particularly easily
For Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, the study is an important finding, especially since very few outbreaks in schools or day care centers have been investigated to date. “The fact that so many children at this camp got infected after just a few days confirms the importance of containment measures in schools that are open again for face-to-face classes,” Rivers told The New York Times.
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While the role of children in the transmission of coronavirus has long been considered to be dwindling, the CDC study suggests that children of all ages are susceptible to infection. Even more: you could also transmit the virus particularly easily. Preeti Malani, chief health officer at the University of Michigan, called the study a warning.
A study published on Thursday by Chicago scientists also confirmed that children have a higher viral load than previously thought. They compared the viral load in children in three age groups and found more viral nucleic acid in the upper respiratory tract in children under the age of five than in adults.
Christian Drosten, head of the Charité Institute of Virology, also published a study on the subject and came to the conclusion that there is no evidence that children are not as contagious as adults. The first version of the study was criticized for the statistical methods on which it is based. A revised version confirmed the original results. Drosten then warned in June of unrestricted school openings.
School closes in the US after the first day
Another case from the United States is also cause for concern: a school in Indiana had to be closed after the first day of school due to a CovId 19 case.
Classes at Greenfield Central Junior High School had to be canceled on Thursday after just a few hours because a student had tested positive for the corona virus. The youngster was probably sitting in several classrooms together with other students. The infected person was isolated and a 14-day quarantine was also ordered for all contact persons. It is unclear whether other students have been infected.
Previously, hundreds of federal districts in the United States had delayed their planned school openings to avoid similar scenarios given the rapidly increasing numbers.
In New York City, for example, schools open up with a hybrid concept of homeschooling and on-site classes – students should take part in the latter one to three days a week. But even with this model, depending on the infection in the metropolis, individual cases could lead to the schools having to be closed quickly.
School openings: How well is Germany prepared?
It is also unclear in Germany how well schools will manage to keep the risk of infection low. In Berlin, the health administration decided on a mask requirement in schools on Thursday – but it should not apply in the school yard and in classrooms. And the airport tests for travelers returning from Berlin Tegel Airport also went badly wrong.
Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, the first federal state where school starts again, has developed a nine-page hygiene plan. At primary schools, every child should have at least four hours of instruction a day, at secondary schools there are five. Teachers can have a free swab test done, but there is no obligation to wear a mask.
Hamburg primarily relies on distance rules, teachers receive free visors and FFP-2 masks. However, the students should learn in their previous class community, contacts are reduced to “their own class level”.
It remains to be seen whether a similar scenario will occur in Germany with the opening of schools as in the summer camp in Georgia. According to the current findings on the viral load in children, it would not be improbable. (with dpa)