Keen to send the nation's kids back to reopened schools, President Donald Trump has called children "virtually immune," "essentially immune" and "almost immune" to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
But a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores how wrong those assertions are.
Children can catch, suffer and die from the coronavirus, according to the report released Monday. Between March 1 and Sept. 19, at least 277,285 schoolchildren in 38 states tested positive for the virus.
And 51 of them - including 20 children between ages 5 and 11 - died of COVID-19. In all, 3,189 children between 5 and 17 were hospitalized.
School-aged children with asthma and other chronic lung diseases accounted for roughly 55% of those who tested positive, and almost 10% had some kind of disability.
As with adults, Latino children far outpaced their share of the population in testing positive, accounting for 46% of those who tested positive during the 6 1/2-month period studied by the CDC.
And although Trump has said he does not believe school-aged children get sick from the virus, at least 58% of those who tested positive - and possibly more than 9 in 10 - had symptoms at the time they were tested, the CDC reported.
The new research, released Monday as a CDC "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report," is one of the public health agency's first efforts to count and characterize coronavirus infections in the nation's school-aged population. As a new school year resumes and some schools reopen to students, the new accounting will provide a "critical" baseline that will let public health officials discern trends in infections among school-aged children.
Dr. William Hanage, a Harvard public health expert, said it's no surprise that older schoolchildren, who are more independent and less likely to maintain social distance, would have higher rates of positivity to infection. At the same time, he added, the report "almost certainly underestimates cases in the younger age group."
When and where schools reopen and children return to classrooms, opportunities for transmission will escalate. And this report "underlines that kids do transmit," said Hanage. The result - a rise in cases among young learners - is predictable, he suggested.