What state data reveals about COVID-19 in Vermont kids

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Correction: This article has been updated to correct the quote “shall instead of should” from Vermont-NEA President Don Tinney.

More children were shown not to have symptoms of COVID-19 than those with symptoms among youth that tested positive for the virus, according to data from the Vermont Department of Health. 

The department’s weekly summary from June 12 included a section on children, breaking down what numbers reveal of the 64 positive cases and 2,749 tests administered to those 18 years old and younger.

Breaking down the numbers

Symptomatic vs. Asymptomatic

A graph showed 47% of children with COVID-19 showed no symptoms. Those with symptoms were 42% with 11% unknown. 

The number of children exhibiting specific symptoms:

  • Fatigue – 20
  • Headache – 17
  • Cough – 15
  • Fever – 13
  • Loss of smell or taste – 13
  • Muscle Pain – 11
  • Chills – 10

Outbreak

The first week of June a surge of cases were reported in Winooski with some spread to nearby communities. Of the 62 cases reported, 24 were children. 

More: Coronavirus: Expanded COVID-19 testing in Burlington as outbreak unfolds in Chittenden County

The highest number of cases in children at one time was 18, seen on June 3. The highest rate of children’s tests coming back positive was 15% on June 2.

More: Coronavirus: Why have dozens of COVID-19 cases popped up in Winooski?

General stats

  • Older children had a higher rate of COVID-19 than younger children. For 10 to 18 year olds the rate was 7.1 (per 10,000 Vermonters ages 0 to 18); for 0 to 9 year olds the rate was 3.0.
  • Males and females had similar rates of infection, with numbers slightly higher in females. Females were 5.4 compared to males at 4.5.
  • Childhood cases represent 6% of cumulative positive Vermont cases.
  • Children and adults were just as likely to test positive. Of tests administered, 2.3% of children and 2.3% of adults tested positive.
  • The average length of illness in children was 7 days.

“There are no currently reported cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome, hospitalizations, or deaths among Vermont’s children with COVID-19,” the document stated.

Impact on opening schools in the fall

The governor and other state officials announced June 10 the plan to reopen Vermont’s Pre K-12 schools by Labor Day. Schools are expected to receive reopening safety guidelines from the Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health later this week. 

In light of new data, which suggests half of children could be infected without showing symptoms, Don Tinney, president of the Vermont National Education Association (NEA) is concerned. 

“We need to make sure we have screening that’s effective,” Tinney said. “We need a screening process that can catch that 47%,” he said, though he doesn’t know the feasibility of testing every student and leaves that up to the public health experts and school nurses.

The data accentuates the need for physical distancing and facial coverings he said, as well as a need for full time nurses staffed at every school and adults other than bus drivers to monitor social distancing behaviors on school buses and in other scenarios.

He is hoping for specificity and clarity as well as instruction based on public health science to be in the guidelines that are expected to come from the state this week.

Vermont education stakeholders which have given input as the guidelines have been developed include the NEA, the Superintendents’ Association, School Boards’ Association, Principals’ Association, Special Education advocates and others. 

He said compliance to state safety guidelines at the local level could be dependent upon clear language — “shall instead of should,” “must instead of may,” avoiding the phrase “when possible.” They also need specific, science-based recommendations such as which types of disinfectant need to be used, how frequently, etc. to ensure facilities are safe.

He said no one wants to return to in school instruction more than educators, but he cautions that there is “such a burning desire to return to the physical school that I’m concerned people might be willing to compromise on some guidelines.”

The Free Press has reached out to the Agency of Education for response to these numbers and how they influence the decision to resume in person instruction in Vermont’s K-12 schools.This story may be updated.

More: Vermont K-12 schools prepare for fall reopening

Contact April Barton at abarton@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

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