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Juliana Orosi checks in students on the first day of class at Fox Trail Elementary School, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in Davie, Fla. (AP) Juliana Orosi checks in students on the first day of class at Fox Trail Elementary School, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in Davie, Fla. (AP)

Juliana Orosi checks in students on the first day of class at Fox Trail Elementary School, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in Davie, Fla. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 23, 2021

COVID-19 far less dangerous to kids, but wrong to say they ‘are not affected’

If Your Time is short

  • Most children who get COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms; severe illness is rare.

  • More than 3.6 million children in the U.S. have tested positive, and at least 297 have died. 

  • Children can spread the virus to others, even if they don’t have symptoms, which is a key reason for mask requirements in schools.

In a viral video clip, a suburban Atlanta mother who implored her local school board to stop mandating masks for children claimed that kids ages 5 to 9 "are not affected by" the coronavirus.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Children have been less likely than adults to contract COVID-19, and it’s rare for them to become seriously ill with the virus — but to say they are not affected goes too far.

More than 3.6 million children in the United States have tested positive, and at least 297 have died, according to the latest report from American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. One reason schools require masks is to try to prevent kids from giving the virus to other people, which can happen even if kids become infected but don’t show symptoms.

Moreover, because adults are being immunized and new variants of the virus are more likely to infect children, "children are rapidly becoming the major reservoir of COVID in the United States," said Dr. Mark Schleiss, professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School. 

Clip shows woman addressing school board

The two-minute video clip was widely shared by Facebook users, including conservative commentator and Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren, who has 4.8 million Facebook followers. She wrote: "This badass stuck her neck out and said what so many are thinking but are afraid to say! You go girl!!! BURN THE MASKS!"

The clip shows Courtney Taylor on April 15 speaking to the Board of Education in Gwinnett County, outside of Atlanta.

"Every month I come here and I hear the same thing: social-emotional health. If you truly mean that, you would end the mask requirement tonight. Tonight," said Taylor, who identified herself as the mother of a 6-year-old student. "This is not March 2020 anymore. We have three vaccines. Every adult in the state of Georgia that wants that vaccine is eligible to get it right now and everyone one of us knows that young children are not affected by this virus. They’re not. …

"We chose you to make decisions that would be in our children’s best interest, and forcing 5-, 6-, 7-, 8- and 9-year-old little children to cover their noses and their mouths, where they breathe, for seven hours a day every day for the last nine months for a virus that you know doesn’t affect them — that is not in their best interest. And this has to stop." 

The district requires masks for students, staff and visitors. Students can remove masks during meals; they can also remove them outside when "social distancing can be achieved."

"Masks/cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms yet," the district says.

COVID-19 among children

Fewer than 10% of COVID-19 cases in the United States have been among children and adolescents age 5 to 17, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kansas, one of the few states that provides data by age groups for children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 4% of the COVID-19 cases — 12,325 — occurred among children 9 and under. 

"At this time, it still appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects," the report said.

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Most children who become infected have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, but some can get severely ill, according to the CDC and other researchers. And while COVID-19 presents less risk to children and teens generally — and children under 10 appear less likely than adolescents to become infected — children can get sick and can spread the virus, even without symptoms, according to the CDC.

The CDC is also investigating "a rare but serious medical condition" associated with COVID-19 in children called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. in Children. "We do not yet know what causes MIS-C and who is at increased risk for developing it," the CDC says.

Why children react differently to the coronavirus isn’t yet clear, according to the Mayo Clinic.

COVID-19 and schools

Evidence indicates that "in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial" transmission of COVID-19 in the community, and that staff-to-staff transmission is more common than transmission from students to staff, staff to student, or student to student, according to the CDC.

The CDC says multiple studies have shown that transmission within school settings is typically lower than, or at least similar to, levels of community transmission — "when prevention strategies are in place in schools."

As we’ve reported, masks are most effective as "source control," which means preventing infected people from spreading the virus to other people. 

Respiratory droplets carrying the virus are expelled into the air when infected people cough, talk, sneeze or breathe. These droplets quickly evaporate and shrink to become tiny airborne particles. 

But if an infected person is wearing a mask, it will catch and contain the larger droplets in the humid space between the person’s mouth and the mask. In this environment, droplets take nearly a hundred times as long to transform into airborne particles. So, masks reduce the spread of infectious particles.

This makes a meaningful difference when everyone is wearing masks. If you’re the only one wearing a mask in a public location, it won’t necessarily protect you from being infected. But if everybody is wearing a mask, your odds of infection will go down by quite a bit. 

Public health experts have based their guidance on a variety of scientific studies: systematic reviews, ecological studies and laboratory studies. 

Our ruling

A woman in a video clip widely shared on Facebook stated that children ages 5 to 9 "are not affected by" the coronavirus.

Most children who get COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms; severe illness is rare.

But more than 3.6 million children have tested positive and at least 297 have died. And children can spread the virus to others, even if they don’t have symptoms, which is a key reason for mask requirements in schools.

We rate the statement Half True.


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Our Sources

Facebook, post, April 22, 2021

Gwinnett County Board of Education, board meeting video (2:21:45), April 15, 2021

Daily Caller, "Mother Goes After School Board In Georgia For Forcing Children To Wear Masks," April 22, 2021 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19 in Children and Teens," March 17, 2021

Kansas Department of Health and Environment, "COVID-19 Cases in Kansas," accessed April 23, 2021

Washington Examiner, "Mother goes viral slamming face mask requirements for children: 'Take these masks off of my child,’" April 22, 2021

PolitiFact, "Mask skeptics ask questions. PolitiFact answers," March 16, 2021

Emerging Infectious Diseases, "Contact Tracing during Coronavirus Disease Outbreak, South Korea, 2020," October 2020

Mayo Clinic, "COVID-19 (coronavirus) in babies and children," April 2, 2021

Full Fact, "Viral influencer video full of false Covid-19 claims," Jan. 26, 2021

American Academy of Pediatrics, "Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report," (and Table 2C) April 19, 2021

Pediatrics, "Factors Associated With Severe SARS-CoV-2 Infection," March 2021

Acta Paediatrica, "Systematic review of COVID-19 in children shows milder cases and a better prognosis than adults," June 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19 Trends Among School-Aged Children — United States, March 1–September 19, 2020," Oct. 2, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Science Brief: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 schools," March 19, 2021

Email, Lisa Black, spokesperson, American Academy of Pediatrics, April 23, 2021

Email, Gillian Ray, spokesperson, Children’s Hospital Association, April 23, 2021

Interview, Dr. Mark Schleiss, professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, April 23, 2021

Email, Dr. Sonja Rasumussen, a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the University of Florida, April 23, 2021

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COVID-19 far less dangerous to kids, but wrong to say they ‘are not affected’

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