WebMD News Brief

Outbreaks Traced to 3 Utah Child Care Centers

toddler playing with blocks

September 14, 2020 -- Young children in day care can contract the coronavirus and spread it to others, even if they don’t have symptoms, according to a new CDC study published Friday.

People who interact with children inside and outside of child care settings — such as parents, siblings, and teachers — could contract the virus and become sick.

“COVID-19 is less severe in children than it is in adults, but children can still play a role in transmission,” the CDC COVID-19 Response Team wrote.

The team traced the contacts from COVID-19 outbreaks at three child care facilities in Salt Lake County, Utah, between April 1 and July 10. Overall, 184 people (and 110 children) were linked to the three outbreaks, and 31 COVID-19 cases were reported, including 13 kids who all had mild or no symptoms.

Among those, 12 of 13 kids contracted the coronavirus at the child care centers, and they transmitted it to 12 family members at home. Six mothers, a father, an aunt, and three siblings contracted the virus, and one of the mothers was hospitalized.

Based on the results, the CDC recommended that day care centers and day camps have enough testing available, trace contacts of kids who are confirmed cases, and require staff to use face masks, especially when working with young children under age 3 who can’t wear a mask. Centers should also encourage frequent hand washing and disinfect high-touch surfaces often.

In at least two of the three outbreaks, the initial case came from a staff member who tested positive, which then spread to children and other staff members. In one case, the staff member had been in contact with a family member who had COVID-19 and later tested positive after coming to work.

In some cases, a staff member spread the virus to a child, who then spread it to other children, staff, and their parents. In one location, an 8-month-old child contracted the virus, and then both parents got sick and had symptoms.

“Two of three asymptomatic children likely transmitted SARS-CoV-2 to their parents and possibly to their teachers,” the research team wrote. “[Testing] in child care settings regardless of symptoms can help prevent transmission and provide a better understanding of the role played by children in transmission,” the study noted.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on September 14, 2020


CDC, “Transmission Dynamics of COVID-19 Outbreaks Associated with Child Care Facilities — Salt Lake City, Utah, April-July 2020.”

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