A couple of weeks ago we pointed out that schools have become the new breeding ground for COVID-19. More data have allowed us to understand the problem a little better. While people of all ages can get infected with the novel coronavirus, it seems that the younger the person, the less likely they are to get infected or die from the disease. Deducing the real underlying susceptibility to the novel coronavirus is not easy given that the measured infection rate depends on how mobile each group is, how compliant each group of people is with mask-wearing, social distancing, and personal hygiene, and how thoroughly each age group is tested for the virus. With all grades of K-12 back at school or online at roughly the same time in Florida, those in elementary, middle, and high school are 37%, 47%, and 72% as likely as the average Floridian to get infected, respectively. Teens in high school (14-17 yrs old) have been trending higher while younger children’s infection rate has remained more stable. Younger children appear to have stronger immune systems than older teens and young adults that protect them against getting infected, and if infected, they seem to put up a stronger fight against the virus.
Older teens and young adults going to colleges and universities (18-24 yrs old) appeared to have a modestly greater susceptibility than the average Floridian to the novel coronavirus until the last week in August. Since college reopened and some athletics have restarted, this age group has become nearly three times as susceptible to the novel coronavirus. We do not believe that they are intrinsically three times more likely to contract the disease, but their increased mobility and their riskier lifestyle choices make them more attractive vectors for the novel coronavirus.
If schools and universities that have reopened do a good job of testing, contact tracing, and selective isolation of new cases, they should not pose incremental risks to the general population. However, if they follow the same pattern as we have observed earlier this summer when young adults frequented bars and restaurants and then went home and transmitted the disease to their parents and grandparents, they could start a third wave of new infections.