Two days after Gov. Kristi Noem cited research that COVID-19 poses less of a threat to children, the state Department of Health gave more detailed data about how COVID-19 has affected children and teens in South Dakota in a call with reporters Thursday.
The data, which was current as of Monday, shows that in the 1,003 cases among those aged 0-19, 322 were in children ages 0-9 and 737 were in children ages 10-19.
Children have seen “very little difference in symptom presentation” between the two age groups, state epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said, noting that 62% of those 0-9 have had symptoms and 68% of those 10-19 have had symptoms.
Only 24 total children and adults ages 0-19 have been hospitalized for COVID-19, Clayton said, and none have died. Eleven had a chronic condition, such as heart, lung, or kidney disease; diabetes; immunosuppressive conditions; neurologic conditions; or they were a current or former smoker.
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4% of those aged 0-9 were hospitalized, and 2% of those aged 10-19 were hospitalized.
With the state-specific data in mind as districts finalize their back-to-school plans for the fall, Clayton said the “scientific literature does identify that in younger kids, there appears to be less of a risk of transmission from (infected) children to other schoolmates, teachers, staff or individuals within the home.”
“This is an area that we do still need to monitor as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve,” Clayton said.
Kim Malsam-Rysdon, state health secretary, said the DOH is working “very actively” with the Department of Education as well as school superintendents on their plan for reopening, including mitigation strategies.
The DOH is also working to provide the Department of Education with data specific to their communities and schools so they can make informed decisions, Malsam-Rysdon said.
When asked if Clayton and Malsam-Rysdon are planning to send their children back to school this fall, they both said their kids will be back in their classrooms and wearing masks. The DOH has stayed constant on following CDC guidelines on masks while Noem has remained skeptical of the efficacy of masks from reducing the transmission of COVID-19.
Clayton said he and his wife have had their own discussions at home about sending their two elementary school children back into classrooms this fall, and said he plans to provide them with masks as a “general precaution.”
Malsam-Rysdon said she has a son at the University of South Dakota and said her son will comply with the SDBOR decision to require masks in indoor public spaces on campus.