School Children and COVID-19

We are using the latest research to make decisions about how we should operate our schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to follow new data and science as it is available to learn more. The current research summarized below still presents an early and limited picture of children and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn More About the 2020-2021 School Year

Children may be less likely to have and spread COVID-19 than adults

  • Children, particularly younger children, may be less likely than adults to become infected with COVID-19, even after being exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Newer findings suggest that adolescents and adults may be equally likely to become infected.
  • Newer findings suggest that because of mild to no symptoms, there may be an undercount of actual number children infected and more cases in children have been detected recently.
  • Young children can spread the virus, however children under 10 years of age may be less likely to spread COVID-19 to others than older teens and adults.
  • Newer findings suggest that younger children may be more likely to get COVID-19 from an adult than to spread an infection to an adult.
  • Spread of COVID-19 is more likely within a household than not within a household (such as school).

Most children have very mild illness with COVID-19, but some have more severe symptoms and we are learning more about children who are at higher risk for infection or more severe illness

  • Children infected with COVID-19 generally have mild or no symptoms.
  • Although rare, some children can have severe disease, need hospitalization, and have developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) after exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Our African American and LatinX communities and children are disproportionally affected by COVID-19.

Data from other countries does not show a large spread of COVID-19 associated with schools being open for instruction

  • International data that are available show limited transmission in schools when a child was infected.
  • While there have been some specific examples of spread in school, schools have not seemed to play a major role inthe spread ofCOVID-19, especially in areas with low viral transmission, and few school outbreaks have been reported.
  • Overall, countries that have reopened their schools after infection rates had gone down did not see large rises in infection at a population level.

Less than 6 feet of social distancing may still be protective for children

  • The CDC still recommends 6 feet of social distancing as the most health-protective distancing.
  • However, in low- and medium-risk settings, 3 feet of social distancing may lead to a similar risk for the spread of COVID-19, especially when people wear cloth face coverings. Because of decreased risk of spread among children, schools may be considered low or medium risk.
  • Keeping students spread out with more space in between them provides additional protection.

View this Fact Sheet with Additional Resources in English and Spanish