The first multicenter study to investigate the spread of Covid-19 in daycare centers suggests that preschool-age children are not superspreaders of Covid-19.
When the right public health measures are implemented, daycare centers are safe for both children and staff members, the researchers say.
The study was published Monday in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal and conducted in the French cities of Paris, Rouen and Annecy between June 4 and July 3, 2020 — up to two months after France’s national lockdown.
The researchers collected serology data on 327 children and 197 daycare staff across 22 daycare centers and a comparison group of 164 “hospital staff who kept working during the lockdown, were not occupationally exposed to infants, and were not directly exposed to patients with COVID-19,” according to the researchers.
The study used data from rapid antibody tests and found the prevalence of antibodies for children at daycare centers was only 3.7%, well below the national rate of 10% found in adults in the same time period.
The 14 children that were found to have antibodies came from 13 different centers, and the two children from the same center never had contact.
This suggests that with the right protocols in place, transmission between children is uncommon, the researchers say.
At these daycare centers, face masks were worn by staff, enrollment and staffing were reduced, children who became symptomatic were excluded, staff conducted regular temperature checks and reinforced hand hygiene and everyone practiced physical distancing.
Additionally, the researchers found that daycare staff were no more likely to contract Covid-19 than the general population.
Dr. Camille Aupiais, a pediatrician who contributed research to the study, said:
Our results suggest that daycare centers are not focus points of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection and that young children are not spreading the virus widely in these environments.
“These findings should be reassuring for parents and staff at daycare centers, especially given that the children included in the study have parents who are keyworkers and are thought to be at higher risk during the first wave of the epidemic.”
The researchers say one limitation to the study is that data was collected before the emergence of coronavirus variants that some experts suggest may be more transmissible in children.