Why One Doctor Believes Most Kids Have COVID-19 And Could Be Spreading It Unknowingly

This past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report highlighting the amount of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in children. Among the 149,082 confirmed US cases as of April 2, for which the patient's age was known, 2,572 were in children under 18 years old. That's just 1.7 percent of cases. Considering that so far in our nation, at least three children in that small subset have died from the virus and that five of the 15 children admitted to intensive care were babies, should parents be more concerned?

A pediatrician in New York City — the center of America's coronavirus pandemic — said no, because those statistics were, frankly, inaccurate.

"The problem with children is that they are so asymptomatic that they are spreading it."

"The numbers are totally wrong," Dr. Dyan Hes said in an interview on CBS News. "I think that probably 80 percent of the children have coronavirus. We are not testing children. I'm in New York City — I can't get my patients tested. And we have to assume, if they are sick, they have coronavirus. Most of them, probably 80 to 90 percent of them, are asymptomatic. So, these numbers are so skewed. I think that the mortality rate is way, way less than 0.5 percent for children who have it because it is so prevalent."

So, what does that mean? Dr. Hes had some good news and bad news when it comes to COVID-19 and children.

The good news has been reported countless times before: "You have to remember thousands of kids die from flu a year," she said. "This is much, much less virulent in children."

As for the bad news? "The problem with children is that they are so asymptomatic that they are spreading it," Dr. Hes said. "And our biggest mistake was that we didn't close the public schools when we should have, so the children were the vectors to the teachers, who might be elderly or immunocompromised. They might have diabetes or cancer, but they still had to come to work every day. They still had to take the subway every day."

Thankfully, she has noticed that social distancing is working among her pool of patients. She's seeing fewer patients with fevers. "They might be shedding it," she said, but they aren't spreading it like they were before shelter-in-place mandates were put into effect.

And for those parents who have been self-isolating for weeks and discover their child has a fever, Dr. Hes predicts that "somehow that child probably brought it into the house by playing with a neighbor, or maybe when you went grocery shopping, you brought it in."

For that reason, she recommended that if you leave the house at any time whatsoever, you do your best to protect yourself and others by keeping your children socially distanced. Just as your kid may be unknowingly exposing COVID-19 to you and other family members, they could be spreading it to those they pass by on the sidewalk.

If they show any symptoms whatsoever, Dr. Hes advised that "you just have to keep that child at home for 14 days." And, again, if they have no symptoms, they could still have COVID-19. For that, Dr. Hes is clear: "Socially distance. When they go out, if they're above age 2, they should be wearing masks."

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.