Oct. 25, 2023 — Child-care centers are not significant sources of COVID-19 transmission, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine say that kids with COVID-19 could be treated like kids with similar respiratory illnesses.

“We need to have an open discussion at the national level about the benefit of recommending SARS-CoV-2 testing for every child with respiratory symptoms who attends a child care program,” said lead author Timothy Shope, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in a press release.

“No one wants to give up on controlling SARS-CoV-2 spread, but focusing on testing and long exclusion periods for children in childcare centers appears to be unnecessary, while subjecting families to the expense of frequent testing, absence from work and lost wages, and loss of education and socialization for children,” he said.

The study was published in the JAMA Network Open.

It found that children in child-care centers don’t spread COVID-19 at significant rates to caregivers or other children at the centers, or to people they live with. 

The CDC currently suggests that children with congestion, runny nose, or other respiratory symptoms be tested for COVID-19, the press release says. If they test positive, they should stay home for at least five days.

“For influenza and respiratory syncytial virus — equally serious respiratory viruses that infect and spread among children in child care centers at higher rates — recommendations are for the child to return to child care when symptoms are resolving and they have been fever-free for 24 hours,” it says.

Researchers followed 83 children in 11 childcare centers in two cities and their household contacts (118 adults and 16 children), plus 21 adult childcare workers. The research went from April 22, 2021, through March 31, 2022. Participants were tested weekly and completed diaries about symptoms.

Within centers, transmission rates were just 2% to 3%.