Emily Oster

4 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Panic Headlines: Kids and COVID

Emily Oster

4 min Read

Early this week headlines proclaimed, “97,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks in July.” Panic ensued in my inbox and Twitter feed.

“This means we cannot open schools!”

“Kids are actually the MOST likely to get it!”

“Help me! What does this mean?!”

The source of this fact is this (mostly) very helpful report the CDC put out, with all kinds of details. They are combining data from many states on pediatric cases, looking at case counts and hospitalization rates.

(Note: “children” is a broad definition here and varies by state. In most cases it is 0 to 17, although Alabama thinks of all people under 24 as children).

The top line number in the report is that, overall, based on positive tests we have so far, the COVID-19 rate in children is 447 cases per 100,000 children. This means that of every 100,000 children in the US, 447 of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

The report also includes a hospitalization rate, and a death rate. About 2% of cases are hospitalized, for a rate of 9 in 100,000 people. The death rate is 0.13 in 100,000.

The question is: what to make of all this? Here are some reactions, and some responses…

I thought kids didn’t get COVID-19, so this is really shocking.

Kids do get COVID-19. I think a number of policy-makers, including the President, have done a huge disservice by making claims that children do not get COVID-19. They can. But this isn’t news from this study.

I thought kids were less likely to get it

This is true, and not disproved by these data. If you dig into the CDC report you can see that in places which are doing a lot of testing (like New York), kids represent a small share of cases. This suggests they are less likely to get COVID-19 than older people.

But, honestly, these data are not the best way to learn these facts. We have lots of information out of Europe and elsewhere on kids and COVID-19 (check out this summary). The inconsistent testing, poor “child” definitions here, the fact that kids are often asymptomatic…all of this means that these numbers don’t really mean that much. The actual rate is probably higher for this whole age group (because we do not test enough asymptomatic people) and probably lower for younger kids. The data is just incomplete.

Can we learn anything?

For me, the most useful information out of this is the information on hospitalizations and deaths. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are much better tracked than cases, and not nearly as subject to the testing issue. Looking at the hospitalization rate, we can say something about how likely children are to be seriously ill.

And, as I said above, the hospitalization rate is about 9 in 100,000 in these data. How can you contextualize that?

In the 2019-2020 flu season, the hospitalization rate for flu was 94 per 100,000 in children 0 to 4 and 24 in 100,000 in children 5 to 17. This averages to about 47 in 100,000 over the whole age range. This is about 5 times higher than COVID-19. This isn’t a hospitalization rate per case — it’s an overall rate, taking into account both likelihood of getting the disease and severity. Put simply: children were more than 5 times as likely to be hospitalized for flu over this period than for COVID-19.

The flu death rate for children per 100,000 is about twice as high as the COVID-19 death rate.

Kids may be more likely to get COVID-19 than the flu, but they are much less likely to become seriously ill from it. Not just less likely conditional on getting it, but less likely overall.

Okay, great, so that means that schools are fine? Or not fine? What?

In my view, these data are a nothing-burger in terms of schools. In a sense, they tell us things we already know: kids can get COVID-19 but it is typically not serious. But opening schools is about much more than this — it’s about transmission, adults transmitting to other adults, transit to school, etc. On top of the fact that there are benefits to school which are not (obviously) captured here.

Conclusion: please do not panic every time there is a scary headline. Breathe, read the context and think about what we learn.

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SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear. 

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear.

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.
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Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛

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Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛
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#parentdata #postpartum #postpartumdepression #paternalmentalhealth #newparents #emilyoster
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Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common.

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity
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Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

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Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

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Prevention is key! I suggest:
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Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

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Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
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What an amazing group of women, and an honor to speak at the #MomsFirstSummit debunking parenting myths.

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Remember, you are not alone in the potty training struggle! It can be incredibly challenging, so please give yourself some grace.

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👉Comment “Link” for a DM to an article that summarizes all of the best potty training advice we collected.

Remember, you are not alone in the potty training struggle! It can be incredibly challenging, so please give yourself some grace.

#emilyoster #parentdata #pottytraining #pottytrainingtips #toddlertips
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#emilyoster #funnytweets #relatabletweets #parentingjokes #kidssaythedarndestthings

Do you brand things a certain way to get your kid to accept it? Like calling carrots “rabbit popsicles”? Or telling them to put on their “super speed socks” in the morning? Share your rebrands in the comments below! You never know who you might be helping out 👇

#emilyoster #funnytweets #relatabletweets #parentingjokes #kidssaythedarndestthings
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Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #emilyoster #claireholt #parentingstruggles #parentingtips #latenightpanicgoogle

Have you ever panic-googled a parenting question when everyone else is asleep? If so, you’re not alone.

Today is the first episode of a new biweekly series on my podcast: Late-Night Panic Google. On these mini-episodes, you’ll hear from some familiar names about the questions keeping them up at night, and how data can help. First up: @claireholt!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #emilyoster #claireholt #parentingstruggles #parentingtips #latenightpanicgoogle
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☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster

Sun safety is a must for all ages, especially babies! Here are my tips for keeping your littlest ones protected in the sunshine:
☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster
...