Study: More than half of adults with school-aged kids at risk for severe COVID-19 illness

As kids across the country begin the school year, a new study shows more than half of all adults and teachers with school-aged kids are at risk for severe forms of illness from COVID-19.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, determined the school districts need to consider the community risk when making decisions about reopening schools for in-person instruction.

Researchers looked at three groups: employed adults other than teachers, adults employed as teachers and adults living with school-aged children (5-17 years old.) Researchers also looked at race/ethnicity and income variables.

Among teachers, 39.8% had “definite” risk factors for severe illness and 50.6% had “definite or possible risk factors. A very small percentage had cancer, which put them at higher risk. But, nearly 28% had a body mass index of 30 or higher and 4.2% had a BMI of 30 or higher, which put them at higher risk. 8% had a heart condition, which also adds to the risk.

The study found the prevalence of risk factors among non-teachers was similar, though more of them were smokers. 41.4% had definite risk factors; 55.8% had definite or possible risk factors.

“Among the 69.74 million adults living with school-aged children, 41% had definite and 54% had definite or possible risk factors,” according to the study. That includes 25 million who were older than 64, 4.67 million with heart disease, 4.84 million with type 2 diabetes and more than 600,000 with cancer.

Adults living with children in low-income households were more likely to be at risk than those in high-income households; those residing with Black children were at higher risk as well. Families with Asian children or children defined as “other race/ethnicity” were at lowest risk.”

The study acknowledges that while in-person instruction is preferable for education and social development and that children rarely develop severe COVID-19, “school leaders must weigh thee undoubted benefits againsg the risk to adults who care for children.”

“Both the risks and the benefits of schools reopening are likely larger for poor and Black families.”

It concludes, “The resumption of face-to-face instruction is critical for children’s development, health and welfare. However, without adequate safeguards, reopening schools could put millions of vulnerable adults at risk for severe COVID-19 illness.”