Fact-checking Gov. DeSantis: Can children spread coronavirus to adults?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4Jax Trust Index Team is fact-checking a statement made by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday afternoon during a news conference where he announced Florida’s schools will not be closing again because of the coronavirus.

During the press conference, DeSantis pointed to a study that he says shows there’s no evidence that kids can transmit the sometimes deadly virus to adults.

Here’s why the Trust Index rates the governor’s statement as not true.

Speaking from a Kissimmee elementary school, DeSantis, who has pushed to keep schools open during the pandemic, doubled down on why he says Florida won’t close schools again.

He said that students cannot transmit the virus to their parents or older adults, citing a study that originated in Iceland.

“There’s a study out of Iceland that got virtually no coverage in the United States that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine,” he said. “They did genetic sequencing of their positive PCR test samples and were able to determine which directions the infections were going. They identified exactly zero infections going from a kid to an adult.”

The study, published in June, reads:

“Coronavirus was first diagnosed in Iceland at the end of February. However, data are limited on how SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid 19, enters and spreads in a population.”

But a spokesperson for deCODE genetics, which authored the study, sent a statement to News4Jax from the company’s CEO, contradicting DeSantis’ assertion:

Epidemiologist and scholar Dr. Jonathan Kantor said it’s important to put the almost 6-month-old study into context today.

“Those findings were published very early on,” Kantor said. “The New England Journal study actually did not specifically note that there was no viral transmission from young children to parents.”

In fact, other Icelandic researchers cited in the same National Review Article determined children can indeed carry the coronavirus and transmit it to their parents or other adults.

″So you absolutely can get coronavirus from your child, there’s no question,” Kantor said. “If you look at the data out of Switzerland...they definitely showed that even young children can transmit coronavirus to adults so it definitely is possible. It’s not as likely as adult-to-adult transmission but that may be because of a number of things — kids being less likely to be sick and they’re not coughing as much and not expelling as many viral particles.”

DeSantis also wasn’t clear when he was talking about “school kids.”

Kantor said in Florida, school-age children can vary from age 5-17 or 18-years-old. Different age groups are remarkably different in how their bodies react to the virus.

So, the Governor’s claim that children can’t transmit the virus to their parents or adults, The Trust Index Team is rating that as Not True.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

Children can transmit the virus to adults, but at a much smaller rate than transmission between adults.

After receiving a statement from the deCODE genetics spokesperson, News4Jax reached out the governor’s office, which responded, saying, “The Governor was not saying, nor would he ever insinuate that it is impossible to transmit COVID-19 from kids to adults. Your fact check fact checked a paraphrased remark.”

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