COVID19 update, May Day edition: reduced contagion of and from children; reopening schools in Israel; miscellaneous updates

(1) De Standaard (in Dutch) reports on a study by the Dutch institute for public health about the infection risks from and to small children. I had intuitively expected that they would be mostly asymptomatic spreaders with a minority of mild overt cases (the few exceptions of young children who went into cytokine storm appear to be ‘man-bites-dog news’: newsworthy precisely because they are rare). Now the study[s main findings, mostly based on contact tracing, can be summarized as follows:

  • children are much less likely to be infected (symptomatically or asymptomatically) than adults if both are exposed to the same infection source
  • if they are infected, viral swabs of their throats show similar virus levels as in adults, but they cough less, and owing to smaller lung volumes, coughs can’t project as far

Needless to say, this has implications for whether it is safe to open schools (apparently, more so than previously assumed).

(2) Speaking of which, Israel is reopening Grades 1-3 of primary schools on Sunday, as well as preparation classes for the bagrut (high school leaving [and college placement] exam, like the French baccalauréat or the German Abitur) in the last two years of high school. (These exams play an important role in college admission and placement, together with the psichometri which is somewhat similar to the SAT.) Kindergartens will be opened on or before May 10 — originally they were to be opened on Sunday as well, but personnel requested more preparation time. Remaining elementary and high school grades will open June 1.

(3) Miscellaneous updates:

  • According to De Standaard’s breaking news ticker, Portugal intends to start reopening on Monday. It has been much less hard-hit than neighboring Spain despite similar demographics and climate: Sarah Hoyt (herself born and raised near Porto, and an alumna of Porto University) attributes much of the difference to the continued existence of a parallel private medical system in Portugal, while Spain’s was nationalized. Choice is always good for quality.
  • Shaarei Tzedek in Jerusalem, one of the largest hospitals in Israel (and the largest Orthodox hospital) is closing down its purpose-built corona ward as the last patient in it was discharged some days ago. The hospital had already gradually resumed normal operations as its COVID19 patient load declined.
  • Le Figaro (in French) reports that France will reopen by Départements [France’s administrative regions/provinces], not one-size-fits-all. Based on various criteria such as new infections, mortality, and hospital case load to capacity ratio, the ninety-odd Départements are classified as green (most permissive unlock), orange (more limited unlock), or red (most limited unlock).
  • And in what is probably the most exasperating thing I read on Victims of Communism Day, Die Welt’s reporter in Italy describes Italians looking on Germany as “the enemy” and China as “their friend”. Italians, remember timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. [I am wary of Greeks, even if bearing gifts.][*] As much as I can understand your resentment of the EU, becoming a client state of China will make even you nostalgic for the EU one day.

[*] There is a Hebrew idiom taken from 1 Kings 21:19 for one who unleashes a calamity, then sets himself up to benefit from the resulting devastation: ratzachta ve-gam yarashta? [Literally: hast thou murdered, and also inherited?]

UPDATE: a writer at City Journal calls for people to volunteer for “Hunan challenge trials” with the new Oxford University candidate vaccine, and put his money (or life) where his mouth is. In HCTs, willing subjects get the vaccine (or a placebo) then deliberately expose themselves to infection. This way it can be definitely ascertained whether a vaccine candidate has protective value. So far, over 8,000 others have signed on to a grassroots call for volunteers.

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