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VERIFY: Misleading chart shows projected 'student, staff deaths' if MD schools reopen

A photo of a spreadsheet being shared online makes a lot of assumptions when it predicts COVID-19 mortality rates for Maryland school districts.

MARYLAND, USA — QUESTION:

A photo of a spreadsheet is picking up on social media, predicting how many students and staff could die of COVID-19 if Maryland schools open in the fall. Are the predictions made on this spreadsheet accurate?

ANSWER:

No. Whoever made the spreadsheet made some significant assumptions, which the Verify team says are misleading.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)- "People who need to take extra precautions" / "Frequently Asked Questions"

Dr. Deborah Birx- July 8th White House Coronavirus Task force- transcript 

American Academy of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital Association report- July 9

Coronavirus.Maryland.gov

PROCESS:

A chart going around social media claims to show many students and staff could die of COVID-19 if Maryland schools return to in-person learning this fall. 

Let’s go through the many reasons this chart is misleading.

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First, the data on this chart works off of two big assumptions: one, that every student and teacher would return in-person; and two, that 100% of them would get infected. 

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Next, it assumes the mortality rate for both children and staff is a blanket 0.16%. 

Here’s why that’s a problem. They don’t provide a source for that statistic, and age and underlying medical conditions both play a role in a person’s risk, so to apply that statistic to everyone wouldn’t be accurate. 

So what do experts have to say about COVID-19 and child mortality rates?

During a White House Task Force briefing on July 8, Dr. Deborah Birx said:

"We know the mortality rate in under 25 from the CDC data is less than 0.1%. And so that has been holding...we have no evidence that there is significant mortality in children without coexisting diseases.  And that’s what we’re looking for right now ."


The American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association published a report on children and COVID-19 using state-level reports from July 9. They note that the data represents "cumulative counts since states began reporting."

The report found that in 42 states and New York City, children made up 0-0.5 percent of all COVID-19 deaths, and 22 states reported 0 child deaths. 

"In states reporting, 0%-0.2% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death," the report says.

"At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children," AAP and the Children's Hospital Association said. "However, states should continue to provide detailed reports on COVID-19 cases, testing, hospitalizations, and mortality by age so that the effects of COVID-19 on children’s health can continue to be documented and monitored." 

Maryland’s coronavirus website reports zero children under the age of 9 have died from coronavirus. It reports one death of a child between the ages of 10-19.

With all that said, there are a lot of factors at play here, and any mortality statistic being claimed is using preliminary data, which could change.

So, we can Verify that there are a lot of leaps made in this chart being shared. At this point, the Verify team hasn’t found any reliable data predicting the mortality rate of children and staff if they return to school in the fall, thus the Verify team finds this chart to be misleading. 

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