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A closer look at COVID-19's impact among children

The American Academy of Pediatrics says coronavirus behaves differently in children and adolescents compared to adults.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — What is the impact of COVID-19 in children.

This question comes as South Carolina's education administrators decide whether or not to send teachers and students back to the classroom this year.

More healthcare providers are giving rapid in-office testing for COVID-19.

SouthernMED Pediatrics is one example.

Dr. Kyle Guyton, from the SouthernMED Pediatrics Lexington location, says the numbers he's seeing among children are nowhere near what he expected.

"[We're] Getting the same results: Negative, negative and negative," said Guyton. "We're just not seeing the impact in kids like what we have seen even in a traditional flu season."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says COVID-19 "...appears to behave differently in children and adolescents than other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza...Although children and adolescents play a major role in amplifying influenza outbreaks, to date, this does not appear to be the case with SARS-CoV-2."

In their COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry, the AAP says that evidence shows kids are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have a severe illness from the virus.

But there are exceptions.

"Kids who are at extreme high risk of medical complication, there does need to be considerable weight given to what their school experience would look like," said Guyton. "There are children who have significant medical problems and are at extreme higher risk of death associated with COVID."

Considering what we know now, the AAP recommends kids go back to school with safety precautions in place.

"I think it can be done. It's just got to be done carefully," said Amy Wood, the Director of Nursing and Health Services for Lexington County School District One.

For this fall, the district proposed giving parents a choice: Send their children back to school for face-to-face instruction or have their child continue schooling online through the district's Online Learning Academy.

RELATED: Lexington One plan for upcoming school year includes distance, in-person teaching

"It has to be done carefully and there have to be safety precautions in place to protect everyone," said Wood. "As a district employee and a nursing supervisor, I know that that extends well beyond the students to our staff as well."

If students return, Wood says nurses will likely be in different attire - wearing surgical masks and possibly gowns and face shields.

"Whenever they see their school nurse, they've always had these great scrub tops that had cartoon characters or something to relate to the students, now it's going to look like someone very different," said Wood.

Nurses will also keep an eye on possible long-term effects of coronavirus in students.

"I know we're looking out for the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children as it relates to previous COVID-19 infection," said Wood. "When we come back our school nurses will be informed of that and some things they need to look for just in case it pops up in any of our students."

Eventually, pediatricians say, we will get a grasp of the best way to handle the virus. What must be measured in the meantime, they say, is the mental health of children being deprived of a traditional educational experience.

"We have seen a rise in cases of anxiousness, sleep issues, behavioral problems at an alarming level," said Dr. Guyton. "For some older kids, school is a source of anxiety. So they've actually done maybe a little better. Particularly with the younger populations, they struggle not having that social interaction. That's wearing on them...To me, that's the bigger question for us to answer."

For more information on Lexington County School District One's proposal for this upcoming school year, they answered questions here.