NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — More than 7,500 Tennessee school-age children have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with six Middle Tennessee counties in the top 10, newly released state data shows.
The data, posted by the Tennessee Department of Health, comes as public and private schools across the state wrestle with decisions about whether to reopen with in-person schooling.
Experts say the total -- 7,572 coronavirus cases among ages 5-18 statewide -- is largely a significant underestimation since children are not routinely tested.
Here are the top 10 counties for COVID-19 cases among school-age children:
- Shelby, 1,478
- Davidson, 1,451
- Hamilton, 586
- Rutherford, 488
- Williamson, 301
- Sumner, 296
- Knox, 234
- Putnam, 200
- Wilson, 169
- Bradley, 151
New data shows 7,572 Tennessee children ages 5-18 have been diagnosed with #COVID19. This is probably a significant undercount since we are not testing children on a regular basis. Here's the breakdown by county. pic.twitter.com/a26csnhqb7
— Phil Williams (@NC5PhilWilliams) July 23, 2020
Only three deaths have been reported among Tennessee children statewide, with the greater concern being whether children can spread the virus throughout the community.
On Tuesday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams told CBS This Morning that a community's COVID-19 transmission rate is the single most important determinant of whether schools can safely reopen.
"It's why we have told people constantly that if we want to get back to school, to worship, to regular life, folks need to wear face coverings. Folks need to practice social distancing," Adams said.
"Those public health measures are actually what's going to lower the transmission rate."
Adams said having low background transmission rates has allowed other countries to safely reopen schools "with minimal to no transmission among young people, particularly people under the age of 10 or 12."
Studies have indicated that younger children are less likely to become seriously ill and less likely to spread COVID-19.
But a large-scale study out of South Korea recently reported that children ages 10-19 -- middle- and high-school ages -- can spread the virus as easily as adults.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that officials reopen schools if they determine that it can be done in a way that is safe for both students and school personnel.
"Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff," the AAP said.
"Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools."