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Horowitz: Are positive COVID tests in children wrongly picking up common colds — which can provide some level of immunity?

Turning a blessing into a curse

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Is our society turning the blessing of de facto childhood immunity to COVID-19, along with the very elements that can help make them immune to severe symptoms, into a curse?

Even the schools that have opened their doors are engaging in mass testing of children and liberally quarantining anyone who might have been exposed to any child who tests positive, regardless of symptoms. In many cases, that involves shutting down an entire class for two weeks. A friend's second-grade daughter at a Baltimore-area private school was stuck at home for two weeks because she was in a carpool with a child who tested positive and never exhibited any symptoms. His sixth-grader was already at home because her entire class was canceled for two weeks after one kid tested positive without exhibiting any symptoms.

But as I've written before, with labs running the tests through 40 cycles of amplification, how many of these tests are false positives, how many are notional positives that are not infectious, and how many are outright picking up coronavirus colds instead of SARS-CoV-2 — the very colds that have essentially protected children from contracting significant symptoms of COVID-19?

According to an external audit conducted of over 400 PCR testing labs in Europe, there was a 3% false positive rate for SARS-CoV-2 among samples of coronavirus colds. Quality Control for Molecular Diagnostics, a Scotland-based company, conducted an external quality assessment for the European Union of labs in 36 countries by sending them eight blinded panels of supposed viral samples. Five of them contained samples of non-infectious SARS-CoV-2-positive cells, two contained samples of coronavirus colds (HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43), and one was completely negative.

The results? A 2.9% false positive rate among HCoV-OC43 samples and a 3.1% false positive rate among HCoV-NL63 samples. In other words, roughly 3% of coronavirus cold samples came up as positive for COVID-19.

Now consider the fact that young children get coronavirus colds (which account for 15%-30% of common colds) more often, which is why some researchers believe they have more robust cross-immunity from memory T cells, at least against the serious disease that could result from contracting SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are the third-most common respiratory infection in children after rhinovirus and influenza.

Moreover, as we get into cold season, more and more children will now be contracting the very cold they typically get that offers them this partial immunity to COVID-19. Given that, to begin with, positive testing rates are only about 2%-5% in many areas ( about 5% nationwide), a 3% false positive rate could often account for half of the positive results. It's a problem in the general population, but it's particularly absurd among children because it is very likely that these tests are picking up coronavirus colds, which can function as a vaccine against clinical-level COVID-19 illness for children!

We already know from a study in British Columbia that PCR tests for SARS-1 during the 2003 epidemic were picking up HCoV-OC43 coronavirus colds and misrepresenting SARS positive data. Given the degree of cross-reactivity between coronaviruses, it makes sense that PCR testing for COVID-19 would have the same proclivity for false positive results caused by the presence of coronavirus cold molecules in the swabs.

Imagine a scenario where we vaccinate all children for COVID-19 and then devise a PCR test that detects that vaccine as a positive for the virus — and then we promote panic and school closures as a result. That is essentially what is happening now. Children appear to be largely immune to serious COVID-19 symptoms precisely because they often contract and spread to each other the very pathogens we are now picking up with wide-net testing. Yet those results are being used as a pretext to panic. What's worse, according to some academic literature, 30% of cases of HCoV-229E and HCoV-OC43, two of the common coronavirus colds in children, are asymptomatic. Which means that the mass COVID testing of asymptomatic children could likely even pick up asymptomatic coronavirus colds, which function like pain-free vaccines for children against COVID-19. Talk about turning a blessing into a curse!

Thus, the gratuitous testing of schoolchildren is working against God's immunological ecosystem. By shutting the schools, they are preventing the children from spreading what can function as vaccine colds. By panicking over detection of what may be those very colds, they are turning a harmless cold into an illness. And even if they are detecting a few legitimate COVID positives, the children are getting milder symptoms than they do from the flu or strep throat. These policies work against the safest avenue of achieving herd immunity.

But it goes a step further than this. Many government officials are panicking over children spreading the virus to teachers and other adults in the schools. Let's put aside the question of whether children even spread this particular virus in large numbers. Proponents of school closures are further tampering with God's ecosystem and turning his blessing into a curse. If children are partially immune to COVID from consistently contracting coronavirus colds in recent months and years, what is the next rung in that ecosystem that would be protected by their umbrella of immunity? Parents, day-care workers, and teachers of those very children. All those annoying colds I get every two months from my four children? According to new research, it turns out they are giving us younger to middle-age adults robust cross-immunity to COVID-19 symptoms as well.

A brand-new preprint study of 300,000 health care worker households (who are naturally more exposed to the virus) in Scotland found, "Increased household exposure to young children was associated with an attenuated risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and appeared to also be associated with an attenuated risk of COVID-19 disease severe enough to require hospitalization." Specifically, researchers found a 15% lower hospitalization rate among those with one child and as much as a 64% decreased rate among those with three children under the age of 11.

I have four children under that age and can only imagine how much protection I get from contracting all those annual colds. And the fact that they pick them up in schools is a blessing to my wife and me in the long run. " From first principles, any protective effect of children on COVID-19 rate and severity in their household contacts would seem likely to involve cross-reactive immunity to endemic coronavirus infections acquired outside the home, e.g. at nursery or school," posit the study authors as to why these adults fared better.

This Scottish study harmonizes very well with a biomedical study from German researchers that found that adults in their 30s and 40s with children have a lower ICU rate from COVID-19 than those without children.

Another fascinating study from the University of Lubek in Germany tracked four schoolchildren whose parents repeatedly exposed them to the virus, even to the point of sleeping in the same room for a week. The parents were sick with the virus and wanted to get the virus over with for their household quicker so that they wouldn't suffer from staggered forced quarantines that could drag out for weeks. The kids appeared to be impervious to infection, according to the study's authors.

Obviously, not all children are impervious to infection of SARS-CoV-2, but so far it appears that almost all of them are immune to significant symptoms presented from the disease of COVID-19.

The lesson is clear: God made an immunological ecosystem beginning with babies and small children that is designed to work properly. Human intervention is appropriate for those who are seriously ill or those who no longer have a functioning immune system. But to tamper with everyone's immune system and treat the healthy like the sick and the young like the old is to treat a de facto natural vaccine like an illness — a blessing like a curse.

One last thing…
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