MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – As students head back to school, a lot of questions remain about how COVID-19 affects children and what role they play in spreading the virus. Initial research shows kids are less likely to contract the virus and have milder symptoms, but medical professionals can’t say for certain.
The McNultys, like so many other parents, wonder what health effects COVID-19 may have on their children as they head back to the classroom.
“I’m in the same boat trying to make decisions with not enough information and not sure what information is correct that I am getting,” said Mendy McNulty.
The Mt. Juliet family, wanting clearer answers, joined a Vanderbilt University DIY COVID-19 study during the middle of the shutdown.
“This was one way that was super easy for us to jump in and help,” said McNulty.
Mendy, Joe, and their two youngest sons 9-year-old Hudson and 7-year-old Andrew are one of nearly 2,000 families in 12 cities hoping to discover more about how the virus affects children. They contribute without ever having to leave their home.
Every week, Mendy explained, they answer questions, “Hey, is anybody sick? Have any of your routines changed?” The family collects their own nasal swabs twice a month for COVID-19 testing.
“How did that feel?” Mendy asked Andrew. “It’s uncomfortable.”
“Does it hurt though?” she asked. “No,” he responded.
Occasionally, they must submit a blood sample.
“It sticks to your arm,” Mendy says while holding up a circle contraption attached to a vial. “This is a button. You just press it. They’ve given a time, like 2-3 min, and it fills this vile with blood. It doesn’t hurt at all,” Mendy said with a laugh. She admitted, she was most worried about giving blood.
Everything is shipped back to study organizers where they track the family’s health, specifically how Andrew and Hudson are affected by the virus, if at all.
Dr. Tina Hartert Professor of Medicine at VUMC explained,”There’s a lot of asymptomatic infection in children and because schools and daycare centers have been closed, which is the major place children actually spread infection in general, it’s been very challenging to study their role in passing this infection along to other people. That’s why studying a household unit is an ideal place.”
“I’m hoping that our piece of just giving some nose swab snot,” Mendy said with a smile, “can kind of help answers those questions.”
In an effort to help other parents feel more confident about the decisions, they too must make it about their own children. The study ends in December.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.