Study finds few youths on the West Island and in the Plateau have had diagnosed cases of COVID-19, but mental health is an issue

Study continues recruitment in harder-hit areas of Montreal-North and Mercier-Hochelaga Maisonneuve

Preliminary results from a study underway in Montreal suggest 41% of 1,000 children surveyed so far, largely based on participants from the West Island and the Plateau, have gone to get tested to see if they were infected at the time with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Of those, 99% tested negative. In this surveyed group, children from 10 households also had family members test positive for SARS-CoV-2, yet only one child from these households tested positive.

The study, named Encore, has surveyed parents representing 1,000 children ages 2-17 so far, in schools and daycares in Beaconsfield and the Plateau. It is now looking to recruit participants at select schools and daycares in Montreal North and Mercier-Hochelaga Maisonneuve, areas that have been harder hit by COVID-19.

“Our study also includes serology tests – using dried blood spots – to see if the children have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, suggesting they would have had a previous infection, perhaps without symptoms,” explains project lead Kate Zinszer, Assistant Professor at l’École de santé publique, Université de Montréal, and researcher at the Public Health Research Institute. “We don’t have the results of those antibody tests yet, so some of these surveyed children may indeed have had COVID-19 without knowing it. Six percent of the parents we surveyed think their child has had the coronavirus,” she adds. “As we recruit children and teenagers in schools and daycares in Mercier-Hochelaga Maisonneuve and Montreal North, I suspect we’ll see different results.”

“Participating is a win-win situation,” says Zinszer. “Not only do parents find out if their child has previously had this virus and could therefore have some immunity, they are helping us inform appropriate public health measures,” she adds. “If the study finds particularly high rates of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 or high levels of mental health issues among children and teens, officials will have research to back-up added measures.”

The study also offers preliminary results on the mental health effects of the pandemic on children and teens. Over half of parents surveyed (57%) are concerned about their child’s mental and emotional health. This may be partially because 54% of them report their children are less physically active and 36% are spending less time outside.

Screen time is up substantially as 51% of parents say their children are getting more screen time for educational purposes and 48% of children are getting more screen time for recreational purposes.

“Parents certainly seem to be worried about not only their children but their ability to work and finances,” states Zinszer. Over half (53%) of parents are concerned that their child will get COVID, 56% are worried about their ability to continue working if someone in their household gets the virus, and 32% are concerned about their household finances.

The survey also asked about parents’ confidence in schools. Only 35% of parents are confident schools can help reduce the spread of coronavirus at school, 37% of parents feel schools can meet the physical activity needs of their child, and more than half (58%) of parents believe that school can meet the academic needs of their child.

The EnCORE research project, supported by Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, is studying 2- to 17-year-olds in daycares, elementary schools, and high schools that have been randomly selected in four Montreal neighbourhoods (Beaconsfield, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Montreal-North, and the Plateau).

All parents and legal guardians with children attending selected schools and daycares are invited to have their children take part in the study. The research team is specifically calling on parents and teens in Montreal North and Mercier-Hochelaga Maisonneuve to participate. Participation requires a consent form, an online questionnaire, and a home finger prick test. Researchers will inform parents if their child does have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, although that still does not guarantee immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19. To participate in the study or see if your child’s school or daycare is participating, please visit the EnCORE website: encorestudy.ca.

ABOUT THE COVID-19 IMMUNITY TASK FORCE 

The Government of Canada launched the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) in late April 2020 to track the spread of the virus in both the general population and priority populations in Canada. The Task Force also aims to shed light on immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a diversity of communities, age brackets, populations and occupational groups across the nation. To generate this information, the Task Force is drawing on experts from universities and hospitals across Canada, working closely with provincial and territorial public health officials, and engaging communities/stakeholders from inception through to dissemination of findings. For more information visit: www.covid19immunitytaskforce.ca

MEDIA CONTACTS

COVID-19 Immunity Task Force

media@covid19immunitytaskforce.ca
Rebecca Burns, Cell: +1.438.871.8763
Caroline Phaneuf, Cell: +1.514.444.4532