As the first day of school approaches, educational systems all over the world have a decision to make: should students go back to school this Fall? They must weigh the pros and cons of reopening schools in light of such factors as safety, academics, mental stability, socialization, and physical health; as well as the potential for hunger and abuse in the home.
Much data has been collected since the start of this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Scientific studies and medical research from all over the world have yielded vital information to help inform our decisions and those of our leaders. That data must now be used to measure the potential risk of kids contracting, spreading, and dying from COVID against the adverse effects of keeping kids home beyond the five months they have already endured.
Notwithstanding the emotional piece to this decision – for both parents and school leaders – what do America’s top health agencies tell us?
- In its Critical Updates on COVID-19, the American Academy of Pediatrics states, “it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children”.
- Unicef states in its Child Mortality and COVID-19, “… evidence indicates the direct impact of COVID-19 on child and adolescent mortality to be very limited, the indirect effects … may be substantial and widespread”.
- The American Council On Science & Health states,“Regardless of how one looks at the data, they all point in the same direction: COVID-19 poses a very minor threat to students”.
- The Mayo Clinic states: “Despite many large outbreaks around the world, very few children have died”.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports:
- “Most reported cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in children aged <18 years appear to be asymptomatic or mild”;
- “the case-fatality rate remains low, even among children hospitalized with more severe COVID-19–associated complications”;
- “Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low”;
- “So far in this pandemic, deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons, with only 64”;
- “The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children”;
- “data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community”;
- “available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students”;
- “Extended school closure is harmful to children”;
- “available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students”.
The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) states:
- “The results moreover echo the experience of other countries, where children are not emerging as considerable drivers of transmission of COVID-19”;
- “These findings suggest that schools are not a high risk setting for transmission of COVID-19 between pupils or between staff and pupils”;
- “reopening of schools should be considered as an early rather than a late measure in the lifting of restriction”;
- “The limited evidence of transmission in school settings supports the reopening of schools as part of the easing of current restrictions. There are no zero risk approaches, but the school environment appears to be low risk”.
Interestingly enough, many drastic and far-reaching decisions were made early on in the pandemic as a result of speculation by science and medicine. Those decisions were rapidly carried out with minimum information in order to err on the side of caution. Yet, months into the pandemic, with mountains of data having been gathered, there remains an inordinate amount of resistance to actual data and real world experience with this virus.
Stay home until we know more about this virus, and then keep staying home even though we know more about this virus. At what point will we use that vital information to defend ourselves against COVID while moving into an offensive position of forward progress?
With recommendations from top science, medical, and educational sources, the question becomes: why are kids still being quarantined at home? What is to be gained by keeping the schools closed?