The public schools in our local area will start the 2020/2021 school year 100 percent virtual.
- UPDATED: Prince William schools to reopen with virtual instruction for most students (princewilliamtimes.com). The update observes that Prince William schools will reopen 100 percent virtual. Here is how the PWCS puts it, Preparing For The 2020-21 School Year (pwcs.edu).
- MCPS Forward: Return to Learn (mcpsva.org). “During its July 14, 2020 Special Meeting, the School Board of the City of Manassas approved a 100%, full distance learning opening for the 2020-2021 school year.”
Should the schools be reopened with the teachers and the children actually in the schools? There seems to be three issues:
- If we reopen the schools our children will get sick.
- If we reopen the schools our children, because they are super spreaders, will make everyone sick.
- We should wait until it is “safe” to reopen the schools.
If we reopen the schools our children will get sick.
Here is an excerpt from the publication of a respected hospital.
While all children are capable of getting the virus that causes COVID-19, they don’t become sick as often as adults. Children also rarely experience severe illness with COVID-19. Despite many large outbreaks around the world, very few children have died.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among nearly 150,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. between Feb. 12 and April 2, only about 2,500, or 1.7%, were in children. This is similar to what has been reported in other countries, such as China and Italy, that have had large outbreaks. Hospitalization rates for children have been much lower than for adults. (from here (mayoclinic.org))
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocate reopening the public schools.
It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “The CDC resources released today will help parents, teachers and administrators make practical, safety-focused decisions as this school year begins. I know this has been a difficult time for our Nation’s families. School closures have disrupted normal ways of life for children and parents, and they have had negative health consequences on our youth. CDC is prepared to work with K-12 schools to safely reopen while protecting the most vulnerable. (from here (cdc.gov))
The bottom line is that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) poses little danger to children.
If we reopen the schools our children, because they are super spreaders, will make everyone sick.
This issue is tougher to resolve. Why? When we catch a respiratory virus, it is not usually obvious who passed that virus on to us. We are dependent upon contact tracing to confirm the relative importance of children in spreading COVID-19, but when people are asymptomatic, nobody even knows if they have the virus until they are tested.
This article, Children are not COVID-19 super spreaders: time to go back to school (adc.bmj.com), which came out in May 2020, observed that schools should be reopened, but more research was needed.
At the current time, children do not appear to be super spreaders. Sero-surveillance data will not be available to confirm or refute these findings prior to the urgent policy decisions that need to be taken in the next few weeks such as how and when to re-open schools. Policies for non-pharmacological interventions involving children are going to have to be made on a risk–benefit basis with current evidence available. (from here (adc.bmj.com))
Why a Pediatric Group Is Pushing to Reopen Schools This Fall (nytimes.com) also suggests children are not super spreaders. Here is an excerpt that begins with a question.
Back in March, there was this idea of children as silent superspreaders who put older adults and other vulnerable people at immense risk. Has that picture changed?
What we have seen so far in the literature — and anecdotally, as well — is that kids really do seem to be both less likely to catch the infection and less likely to spread the infection. It seems to be even more true for younger kids, under 10 or under 12. And older kids seem to play less of a role than adults.
Here in Colorado, I’ve been following our state health department website very closely. They update data every day and include the outbreaks in the state they are investigating. As you can imagine, there are lots and lots in long-term care facilities and skilled nursing homes, some in restaurants and grocery stores. There have been a total of four in child care centers, and we do have a lot of child care centers open. In almost every one of those cases, transmission was between two adults. The kids in the centers are not spreading Covid-19. I’m hearing the same thing from other states, as well.
We should wait until it is “safe” to reopen the schools.
How do we define when it will be “safe” to reopen our schools? Safe is in the eye of the beholder. That is, we all know that what seems safe to one person may not seem that way to another. Why is that so? We disagree about the tradeoffs involved. Such is the case with COVID-19. Some of us fear the virus more than others do. However, healthcare professionals have begun to realize have begun to realize that keeping the schools closed has harmful effects too. Therefore, the CDC put out this statement, The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall (cdc.gov). Here is a summary of what the document includes.
Aside from a child’s home, no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and well-being than their school. The in-person school environment does the following:
- provides educational instruction;
- supports the development of social and emotional skills;
- creates a safe environment for learning;
- addresses nutritional needs; and
- facilitates physical activity.
This paper discusses each of these critical functions, following a brief summary of current studies regarding COVID-19 and children.
There are no perfectly safe choices. We can strive for the best choice we can make, but we cannot make a perfect choice. We have to decide. Is it safer to reopen our schools, or it is safer to keep them closed?
Unfortunately, this is an election year, and the debate over reopening the schools has become extremely political. It seems that as soon as one side takes a position the other side takes an opposite position and digs up “evidence” to prove their case. Therefore, we have to consider whoever gives us the “facts” (including government experts) biased until proven otherwise.
We also have to contemplate our own biases and make an effort to set them aside. Here, We are a Cancer and There is No Cure (freedomthroughempowerment.wordpress.com), is an example of someone making such an effort. We each owe such an effort to our children and grandchildren.
- School Decision-Making Tool for Parents, Caregivers, and Guardians (cdc.gov)
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Clinical manifestations and diagnosis in children (uptodate.com)
- Parents Can’t Wait Around Forever and The School Reopeners Think America Is Forgetting About Kids (theatlantic.com)
- Schools and Childcare Programs: Plan, Prepare, and Respond (cdc.gov)
- COVID-19 Transmission and Children: The Child Is Not to Blame (pediatrics.aappublications.org)
- SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Infection Among Attendees of an Overnight Camp — Georgia, June 2020 (cdc.gov)
- New Study Sheds Doubt on Notion Kids Aren’t COVID-19 Spreaders (webmd.com)