The overwhelming incontrovertible scientific evidence demonstrates that we should absolutely reopen our schools for pre-K to 12th grade and yet the Nation’s second largest teachers union The American Federation of Teachers is encouraging its membership to go on strike should schools reopen. Throughout the entire world and documented in the world’s medical, public health and virology literature the evidence speaks loudly to reopening schools. And the evidence is greatest for those children in elementary schools.
The risk of children for contracting a sever Covid-19 illness is extremely low approaching a statistical limit of zero quickly over a short time frame. In absolute numbers, there are 45 million children in school between the ages of 4yrs and 15yrs. As of Aug. 1st of this year, only 28 American children in this age group have died of Covid-19 complications and most—28 have died from complications of a hyper immune response—not the virus itself. We have not been informed of the co-morbid factors of the others. By comparison according to CDC and WHO in 2016 190 children died of influenza in this age group. According to the Wall Street Journal during the same time period 1257 children died of cancer, 625 died of homicide, 2895 died of traumatic injuries like car accidents.
And what about the risk of children transmitting the disease to adults especially the elderly and those living in immune compromised states? Again the evidence for reopening is incontrovertible and overwhelming. We need to 1st look to Europe where every country that reopened last spring is reopening this fall. In articles that I have referenced earlier from Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands all with different mitigation strategies, ranging from 2 meter distancing to 12 person “social bubbles”, but all requiring frequent washing of hands there is no study that confirms a significant lateral transmission rat Ro between children. In Denmark and the Netherlands masks were not worn. The Icelandic study published in The New England Journal of Medicine—the same article previously referenced, one of the lead authors Kari Sefenson stated “We have not found a single incidence of a child infecting parents” In France and Germany masks were worn by older children in hallways only. Younger children did not wear masks. Limited targeted testing continues in both countries and the incidence rate continues to go down. In France school attendance has become mandatory this fall.
The situation in Sweden is instructive because they chose not to shut down, not to wear masks, and allowed citizens to social distance as they felt appropriate. Finland took the opposite approach requiring masks and social distancing. Both countries found that the infection rate between children 5-19 to be less than 5/100,000.
One interesting point that needs to be emphasized is that in all the European countries mentioned the shape of the Covid-19 infectivity curve is remarkably the same despite different mitigation strategies. Those that follow only case fatality rates and argue that the USA is lagging behind Europe regarding this metric are correct but they fail to point out that we are testing far more people and are recording all deaths with and not from Covid patients. Stanford’s John Ioannidis has pointed out the better metric to follow is the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) —the probability of a person dying who has become infected and across all populations age groups, and co-morbid conditions this metric is very similar. The predictions by the “experts” regarding the shapes and areas under the graphs look very similar as we move through the pandemic in each country. For example, the number of deaths in France, The Netherlands Sweden and Belgium all have worse or similar death rates than the USA and all have followed different mitigation policies. According to The WSJ Israel did show cases in young high school students during a recent heat wave when students moved indoors all day, closed windows and air conditioned classrooms.
Finally, a word should be said about the damage we are doing to children by not allowing them to return to school, and the majority of that damage is done to those living on the margins. In Boston last spring even those who were able to afford a computer or who had online access, one in five dropped out of virtual learning classrooms. 30 million of 65 million children receive at least one meal a day from school, and while those children are at school their parents can work. The American Academy of Pediatrics has state unequivocally “The importance of in person learning is well documented and there is already evidence of negative impacts on children with just 3 months of closures” Those with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorders, and finally the most gifted are most affected.
Idaho should open up all K-8 schools on time. Staged openings of upper grades should happen quickly. Sports at lower levels should already be open. High School sports should open faster than the schools themselves because participants are outside and not confined to closed spaces—locker rooms can be place on an adjusted timed per capita schedule.
Education is too important to allow special interest groups, teachers unions, or politicians or government bureaucrats to be making these decisions. Parents and their students should be allowed to decide what is best for themselves. When they look at the scientific data and when the media stop making emotional 1st person arguments, families will do what is best for families.