Let’s Talk About Children Seven Months into the Pandemic
As we near the mid-point of summer and community discussions about schools opening are heightened by the political posture surrounding the topic. How schools will reopen is perhaps one of the most emotional topics in this pandemic. Parents, teachers, and children all have questions about safety.
Because there are many unknowns, as well as the need to advance learning, it is important to seek out the best information and monitor the science as new information about children and COVID emerges.
The world is seven months into the pandemic. Science is growing daily as we learn about the virus, how it behaves in the body, what it leaves behind after infection, and more. The US has surpassed the 3 Million mark for infections with states like Florida and Texas having cases accelerate daily, up to 60,000 new infections daily (as recorded on July 9th.)
Children can contract the virus however the evidence related to children being a source of transmission is inconclusive. Children who have tested positive for SARS 2 are reported to have acquired the disease from someone in their home. Typically, children are reported to have very mild symptoms. At this point, data about COVID and children is limited – but is being watched closely by infectious disease specialists – as well as parents and educators.
The Complexity of a Decision
There is a swirl of activity underway to sort through, at the community level, the best strategies for a return to school this fall. One of the most helpful articles on this emotional and thorny issue is from a July 9th analysis in Journal of the American Medical Association where three points emerge:
- Evidence related to the importance of in place learning is strong. This is also pointed out in a
New York Times interview with a pediatric infectious disease specialist.
- Children’s role in community spread is unclear, but is not seen as high risk at this point
- A helpful link plans for school opening across the country includes 43 states that have posted their plans for review. The tracker is maintained by The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ initial description of reopening schools also points to the importance of in-person education in their May guideline for re-start of schools. The intense push from the Federal level to move rapidly and ignore the original CDC guidelines has prompted this press release of July 10th. The emphasis is on safety of students and teachers.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also released guidelines in May that spell out basic infection control strategies. Prevention is a key to controlling the spread of any disease and it is a cornerstone to safely sending children back to school. In early posts on this Blog we noted the science related to the virus remaining on surfaces and how to clean them. Cleaning is a basic strategy that schools – as well as individuals – can employ.
Struggling with Your Decision?
If you are a parent with school-aged children living at home we would like to hear your thoughts about reopening schools in your town, or policies in your state. Clearly the number of infections needs to be a metric parents, teachers and superintendents will use to determine how the 2020-2021 school year will proceed.
In closing, you may find this BBC article to be enlightening as it offers a perspective from another country’s approach. The UK has tamped down the spread sufficiently to prepare for schools to be fully open. The video included in the article has a nice summary of the science at this stage of the pandemic on the role of children, as you watch them play. It’s delightful.