May 18 EU education ministers met in a conference call to discuss the reopening of schools. The children had returned to class for several weeks in 22 European countries, and there were still no signs of a significant increase in Covid-19 infections. It was still early, but this was good news. More than a month later, the overall death rate in Europe has continued to decline. Now, as we look to fall, the United States seems belated to follow Europe’s lead.
The question of how US schools should be reopened. In what hours, with what degree of caution, has not yet been determined. But the recent guide from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US, released on May 16, evokes a grim picture of security measures: kids in masks all day; students separated in class, their desks surrounded by 6-foot moats of empty space; closed cafeterias and out-of-service jungle gyms; canceled excursions; and dispersed attendance on alternate days or alternate weeks. Reports suggest that certain schools in the US USA They can even tag your kids with beacons, to help track anyone who breaks the rules and gets too close to someone else. It appears that all measures, no matter how extreme, will be taken in an effort to keep students and staff safe.
This could be a serious mistake. When children return to school this fall, we must have a careful and balanced view of all the safety measures that have been proposed and consider which are really prudent and which could be punitive.
It is true that reopening our schools, albeit with care, could increase the transmission of the virus. Some countries that have done so, such as Israel and France, for example, did see clusters of infections among students and staff. But these outbreaks were small and expected, officials from both countries told the press; and the evidence suggests that the risks, in general, are very low.
Let’s review some facts: children, in general, got rid of the effects of the virus. According to the latest CDC data, infants, toddlers, and teens together accounted for about 5 percent of all confirmed cases and 0.06 percent of all reported deaths. The Covid-linked childhood inflammatory syndrome that received fervent media attention last month, while scary, has even more infinitesimal numbers. “Many serious childhood illnesses are worse, both in possible outcomes and in prevalence,” said Charles Schleien, president of pediatrics at Northwell Health in New York. Russell Viner, president of the UK’s Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, noted that the syndrome was not “relevant” to any discussion related to schools.
There is also a large body of evidence that children do not transmit the virus at the same rate as adults. Although experts point out that the precise transmission dynamics between children, or between children and adults, “is not well understood”, and in fact, some argue that the best evidence on this issue is that “we do not have enough evidence”, many they tend to think that the risk of contagion decreases. Jonas F. Ludvigsson, a pediatrician and professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, reviewed the relevant research literature beginning May 11, and concluded that, although it is “very likely” that children can transmit the virus that causes Covid -19, “rarely cause outbreaks”. World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan suggested last month that “as far as we know now it appears that children are less able to spread” the disease, and Kristine Macartney, director of the National Center for Research and Surveillance of Australia’s Immunization, noted lack of evidence that school-age children are super-scattered in their country. A study in Ireland found that “there is no evidence of secondary transmission of Covid-19 from children attending school.” And Kári Stefánsson, a leading researcher in Iceland, said The New Yorker that of some 56,000 residents who have been evaluated, “there are only two examples where a child infects a parent. But there are many examples where parents infected children. “Similar conclusions were drawn in a study of families in the Netherlands.
None of this implies that Covid-19 cannot yet spread efficiently among the adults in a school – teachers and staff. Under any reopening plan, those most vulnerable to the disease should be allowed to choose not to work on site until there is an effective vaccine or treatment. And the adults who are present, when they are around each other, should wear masks and maintain adequate social distance. Adult distancing may be easier to implement in schools, where teachers tend to spend their days divided into different classrooms, than in some work environments that have already reopened, such as offices, factories, and stores.