Medical experts say that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should issue science-based guidance and allow U.S. schools to reopen. The authorities, who include pediatricians, epidemiologists, and infectious disease experts, say the agency’s current school reopening guidance is based on fear, not fact.
Half the schools in America are closed and more are only partially open.
Drs. Tara O. Henderson, Monica Gandhi, Tracy Beth Hoeg, and Daniel Johnson wrote an opinion piece in USA Today saying that keeping schools closed or even partially reopened is “unwarranted, harming children, and has become a human rights issue.”
They list science-based facts as the reason behind their stance. For example, statistics show that 286 children have died from COVID-19 compared to more than 500,000 adults. The authors point out that the number of children who perished is equal to the number who die from the flu each year and far less than the number of children and adolescents who committed suicide last year, perhaps because of school closures.
Terri Erbacher, a school psychologist and co-author of "Suicide in Schools: A Practitioner’s Guide to Multi-level Prevention, Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention," told The Philadelphia Inquirer that suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24 and the third leading cause of death for kids aged 10 to 24.
According to USA Today, schools have not been sources of COVID-19 transmission. Hoeg conducted a study in a Wisconsin community that had a 41.6% COVID-19 test positivity rate. She found that only seven students in grades K-12 and no teachers contracted the virus. Similar findings were reported in schools in other states.
Hoeg’s study also found that six-foot distancing between children who wear masks was not science-based. In her research, more than 90% of the children were less than six feet apart during the school day. Last month, Massachusetts education officials ruled to phase out remote and hybrid learning in schools, reiterating that state guidance allows for only three feet of social distancing between students in classrooms.
The authors added that so far there has been no evidence of coronavirus variants spreading through in-person classrooms. “France, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium have demonstrated that K-12 schools can remain fully open safely even as the U.K. variant becomes dominant,” they wrote.
Vaccinations for teachers and staff are on the horizon and provide more reasons why schools should open, said the experts. But the main benefit of returning to in-person learning will be the health and welfare of our children who may suffer both short and long-term damage from school closures.
“Many children cannot effectively learn, group, engage, socialize, be active, eat healthy food or get support until schools physically reopen,” the experts wrote. “Children with special needs and from disadvantaged backgrounds are, in general, paying the largest price.”
With evidence of “a significant psychological epidemic in children with depression and anxiety due to the isolation of school closure,” and the uptick of suicidal behaviors, the doctors recommendedd that schools reopen with appropriate procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
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