WHY THE SCHOOLS REMAIN CLOSED

It is well established that the risk of serious infection and complications in school-aged children is less than the seasonal flu. It has also been established that child-to-adult transmission of disease is much less common than adult-to-adult transmission. Europe, taking into account the data, has reopened schools without a reported uptick in child mortality to date. It’s been shown that school closures have resulted in a 30% decline in reading capacity, that in some areas only 50% of children are participating in remote learning, and the incidence of child abuse has significantly increased due to school closures. Some have expressed concerns that the nutritional health of the poorest children may be impacted by the loss of school meals. Older teachers might have to have special social distancing measures instituted or teach remotely, but for the rest, the risk is no greater than the seasonal flu. Parents without resources are struggling to return to work without daytime assistance with the kids. With all this, reopening for the children is a no-brainer, right? But politicians have no brains.

In fairness, it’s not that our political leaders lack brains (although one could make a valid argument for some exceptions), it’s just that they have political brains that overwhelm all other higher functions. Overarching policy since COVID-19 has considered mostly medical mortality risk over all other variables. While sensible policy would dictate a simultaneous and sober assessment of COVID deaths versus deaths and years of life lost due to lock-downs, the latter has been viewed largely through the lens of a solution, even though a very good argument could be made for the cure, namely lock-downs, being worse than the disease. For a politician, the political argument for school lock-downs is even more compelling than the for the population at large because, well, they’re kids.

The media gain eyeballs and clicks through hyperbole, and in this case it’s taking a threat and fanning the flames of fear. It’s a form of low-grade terrorism with real cost. The larger price for keeping schools closed is not apparent, except via actuarial table and postmortem (in the larger sense of the term) analysis that likely won’t happen for years. Imagine the heyday the media will have with each schoolchild death, inevitable in any wide-scale infection. An example of this is already out there with respect to the rare complication of Kawasaki-like disease, a serious inflammatory illness that can affect the blood vessels of children. No politician is willing to weather this assault in the name of science or for any other reason.

As long as we continue to have politicians without backbones and an ill-informed and agitated electorate, I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.

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