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U.S. pediatricians confirm what Trump understood weeks ago

Understanding COVID-19 has been an evolving process. 

Is it transmitted person to person, or not? Do we wear masks, or not? Do we quarantine just the elderly, or everyone? Is it spread by touching surfaces, or not?

One area that did not seem to generate such a debate was conducting school. Writing at the EducationNext website on March 25, columnist John Bailey pointed out that governors in 46 states had already closed schools for up to three weeks in trying to figure out a reopening strategy. Ultimately, they simply closed for the year, considering the risk to be too great.

Now, America’s largest health care organization tending to our young says there should be no more delay. Schools must reopen in the fall.

It was not that way at the beginning of the outbreak. Bailey wrote at the time, “One reason for the lack of concrete guidance on reopening schools is that medical professionals are still racing to better understand Covid-19.

“The novel coronavirus is proving to be an epidemiological puzzle with many unanswered questions,” he noted. “Children are also part of the mystery. Most influenza and pandemic planning assumes that children are among the most susceptible to infection and would have higher levels of mortality. That, however, isn’t the way Covid-19 is playing out.”

Initially, Bailey added, public health officials believed that while children seemed “largely asymptomatic,” they also were viewed as “super spreaders.”

Despite mounting evidence that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions were most at risk, the politicians opted for shuttered schools. They forced kids to stay home and introduced industrial-scale distance learning, while not spelling out, short of the availability of a vaccine, when schools would reopen.

Yet on June 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, released a strong statement saying reopening must occur when the school year starts in the fall.

“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the AAP statement said.

“Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation,” the organization added.

“This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been [a] substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.”

That in itself should convince elected officials that we must segment the population and deal with COVID-19 by risk groups — with children being allowed to resume normal activities as soon as possible.

But to drive the point home, AAP President Dr. Sara Goza told Fox news on Monday that it was imperative to get children back in schools.

“Children learn more in school than just reading, writing and arithmetic and other things that just cannot be provided online,” she said.

“Some children do really well with that type of education,” Goza said of distance learning, “but some children really need to be in the classroom.” She added, “Beyond supporting educational development … schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequities.” 

Moreover, Goza maintained, closed schools “can lead adolescents to become depressed and anxious, and even [lead to] suicidal ideations.”

“Those are all good reasons why we feel these schools should be trying to open up.”

For the record, President Donald Trump forcefully urged the reopening of schools six weeks ago, although he suggested precautions should be taken to limit exposure to older teachers. 

“I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed,” Trump said in mid-May. “It’s had very little impact on young people, and I think they should open their schools.”

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