Just a thought. Ronald Reagan said, “facts are stubborn things.” They still are. In Reagan’s time, our choices were not sullied by socialism. They centered on facts. Needed now is Reagan’s common sense – when it comes to getting kids back to school.
President Trump last week argued for reopening schools, noting COVID-19’s infection, death, and transmission rates are exceptionally low for children. Twitter and Facebook, rather than nodding to science or offering thanks, blocked Trump’s social media – as “misinformation.” See, e.g., https://www.foxnews.com/politics/facebook-twitter-removes-post. But was it?
Put aside First Amendment considerations surrounding that unilateral – transparently political – censorship on a “matter of public concern” in a virtual “public square.” Instead, focus on facts.
Was the President wrong to suggest risk of COVID-19 infections, deaths, and transmissions by and among children is exceptionally low? No – he was exactly right.
Consider the August 7 CDC study entitled “Hospitalization Rates and Characteristics of Children Aged <18 Years Hospitalized with Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19,” citing “COVID-NET” cases across “14 States” between “March 1 and July 25, 2020.” See, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932e3.htm?s.
That study – one of many – involved 38 doctors and covered pediatric cases in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Utah.
What did it say? Most infections of children are “asymptomatic or mild.” Only one in 12,500 gets admitted to a hospital with COVID-19, or eight per 100,000. That compares with 165 adults. So, for starters, children are 20 times less likely to be hospitalized. That is significant.
What else? In 14 states over five months, only 576 pediatric hospitalizations occurred. If numbers fluctuate, America has roughly 74 million children. Applying that ratio – 576 in 14 states – to all states, we can extrapolate to 2,057 hospitalizations. Objectively, that is very low.
Now, consider infection rates. According to CDC, children are a “sliver” of all cases. Stubborn fact: “One seemingly bright spot has been that children seem to be largely unaffected,” as “they consistently make up small percentages of confirmed cases …nearly all mild.” See, https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/04/cdc-reports-data-on-2500-covid-19-cases-in-kids-including-3-deaths/.
Or another report: “Of the nearly 5 million cases … about 265,000 were in children 17 and under — or about 5 percent.” What about deaths? Of “156,000 deaths reported …77 were children — about 0.05 percent.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/08/08/cdc-racial-disparity-children-black-hispanic-hospitalization/3326133001/. Again, that is very low.
What about right now? Says CDC: “As of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents …account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.” That too is exceptionally low.
Compare COVID-19 to other risks – tolerated by schools. Says CDC: “Although relatively rare, flu-related deaths in children occur every year.” Between 2004 and 2019, “flu-related deaths in children … during regular flu seasons ranged from 37 to 187,” and during “H1N1,” we saw “358 pediatric deaths.” By contrast, COVID-19 “deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons.”
Other stubborn facts? Beyond cases and deaths, childhood transmission risk is low. CDC: “Studies suggest COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low,” with international studies reporting transmission “from students to teachers” as “low” if “precautions are followed.”
On the facts, “children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread …” Accordingly, “in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures …” See, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/reopening-schools.html.
Finally, consider the factual backdrop. As President Trump knows, the alternative to school is keeping kids at home. That comes with profound educational and health consequences. As CDC notes, staying out of school makes “learning loss … severe,” especially for low income and minority students. To preserve educational integrity, societal functionality, upward mobility, and progress for those not home-schooling, organized education is vital. See, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/reopening-schools.html.
Ironically, self-interested teachers’ unions and those trying to nobble President Trump do so at a cost. They are undermining children most in need of advancement through organized education.
To this, add social and emotional risks. These too are stubborn facts. Experts support CDC’s assessment that “social interaction at school among children in grades PK-12 is particularly important for development of language, communication, social, emotional, and interpersonal skills.” Without school or an alternative, bad things happen. See, e.g., https://casel.org/what-is-sel/. This is true even at young ages. https://www.wsj.com/articles/school-closures-damage-the-youngest-children-11596825976?st=bmgojdtkpyvs2qd&reflink=article_email_share.
Mental and physical effects – including depression, loneliness, anxiety, and self-doubt – follow no socializing, especially for the young. School meets a need. Data is overwhelming. The “leading causes of death in children 1 to 19 years old” include suicide, drug abuse, and assaults, often tied to social alienation. See, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4896836/.
Likewise, when parents of young children cannot send them to school or family, they lose work time. Reopening an economy depends on working parents – and confidence kids are cared for. Put differently, without education – or a way to care for kids, the economy cannot return to strength. Conversely, without parents at work, home becomes stressful – not good for kids.
Stepping back, as modern media seldom does – and social media appears unable – President Trump is right. Rather than making every word another excuse to attack him, look at the facts. He was right on infection rates, deaths, and transmission by children. They are all extremely low. Accordingly, reopening schools seems fair for America’s children, teachers, and families.
While risks exist, managing modest risk is part of life. Diseases come and go. This one is less problematic for kids than a bad flu season or H1N1, during which schools stayed open – as they did during the 1957 Asian flu and 1969 Hong Kong flu.
Facts are stubborn things. President Reagan was right. So is President Trump. The alternative to reopening schools – keeping kids isolated – is not an option. Rather than using kids as pawns in an election, how about getting them back to school – and on with their lives? Just a thought.