Where I live in Louisiana, kids are returning to schools today. There are a lot of unknowns at the moment where COVID-10 is concerned, though I have my suspicions that while things will be bad for the next couple of weeks, we will start to see the virus drastically recede here. But that is a discussion for perhaps another day.
At the moment, while kids are returning to classrooms here and across the country, there is a growing trend among reporters, pundits, politicians, and various people with verified platforms on social media panicking about the kids who are dying from COVID-19.
— Elizabeth Picciuto 🌱 (@epicciuto) August 12, 2021
The piece she links to is this New York Times story on hospitals in Texas. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has made high-profile executive decisions regarding COVID-19 safety measures that have gotten a lot of these folks riled up. The problem is that, despite this surge, we’re still not seeing major numbers in children. In fact, in another panic piece from the NYT, the reporter can’t avoid giving one very important statistic.
Nationally, roughly 1 percent of children who are infected with the virus end up hospitalized, and 0.01 percent die, according to the A.A.P. data. Both hospitalization and death rates have declined since last summer. It is still possible, of course, that Delta could turn out to cause more severe disease in children.
As of right now, there is simply insufficient evidence that this disease is going to result in the mass hospitalization of children, much less deaths. What’s more, there is some severe context missing from this discussion: Kids haven’t been in school for at least two months, and in some cases, some never went at all last year.
The numbers are pretty clear: There were no major mass spreader events in schools that met in person last school year. If there were, you could bet the media would have blown it up as much as possible and the teachers’ unions would be pointing to those numbers, screaming about how we can never go back ever again.
Children have been out of school all summer, hanging out with each other or with family. These groups behave far more “irresponsibly” in these settings than they do at school. Where I am, kids have to wear masks. Last year, one district had two schools go virtual because of the rising number of cases among teachers. Not students. And the spread didn’t happen in schools. It was all behavior outside of school.
In Florida and Texas, where numbers are surging just as much, they won’t be wearing masks (unless a district fights back against mandates). But many of the health and safety protocols will largely still be in place, whether it’s district policy or a teacher’s own initiative. School is probably the safest setting for students, given that they will be closely monitored and sent to a nurse’s office if they are showing symptoms. Cases will be isolated, quarantine protocols will be in place. The spread, if there is any, will be extremely limited.
So, yes, while kids are dying from COVID-19, there is no evidence whatsoever that they are in any more danger than they were, and given the numbers from the last school year, it’s very likely the numbers we are seeing will drop because at least eight hours of a student’s day will be closely monitored for any signs of the virus while they are in a clean environment.
Every infection, hospitalization, and death of a child is tragic. No one is arguing otherwise. But to determine policy based on a statistically negligible number is to do way more harm than good, especially when the infection rate is dependent on personal behavior and safety rather than community behavior and safety.