Now that numerous research has proven that children do not transmit Covid-19 and that asymptomatic spread is not a among children, we examine the evidence around masks and social distancing in schools. Today we present a comprehensive review of the evidence as compiled by Paul Alexander of AIER.og.
School Closure – The Abstract
- Based on the existing reviewed evidence, the predominant finding is that children (particularly young children) are at very low risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection, and if they do become infected, are at very low risk of spreading it among themselves or to other children in the school setting, of spreading it to their teachers, or of spreading it to other adults or to their parents, or of taking it into the home setting.
- Children typically become infected from the home setting/clusters and adults are typically the index case.
- Children are at very low risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19 disease except in very rare circumstances.
- Children do not drive SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 as they do seasonal influenza.
- An age gradient as to susceptibility and transmission capacity exists whereby older children should not be treated the same as younger children in terms of ability to transmit e.g. a 6 year-old versus a 17 year-old (as such, public health measures would be different in an elementary school versus a high/secondary school).
- ‘Very low risk’ can also be considered ‘very rare’ (not zero risk, but negligible, very rare).
- We argue that masking and social distancing for young children is unsound policy and not needed and if social distancing is to be used, that 3 feet is suitable over 6 feet and will address the space limitations in schools.
School Closure: A Careful Review of the Evidence
So, where do we begin with the devastating school closure policies due to Covid-19? How did we get here and why would our government leaders continue these irrational policies and even toughen them, and with no good reason? When we never implemented such policies like school closures or masking of children for seasonal influenza, which is much more deadly for our children each year? When settled science shows that children do drive influenza into the home but do not drive Covid virus into the home. This makes no sense whatsoever when we know they do not transmit and the asymptomatic spread has been questioned.
Children, if infected, just do not readily spread to others. We state at the outset that our children are suffering as a result of school closures (and lockdowns) as we shall demonstrate below. They are being abused with child and domestic abuse escalating as a result of these unsound societal restrictions. It is time that we as a society recognize the harms we’re inflicting on our children in order to protect ourselves; the adults/parents. This could be the 1st time on record in Western society where we have reversed positions with our kids and are asking them to suffer in order to protect us from an infectious disease no worse than annual influenza; we’ve made them into human shields in effect. Aside from the devastation it causes them, this alone is shameful, and would still be shameful even if children transmitted SARS CoV-2, which they don’t. History will not look kindly upon us.
We are talking about extensive educational losses but more alarmingly, deaths of despair and suicide among our children that is already occurring, depression, and abuse of our children etc. As an example, CNN’s Lisa Selin Davis recently put out a very informative piece on the urgent need to pay attention to our children during this pandemic as their mental health has taken a hit. This impacts our poorest and minority children the most who will not be able to bear the toll and it is a travesty that it has been allowed to go on for so long. We argue that top US public health agencies such as the CDC continue to fail in its needed leadership role and there seems to be no end in sight. We call on the CDC’s new Director to be declarative and to act, and act now as the premier public health agency! We as a society are increasingly outraged by the seemingly callous actions of the Teachers’ unions. They have removed our children from the discussion. Why has the Teachers’ unions been allowed to accumulate so much power and use the power to damage the lives of our children to this extent? The American Federation of Teachers (AF), which can only be described as engaging in a classic shakedown, has demanded over $120 billion dollars before they allow public schools (where most US children attend) to re-open, holding our children’s education hostage.
Maybe the CDC and others who remain ‘unsure’ on what to do, should call Governor DeSantis of Florida for tips, for it seems that Governor DeSantis has got it right and is now reaping the benefits of allowing children to go back to school, whereby 33 states have more cases of Covid-19 for children while many of them do not have in-person school instructions. He stated in a recent presser in response to the release by the CDC of guidance “what the CDC put out on a Friday afternoon quite frankly is a disgrace…there is no evidence to suggest that kids should do anything else but be in school…this has been clear for months and months and months…we followed the data…we looked at what happened in Europe in places like Sweden and it does not require another $100 billion…the only reason, the only reason, one reason only it is not happening like in Florida…is because the Democratic Party puts the interest of the unions and special interests ahead of the children…that is putting politics ahead of what’s right for kids…if you follow that CDC guidance they will not go back in…it’s a disgrace.”
What is staggering is that the virus to which we are reacting has an infection mortality/fatality rate (IFR) roughly similar (or even lower) to seasonal influenza. Research carried out by Stanford’s esteemed John Ioannidis has shown that among persons <70 years of age across the world, IFR ranged from 0.00% to 0.57% with a median of 0.05% across the different global locations (with a corrected median of 0.04%). Ioannidis’s research was followed up recently by a reported non-institutionalized IFR in the state of Indiana (persons aged > 12 years) of 0.12% (95% CI 0.09 to 0.19) when age 40-59/60 years (reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine), and an IFR when < 40 years old of 0.01% (95% CI 0.01 to 0.02). Persons 60 or older had an IFR of 1.71%. Just think about this; we have closed schools and devastated our children for a pathogen that has an IFR no worse than that of influenza. Indeed, as we have already pointed out, the latter can actually lead to illness and death in children while this cannot be said for Covid-19 which spares children. Yet it is unimaginable that we would do the same thing for annual influenza. In fact, perhaps one of the most powerful arguments to be made against the closure of schools during this pandemic is also the simplest explanation and needs no scientific referencing; merely common sense. If we do not close schools during the annual influenza season which is related to a disease that actually puts children at risk for illness and even death then why on earth would we close schools for a virus that spares children almost completely?
It is unfortunate that we were lied to in a very destructive manner when the government bureaucrats and their apparently clueless advisors and unscientific, illogical, and at times unhinged ‘media’ medical experts deceived the public by failing to explain in the beginning that everyone is not at ‘equal risk’ of severe outcome or death if infected with SARS-CoV-2. That there is a distinct age-risk gradient. This is a key omission and this omission has been critical to why they got away with most of the unscientific nonsense and used tacitly and wordlessly, almost subversively to drive hysteria and fear, leading those not familiar with actual data more agreeable to the notion of nationwide lockdowns and in this case, closures of schools! You do not need to look very far to see how illogical and senseless the Covid response is by the politicized medical establishment, by their reaction and admonishment of early outpatient ambulatory sequenced drug treatment for high-risk Covid virus positive persons (McCullough, Risch, Zalenko, Fareed etc.), when they are at risk of hospitalization and death, while we have effective, safe, cheap, and available therapeutics at hand. The principles of medicine just do not seem to apply when it comes to Covid-19.
It is a flat lie and messaging by the media and their incompetent television medical experts that there are crumpling health systems and inevitable severe consequences if anyone is infected with Covid virus. This type of deception and the resulting unfounded fear has been driven by the media “despite a thousandfold difference in risk between old and young.” We suggest that this has always been known, and yet this disinformation was spread willfully and evidently happily by our leaders and the media. How else does one explain the omnipresence of case number and death count tables inserted into the television broadcasts from several news outlets that simply fan the flames of fear?
Yet, as per CBS News, under the Obama administration, “CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu (2009 swine flu pandemic), and stopped counting individual cases.” With no question by the media and media medical experts then. Why? Why the difference and hysterics and mania with Covid? As a result of the Covid mania and deceptions, this has underpinned an atmosphere of panic by the public and gross distrust of our government officials and medical experts that has now developed. It is as if the television medical experts are averse to data, do not read the data or science, or do not understand the data, or are blinded to it. They exhibit a pedantic thinking with no glimpses of ‘balance’ and common sense. This is very worrisome given the impact of their glaring deficit on decision-making, and at a time when the public is starving for honesty, clarity, and leadership from our experts.
Indeed, the public still does not understand this critically important distinction that we are NOT all equally at risk of illness or death if infected with Covid virus. That their children have basically near zero risk of severe illness or death if infected. That the vast overwhelming majority of persons who are infected go on to recover with no or very minimal mild symptoms. The public is still cowering in the corner, stunned still in place and cannot move out of fear, and going for runs in the forest with no one 100 miles around, in the open air, with wind blowing across their faces, yet with masks. The sad reality is that our governments have deceived us to the extent that now we cannot even think clearly anymore and are inanely moving about, unsure what is coming next or what to do. With this deception, they were able to shutter our economies, our schools, and our lives.
Perhaps our government leaderships, their respective Covid Task Forces, ‘television’ medical experts, and agencies such as the CDC and NIH were for many months ignorant of the harms of actions such as shuttering of schools, or deluded themselves. Even way back in April/May 2020 this information was evident. Nearly one year. Knowing the harm rendered to our children through isolation from their peers, by closing schools, this would cause severe physical and emotional consequences. They must have known that there were indications that Covid-19 may be increasing child and domestic abuse. They had to know that one of the most important bulwarks protecting children from abuse are the schools. Teachers are the first line observers of abuse and mistreatment of children under their protection by their reporting of mistreatment and abuse of children. By closing schools, this severed a key avenue for reporting abuse of children who were homebound. Teachers cannot possibly fulfil this role if schools are closed. And we suggest that it is highly unlikely that remote teaching (online) could be a substitute defensive line for our children. It seems none of this mattered to the policy makers.
We even had strong evidence (August publication) emerging from a SARS-CoV-2 positive child in a cluster in the French Alps who visited three 3 different schools while symptomatic and did not spread the virus to anyone, even though more than 100 people had been exposed. This was a very compelling study that was not covered by the media or medical experts as to the critical findings. Indeed, we can see (as will be shown below) that there was robust evidence available very early on in this pandemic showing that children were not the drivers of transmission! Yet that knowledge did not stop our governments, their often seemingly clueless advisors and ‘media hungry’ medical experts (we call them team ‘Armageddon’) from continuing to recommend (in several cases demand) school closures regardless of the availability of readily accessible data. Curiously, it was as if the existing accumulated data and evidence just did not matter to their decision-making with respect to recommending and implementing the closure of schools. Even the CDC reported in their piece on Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 schools, that “Based on the data available, in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission.”
To really look at this school closure issue, we cannot forget ‘asymptomatic spread’ as it is at the heart of the Covid-19 restrictions and what got us into this disastrous mess of a situation. Take for instance that we started with ‘15 days to slow the spread’ and now it’s approximately one year of this never-ending madness with our governments hardening the societal lockdowns and restrictions. We were indeed scared into submission by this ‘asymptomatic’ transmission and we were castigated and reprimanded that we must close schools, lock down, business must be shut down, have mass testing of asymptomatic people, and all must wear masks even walking in the woods with no one 10 miles around. Yet, we had a seminal study published in Nature journal that could not find one case of asymptomatic spread that involved a sample of 10 million persons (no positive tests among close contacts of the asymptomatic cases studied). You would think the media would be all over this study to help drive high-level scientific debate with the ‘media’ medical experts. To try to unravel this key aspect of the Covid-19 response, to help unshackle us from the perpetual house arrest we are living now, but alas, all we hear are crickets. We can find no definitive evidence surrounding ‘asymptomatic’ spread by children. Was this ‘asymptomatic’ transmission overblown? Was it a lie?
We wish to raise the issue, and this is our opinion, that face masks and social distancing for children (for example children 12 years and younger), especially young children within the school setting, is almost absurd and illogical when we have the evidence for nearly one year now (which we will provide in more detail below) that children do not readily acquire the infection, do not readily spread to other children, or to adults or their parents, or take Covid home, or get severely ill or die if infected, except in very rare circumstances. This is not us saying this, this is the actual evidence. Why would you mask children then? What is the value of this when you consider the risk relating to children? Thus, we feel that masks and distancing are unnecessary for children and we urge that this policy be thought through carefully, given that each action carries benefits as well as harms. We can list several harms from mask use but can find very negligible, if any, benefits in masks and distancing for children in the school setting. If masking and distancing are the rule, we are not advocating that these guidelines not be adhered to. However, we have serious concerns with the value of these in children and question these policies based on the science.
In this regard, Dr. Emily Oster also raises the vexing issue of this ‘arbitrarily set’ 6-feet social distancing rule as it limits the ability of schools to be fully opened as they often lack the physical space to accomplish this, and thus reopening is made much more difficult. The 6-feet rule has no scientific evidence to substantiate its use still today. We have to remove the obstacles and we must get our children and ‘all’ of them back into the school setting for full-day school. Experts such as Harvard’s Dr. Joseph G. Allen are arguing that 3 feet is more than enough and we firmly agree if there is to be distancing in the school. Six feet “limit the number of students attending in person due to space constraints.” Though we again argue that we see no merit of any distancing for low-risk children as described above, based on the transmission risk.
What do we know about children and risk of transmission in schools? Well, we knew quite early in 2020 that there was a lack of evidence of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to the home or into the school settings, with accumulated evidence of no pediatric transmission. We also knew soon after the pandemic began that children were not fueling spread and in fact were at very negligible risk for acquiring the virus or spreading to other children or to adults. Yes, the government health agencies like the CDC knew for some time now that children are far less likely the key drivers to transmit the virus to other children, or to adults, or their teachers. Yes, the evidence was available that children were far less likely to spread infection to their class friends or to their teachers.
These medical experts have continuously exhibited steep academic sloppiness and cognitive dissonance to anything contrary to their group think on Covid. They failed to understand that school closures are an extreme ‘exceptional’ measure and what we knew about Covid did not support this draconian step. It appears that our government leaders, their so-called ‘scientific’ advisors, and the team ‘Armageddon’ have been making decisions based more on assumptions, speculations, and superstitions. Based on outdated ‘failed models and projections. Certainly not based on science.
There are tremendous harms and downsides to these school closures and business and societal lockdowns. These policies have been devastating and have been working to hollow out portions of our societies. There is no other way to say this. There can be at this time no question that the societal lockdowns have caused extensive crippling economic, social, and emotional destruction. Stanford’s Dr. John Ioannidis stated “major consequences on the economy, society and mental health have already occurred. I hope they are reversible, and this depends to a large extent on whether we can avoid prolonging the draconian lockdowns and manage to deal with Covid-19 in a smart, precision risk-targeted approach, rather than blindly shutting down everything.” Dr. Ioannidis has always been prescient on Covid-19 and we are indeed experiencing some of the economic disasters, civil strife, discord, and tears at our social fabric he warned about. What a complete mess our government leaders made for us! And there seems to be no end in sight with promises of more to come.
Focusing on school closures, there was and currently is, no good reason to keep schools closed. None! Zero! Not for one more day. The CDC recently stated in a January 2021 JAMA publication “the preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring insofar as the type of rapid spread that was frequently observed in congregate living facilities or high-density worksites has not been reported in education settings in schools.” APPLAUSE now. Can you hear it, the roaring applause? Why did the CDC take so long to make these comments? Did the data suddenly change? While we welcome this about-face, we point out that the delay fed into the school closure hysteria, which has come at a great cost to our children. Grave costs. The CDC or no medical expert should be in the media today calling for reopening now as if the science or data is now ‘clear’ to them and ‘available’ to them, and we ‘now know’ that schools should be reopened. This is not so and if this is the intent, if this is the message the CDC or any medical expert is trying to send out, then it is disingenuous to the public for we have been saying this way over 6 months now.
Yes, we could understand that the initial knee-jerk reaction to close schools was driven by the reasonable and judicious expectation in terms of how prior respiratory viral outbreaks would be transmitted, with children playing a large role in the transmission chain. This is so for seasonal influenza as an example, whereby children drive infection home (and as we shall point out below, there have never been school lockdowns during periods of seasonal influenza). However, it became quickly apparent soon after the Covid pandemic began in the early months of 2020 that a key role for children in the transmission chain was just not there. We were conclusive on this. We who are not even part of the CDC cadre of experts knew this for many months (nearly one year) and we have been clamoring for the CDC to step up and provide declarative guidance on school reopenings. This is a positive statement above, albeit long overdue given the strong evidence that was publicly available since the start of the pandemic. Where were you, CDC? Why the intransigence for so long? Is this about the science or something else? Some have called this ‘politicized’ Lysenkoised science. Is this true? On the backs of our children? I would hope not and cast no aspersions. ‘We are following the science,’ ‘we are following the science’ they say, ‘Let’s follow the science’ they say, but truth and in fact, these nonsensical media medical experts are not following the science.
A recent interview between the new CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Jake Tapper of CNN was very enlightening with regards to school reopenings and the confusion at hand. It revealed governing and leadership within a political environment and highlights the challenges the prior CDC Director Robert Redfield faced under the Trump administration. There is no simple answer when the players around you ensconce each issue within a political ‘gotcha’ shroud. These people like the CDC directors mean well, but dark forces pull at them. In the interview, there was a clear inability to explain how schools can be reopened by using the science, given that prevailing politics force you often to take positions that do not accord with the science. Tapper’s key intimation was that we are taking the safety steps yet we are still not opening the schools. I applaud him in this exchange and it was a difficult exchange for the Walensky, who by the looks and sounds of it, wants to do the right thing but is caught up now in the politics of school reopenings. We cannot fault the new Director for she is now swimming in the murky DC swamp infested with politicized medical experts. This is no easy position for her also given the rabidity of the Teachers’ unions. We are counting on the Director to stand up to the unions and all negative ‘nefarious’ forces tugging at her, and fight ONLY for the best for the children. We have faith in her, it’s early still.
In a similar light to underscore the politics of Covid and schools, Walensky stated in early February 2021 that teacher vaccinations are not a prerequisite for schools to reopen, and seems to signal recognition and urgency for school reopenings and this is indeed very positive. Redfield also called for schools to remain open despite confusing messaging from the reporting agency and the good news is that Walensky appears to be leading on this. However, the Biden administration followed this up by asserting that the goal, rather, was to reopen schools one day per week.
The reasoning behind opening schools only one day per week is completely opaque to the writers. If this is proven true and if it was not confusing enough on its own, the White House’s press secretary Jen Psaki followed the President with her own assertion that as a parent, she would find one day per week school reopening as being unacceptable. Psaki also indicated that there are as yet no clear plans yet for when the Biden administration will reopen high schools. President Biden on February 16th then responded with para “a mistake in the communication” as to school reopening within the first 100 days. Understanding the logic and where the current administration is regarding school reopening is akin to asking Sisyphus to take his boulder and scale Hadrian’s wall.
Having said that children do not transmit SARS-CoV-2, we recognize and appreciate that this might represent somewhat of an overstatement since the transmission and infection risks are not zero. But the risks are so low as to be virtually negligible, while the damage caused to our children is potentially immense when it comes to closure of schools! We feel that we must reiterate that the CDC and NIH knew about this evidence very early on. Yet if you turned on the news each day you would be completely ignorant of this information because the only message being sent out on practically a 24/7 basis by often hysterical, frenetic, and we would say nonsensical medical experts is one that calls for closure of all schools in order to protect us against spread (particularly to the teachers we presume). Surely the media and medical experts know that what they are stating is factually incorrect based on the fact-based knowledge that there is at most an extremely low risk that children will become seriously ill from SARS-CoV-2 or spread the virus to others.
Do those espousing school closures not see or understand the data reported in the scientific literature? Our governments appear to have colluded with unions to close schools and keep them closed based on irrational, unthinking, nonsensical, unscientific policies similar to societal lockdowns (that even work to increase transmission risk in families and households). These actions have caused known (i.e. not theoretical) and almost immeasurable harms to our children given the losses that accrue. And in this regard, we are not focussed solely on current negative effects but long-term harms that are as yet to be realized although they can be predicted. School closures will cause our children to suffer education deficits and huge losses in future income. Charities for children have already warned that the devastation caused by the societal restrictions and in this case, school closures (as well as the associated business/societal closures and lockdowns) will last for years, and some say decades. It has been projected that for some children, the devastating Covid closure impacts will be lifelong, and especially on our minority children.
What exactly did the government health agencies know for some time now? The government health agencies knew or ought to have known for some time now that children are far less likely to be the key drivers to transmit the virus to other children, or to adults, or their teachers. Yes, the evidence was available that children were far less likely to spread infection to their classroom friends or to their teachers. The CDC’s own published data showed just how low the risk of hospitalization and death is for children 0 to 4 years old and also those aged 5 to as old as 17 years. They, children, are far less likely to take the virus home as compared to seasonal influenza (and to repeat ourselves, schools are not locked down every year during the annual influenza season).
The CDC and in fact all government health agencies knew this. We know this near conclusively based on evidence that accumulated since last year within the public domain, scientific research, and medical/clinical domains. But how did the US’s top health agencies handle the evidence that severe illness and deaths are extremely rare in children? Were they declarative in their guidance? No. Why have our children been locked out of school for nearly one year despite the overwhelming evidence of little to no risk of spread or illness to them, or teachers? That transmission in schools is extremely rare. That school environments cannot be considered as being super-spreaders.
You may ask, why this substantially reduced risk in children? We are not yet entirely sure at the moment but preliminary research points to less concentration or expression of ACE2 receptor proteins on the surface of the nasal epithelium in children (4-9 years old). Some also suggest that the immune system of children may be more trained and ‘tuned’ up from regular viral infections (lymphocyte count) and also may have a more heightened innate immune system/response. Some also suggest less underlying medical conditions. This is good news as Covid-19 spares our children unlike seasonal influenza or other pathogens but this knowledge seems to have evaded the scrutiny of our leaders!
To appreciate the challenges we face by being dependent on guidance from health officials, just look at the repeated sparring between Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIAID, whereby the senator has been ongoingly pilloried by the media for challenging Dr. Fauci, who has seemingly changed statements on numerous Covid issues. Dr. Fauci has changed positions on a range of issues and particularly on the issue of school closures. This being said, we understand that as scientific information evolves (and it should never be static!), some recommendations from various advisors would have to be changed in order to represent newer revelations. However, insofar as school closings are concerned, we do not believe that changes in advice related to this issue have occurred due to changes in relevant data, which as we note above were quite available for all to see very early on in this pandemic.
In any event, Senator Paul is on record as saying the following to Dr. Fauci: “I don’t think you’re the end all, I don’t think you’re the only person that gets to make the decision,” Dr. Fauci replied: “We don’t know everything about this virus, and we really ought to be very careful, particularly when it comes to children.” We reiterate that Dr. Fauci was aware or ought to have been aware of the clear and extensive global Covid data relating to the very low risk in children (and the school setting). The discourse with Dr. Fauci on Covid has become even more terse and Senator Marco Rubio has recently stated that Dr. Fauci has lied about mask use and the level of vaccination needed for herd immunity. The recent piece by Ramesh Ponnuru perhaps captures the landscape best: “The question Fauci’s record raises is not just whether he is a truth-teller or a liar. It is whether something in the field of public health militates against blunt honesty: whether, that is, it conditions its experts to think of most people as objects of manipulation rather than fellow adults.”
On top of this, consider the utter devastation and chaos the Teachers’ unions in the US are visiting upon our children. After months of discourse on this subject, they continue to demand more money yet remain resistant to opening in-person schooling. Meanwhile, parents are struggling with the pandemic and homeschooling and children are failing and these unions just do not seem to care. They have placed good teachers in an untenable position. Similar events are taking place in Canada, where there are more than troublesome and questionable relationships between Teachers’ unions and Covid Task Force/advisory members, which would appear to most rational observers to represent serious conflicts of interest on both sides.
In this case there is evidence that a Teachers’ union retained a task force member purely so that the member could argue in favour of ongoing school lockdowns despite evidence showing that this was not appropriate. Recognizing this, one must conclude that the unions seem to have little to no regard for the lives and well-being of our children and are seeking to exact a toll on the backs of them that they may well be unable to bear. The reality is that the teachers in the US are a young (median age of approximately 41 years) population and thus are generally at very low risk of severe illness or death from Covid, based on evidence to date on the at-risk groups. There is low in-person risk. Teachers are at very low risk of severe illness and those who have underlying conditions or are elderly have the option of the remote model etc. The UK experience/data bears this out, as well as Ontario. School mitigation and safety procedures are in order but children should not be prejudiced as they have been needlessly for so long.
Sadly, it’s the poorer impoverished children and those who cannot do without, who lack the infrastructure (WIFI, internet, tablets, home tutors, pod learning etc.) of the affluent, who lose the most due to these ill-conceived actions by all players in this school reopening crisis. Some experts believe that the losses due to closed schools may be lifelong. Reports from the UK suggest that “just 10% of teachers overall report that all their students have adequate access to a device for remote learning.” Schools are supposed to be standards of excellence in education, breeding critical thinking in our children. What does this form of conformity to unscientific data teach our children: to be mediocre and automatons to serve?
The stark reality is that many children – and particularly those less advantaged – have their main needs met in the school setting, including vaccines, nutrition, eye tests and glasses, and hearing tests. There has already been a dramatic decline in childhood vaccines for vaccine-preventable illnesses. Importantly, schools often function as a protective system or watchguard for children who are sexually or physically abused and this visibility declines with school closures. “In addition, children are being denied opportunities for social and emotional development that come with play, exercise, sports and socialization” and as the Virginia State School Superintendent aptly stated, “This situation is going to be like what is often called the summer slide [in student achievement], but on steroids.”
As if the impact of the school closures on our children are not enough, we also state that the lockdowns are acting in negative synergy as regards their well-being. Lockdowns have cost jobs (in some cases leading to complete loss of family income). Parents who are forced to stay at home due to the lockdowns and also as a direct outcome of the attendant financial stressors are very angry and bitter, leading to tangible escalations in the stress and pressure in the home. This along with ineffective and in essence dysfunctional remote learning programs has led to a situation where even if parents were able to help their children with online education or otherwise, they are emotionally incapable of doing so.
Tragically then these circumstances have caused parents to react by lashing out at each other and in relation to the issues being discussed here; their children. “Children’s Aid workers in Ottawa are sounding the alarm over an increase in infants being treated in hospital for head injuries in the last year — a worrying trend that has also been observed in other parts of the country.” It has been estimated that approximately 30% of the US workforce depends on preschools and schools in order to resume their jobs, and this underscores the tremendous strain school closures have on the overall economy and careers (principally for women who should not have to retard or lose their careers in this situation when the evidence is and has been declarative on the safety of school reopening).
There are even reports that children are being taken to the ER with parents stating that they think they may have killed their child who is unresponsive, with broken bones. The avoidance of hospital ERs during these lockdown periods likely results in heavy underreporting of the true burden of abuse to children (and adults, particularly females). The impact of current policies has of course not only affected the children. These policies have had crushing consequences thereby leading to a terrific impact on the family unit itself! This sheltering-in-place and the closure of vital family foundations with a lack of social support are driving escalations of family domestic violence, overall. In fact, since the Covid lockdowns were initiated in Great Britain as an example, it has been reported that incidence of abusive head trauma in children has risen by almost 1,500%! Similar child abuse and catastrophic head trauma in babies that is linked to the Covid pandemic has been reported in Canada.
The costs of school closures and lockdowns in the US and worldwide are staggering and children often bear a disproportionate burden. There is no simple way to put this other than that these Covid restrictions result in crushing harms on our societies. Brookings estimates are that there is a 3% loss in lifetime earnings for those whose schooling has been sidelined. “Some modeling suggests that the loss of learning during the extraordinary systemic crisis of World War II still had a negative impact on former students’ lives some 40 years later.” We affirm, based on the historical facts referenced above, that similar negative impacts will result due to our inexplicable reactions to Covid-19 in the future lives of our children.
The fact is that 1 in 5 children living in the US do so in poverty. Poverty disproportionately impacts African-American, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native children. The sad reality is that the US educational system has often reinforced inequities by their provision of insufficient and inequitable funding systems. “School districts serving low-income children have more rundown school facilities, fewer curricular offerings, and less experienced teachers.” We argue that the constraints imposed because of Covid cause these already existing hurdles to become even more formidable and insurmountable. The evidence that as schools engage in distance learning, there is “wide variability in access to quality educational instruction, digital technology, and internet access.”
What data do we have about risk of severe illness or death? What do we know about the risk of severe illness or death? Well, we know that children 0-10 years or so have a near zero risk of severe illness of death from Covid-19 (with a very small risk of spreading Covid virus in schools, spreading to adults, or taking it home). The CDC gave us a glimpse into just how low the risk of death was in children when they reported that of the first 68,998 U.S. deaths from Covid-19, only 12 (0.017%) were in children under age 14. At that time (May 2020), the death total among children less than 18 and without an underlying medical condition was one. Ten of the 16,469 confirmed deaths in New York City occurred in persons less than 18 years old. To put this into perspective, CDC data suggested that approximately 600 children died of seasonal influenza in the 2017 to 2018 season. A pediatric study published in JAMA reported that “Our data indicate that children are at far greater risk of critical illness from influenza than from Covid-19.” To put Covid deaths into further perspective, “on average, 12,175 children 0 to 19 years of age died each year in the United States from an unintentional injury.” If we looked only at accidental drowning, approximately 400 children aged 1-4 years old die each year from drowning… From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related)”.
We also know that persons 0-19 years of age have an approximate 99.997 percent likelihood of survival from Covid-19, those 20-49 have roughly a 99.98 percent probability of survival, and those 50-69/70 years an approximate 99.5 percent risk of survival. These were the CDC’s own findings! Covid is far less deadly for young people/children than the annual flu and more deadly for older people than the flu, and we must not make light of the devastation this disease can visit upon elderly and frail persons. CDC also reported on their current best estimates of infection fatality ratios as: 0-19 years-0.00003, 20-49 years-0.0002, 50-69 years-0.005, and 70+ years-0.054.
We continue to argue that this remains a largely geriatric type pandemic and there is absolutely no reason to quarantine those up to 70 years old, meaning that there are no rational arguments that can possibly be made to close schools. Readily accessible data show there is near 100% probability of survival from Covid for those 70 and under. This is why the children, the young and healthiest among us should be ‘allowed’ to become infected naturally and harmlessly, as part of normal day-to-day living, and spread the virus among themselves, just as is done every year for annual influenza. The authors in this study published in Nature state: “Key potential impacts of cross-reactive T cell memory are already incorporated into epidemiological models based on data of transmission dynamics, particularly with regard to their implications for herd immunity.” As part of natural living, a spread within the youth creates the level of herd immunity. This is not heresy. This merely represents normal life quite frankly. To reiterate the concepts underlying the development of natural infection and herd immunity is not heresy. In fact, this represents classic biology and modern public health medicine! Yet for reasons that are beyond logic, the notions underpinning herd immunity are being touted as a dangerous policy despite the fact that herd immunity has protected us from millions of viruses for tens of thousands of years. We have always meant those at lowest risk in a society, the younger, healthy, ‘well,’ infants, children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged, older, who are healthy and with no medical conditions, in good health or reasonably healthy, to take reasonable precautions and to live life and be exposed ‘naturally and ‘harmlessly.’
Those in the low to no risk categories must live reasonably normal lives with sensible common-sense precautions (while doubling and tripling down with strong protections of the high-risk persons and vulnerable elderly), and they can become a case ‘naturally’ as they are at almost zero risk of subsequent illness or death. With personal responsibility, sensible mitigation, hand-washing, and staying at home if unwell, and with prepared hospitals, this approach could have helped bring the pandemic to an end much more rapidly as noted above. We also hold that the immunity developed from a natural infection is likely much more robust and stable than anything that could be developed from a vaccine. In following this optimal approach, we will actually protect the high risk amongst us.
There are strategies to minimize risk even more. For instance, instead of having children sit at school desks, isolated from one another by plexiglass, we need to take into account the actual science underlying the spread of Covid virus (and probably other viral diseases). In this regard, the orofecal spread of Covid has been more clearly elucidated as being a major contributor in non-respiratory transmission of Covid. Indeed, a recent open-evidence review brief by Oxford research (Jefferson, Brassey, Heneghan) and its publication in CEBM, reveals the growing acknowledgement that Covid’s SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect and be shed from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of humans. This may impact mitigation strategies in the school setting beyond those for respiratory transmission and warrants urgent study. We submit that ensuring that people, including of course students, wash their hands after visiting the washroom, could have far greater benefits insofar as prevention of disease spread than masking, social distancing, and physical isolation of children by enclosing them in plexiglass desk settings.
Where are we?
Where are we really at present? What are the troubling components of how we got here to these devastating and unscientific, baseless school lockdowns? The reality is as Dr. Scott Atlas stated “Never have schools subjected children to such an unhealthy, uncomfortable and anti-educational environment, so science cannot precisely define the total harm it will cause.” To reiterate the current pandemic reaction is not merely a reflection of an issue that can or should rely solely on ‘the science;’ the latter being completely undefined. What science? Cell biology? Physiology? Virology? Socioeconomics? Public Health? Psychosocial studies? In this regard we suggest that the science must include all and more than the fields noted above. Yet it would appear that the sole focus of the current mitigation efforts rely on science that seems to be restricted largely to virology with some focus on pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection without considering the wide array of fields of scientific thought and inquiry that are available. This is what has led us to the current disastrous situation in which we find ourselves.
The argument made above fits perfectly with the sage words of Dr. DA Henderson and Dr. Thomas Inglesby, who helped eradicate small-pox: “Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.”
So, this omen has come to pass and we in 2020-2021 are almost one year of the pandemic and by all accounts, our government leaders have been catastrophic failures with crushing lockdown and school closure policies. They are hardening the restrictions despite evidence that it has destroyed businesses and lives. There is no good reason for this.
Evidence on children’s risk and school closures?
After nearly one year, why did they do this to our children? Why have governments kept schools closed for so long? We argue there was no basis. In fact, there is substantial evidence and indications that the school closures had absolutely no merit based on the science that has existed since April/May/June of 2020. What is going on here? Probably one of the smartest people waxing lucidly on the tragedies of the Covid societal restrictions is Alex Berenson, author of Unreported Truths About Covid-19 and Lockdowns. At much risk to his personal and professional existence, he has gone on record time and again showing how the science underpins the reopening of schools for many months now, with a rightful excoriation of Teachers’ unions.
This brings us to the actual evidence. Do we have any? Is there any risk to children and Covid spread in schools, to adults, to the home? Well, it turns out we have tons of evidence and while limited here by space, we will provide just a sample using roughly 50 studies/reports (actual reports, systematic reviews, and research studies) to help support our core thesis of why schools must be reopened. This op-ed is however littered throughout with additional supporting evidence.
We shall now focus more closely on the scientific evidence as it relates to school closure, for those who wish to actually read the research that has been done in this area. This review of evidence is not exhaustive but we feel strongly that we have included the main studies and reporting in this area that could provide an overall but clearer understanding of the risk of transmission as it relates to children. It will shed light importantly on the fact that there was and continues to be no need for school closures.
We have evidence from Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Iceland, UK, Australia, Germany, Singapore, Greece, and Ireland that the infection rate in children is very low, that spread from child to child is uncommon, that spread from child to adult/parent is uncommon, that cases in children typically come from a household transmission/cluster by droplet spread, and if infected, children have no to mild symptoms with the risk for hospitalization, severe illness, or death being very low.
For example, Heavey out of Ireland looked at secondary transmission of Covid in children (March 2020). Researchers looked at children and adults in a school setting and identified 6 cases (3 children, 3 adults of which 2 were teachers) and their 1,155 contacts (924 child contacts and 101 adult contacts identified). Researchers reported no evidence of secondary transmission in the school environment. Specifically, they stated there is “no case of onward transmission to other children or adults within the school…In the case of children, no onward transmission was detected at all. Furthermore, no onward transmission from the three identified adult cases to children was identified.”
Additionally, The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson on January 28th 2021 pointed to a study out of Singapore involving 3 Covid-19 clusters, finding that “children are not the primary drivers” of Covid outbreaks and that “the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission among children in schools, especially preschools, is likely to be low.”
A Norwegian study looked at 200 primary-school children aged 5 to 13 and who had Covid-19 (testing all contacts twice within their quarantine), finding that there were no instances of secondary spread, further dispelling the notion that children play a primary role in spreading within the school setting.
A very comprehensive systematic review by Ludvigsson published in Acta Pediatrica, studied 47 full texts and reported “children accounted for a small fraction of Covid-19 cases…children may have lower levels than adults, partly because they often have fewer symptoms, and this should decrease the transmission risk…household transmission studies showed that children were rarely the index case and case studies suggested that children with Covid-19 seldom caused outbreaks…children are unlikely to be the main drivers of the pandemic.”
A very comprehensive review out of Canada on the role of daycare and schools in transmission of Covid-19, conducted by the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools out of McMaster University by Dobbins et al., found that i) Children are not a major source of transmission of Covid-19 ii) Analyses of infection clusters revealed that for children who were infected, transmission was traced back to community and home settings or adults, rather than amongst children within daycares or schools; children did not spread among themselves iii) Within household clusters, adults were much more likely to be the index case than children iv) Prevalence of Covid-19 infection in children in daycare and school settings was lower than the prevalence of Covid-19 in adults working in daycare and school settings.
Duke University researchers (CIDRAP) examined 35 North Carolina school districts with in-person teaching and found that there were no instances of child-to-adult spread in schools.
A recent CDC report on “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 schools,” found that “Based on the data available, in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission.”
Based on a high-quality McMaster University (Brighter World) review, researchers found that in children under 10 years of age “Transmission was traced back to community and home settings or adults, rather than among children within daycares or schools, even in jurisdictions where schools remained open or have since reopened…The bottom line thus far is that children under 10 years of age are unlikely to drive outbreaks of Covid-19 in daycares and schools and that, to date, adults were much more likely to be the transmitter of infection than children.”
A BMJ scoping review study evaluated the role of children in the transmission of Covid-19 virus and which included 14 studies. It was found that children are not transmitters to a greater extent than adults. Nonetheless it does appear that in this study it was concluded that children can spread disease. We do not argue with this, but point the reader to the rarity of this type of spread.
The British Columbia Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) issued a full report in September 2020 on the impact of school closures on children and found that i) Children comprise a small proportion of diagnosed Covid-19 cases, have less severe illness, and mortality is rare ii) Children do not appear to be a major source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in households or schools, a finding which has been consistent globally iii) There are important differences between how influenza and SARS-CoV-2 are transmitted. School closures may be less effective as a prevention measure for Covid-19 iv) School closures can have severe and unintended consequences for children and youth v) School closures contribute to greater family stress, especially for female caregivers, while families balance child care and home learning with employment demands vi) Family violence may be on the rise during the Covid pandemic, while the closure of schools and childcare centres may create a gap in the safety net for children who are at risk of abuse and neglect.
A NEJM publication by Lu looked at SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children in China and found that out of 171 with confirmed infection (February/March 2020), when compared to infected adults, “most infected children appear to have a milder clinical course.”
A Lancet prospective cohort study looking at transmission in the Australian education setting (15 schools and ten ECEC settings had children (n=12) or adults (n=15) attend while infectious, with 1,448 contacts monitored), found that SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates were low in NSW educational settings during the first Covid-19 epidemic wave, and that children and teachers did not contribute significantly to Covid-19 transmission when attending educational settings in person.
An Irish study examined secondary transmission from children in school and found no paediatric transmission. This supported the understanding that children do not drive transmission of the Covid-19 virus.
A Journal of Medical Virology publication of a Greek study of the transmission dynamics of SARS‐CoV‐2 within families with children (n=23 clusters, 109 household members, 66 adults, 43 children), found that “transmission of infection occurred from an adult to a child in 19 clusters and/or from an adult to another adult in 12 clusters. There was no evidence of child‐to‐adult or child‐to‐child transmission.” Children “do not appear to transmit infection to others.”
Research out of Germany looking at the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in children aged 0 to 19 years in childcare facilities and schools after their reopening in May 2020 found that child-to-child transmission in schools/childcare facilities appeared to be very uncommon.
A Pediatrics journal report of 11 North Carolina school districts in the initial 9 weeks of in-person instructions found very limited (rare) within-school secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
A recent CDC report on “Covid-19 Cases and Transmission in 17 K–12 Schools — Wood County, Wisconsin, August 31–November 29, 2020,” found that in-school transmission was very low. In fact, and this is a crucially important finding, the incidence of Covid-19 incidence was lower in schools than in the community!
A European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control report (from December 2020 that included findings from 17 country-level surveys) stated that rates of infection among teachers and non-teachers were generally similar, showing that schools were not associated with acceleration of community transmission.
A Science publication (by Snape) addressing Covid-19 in children and young persons reported that the existing evidence indicates that educational settings play a very limited role at most in the spread of Covid virus when mitigation measures are in place, “in marked contrast to other respiratory viruses.”
A BMJ publication by Swann reported on a prospective cohort study about the clinical features of children and young people admitted to the hospital with laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in the UK. They found that among 651 children and young people (19 and under) admitted to 138 hospitals, the children and young persons had less severe acute Covid-19 than adults (6 died (0.9%) and they had grave underlying comorbid conditions).
A CDC report on hospitalization and death in children found that when compared to persons 18 to 29 years old, children 0 to 4 years had a 4 x lower rate of hospitalization and a 9 x lower rate of death. Children 5 to 17 years old had a 9 x lower rate of hospitalization and a 16 x lower rate of death.
A pre-print study examined family clusters of Covid-19 to assess the role of children in the chain of transmission (clusters from China, Singapore, the USA, South Korea and Vietnam n=31 household transmission clusters). Researchers found that only 3 (9.7%) children could be considered as the index case. They concluded that children play a very negligible role in the transmission of Covid-19, this bearing on nonpharmaceutical interventions such as school closures. In fact, relative to the H5N1 epidemic where children were often the index case in 54% of household clusters, there were no school closures nor, might we add, were there any other measures taken such as lockdowns and the like which would have taken a great toll on the fabric of society in general. This accentuates even more the sheer fallacy related to decisions made to close schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Clinical Infectious Diseases publication reported on a retrospective study that calculated the secondary attack rates of Covid-19 amongst 392 household contacts of 105 SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR positive index cases hospitalised in China. The secondary attack rate was 4% for children relative to 21% for the adult household contacts. Researchers concluded that there are far lower attack rates in children and that symptomatic patients are at higher risk of spreading the virus than asymptomatic persons.
Insights for Education produced a report which analyzed school reopening dates and coronavirus trends from February through the end of September 2020 across 191 countries. “There is no consistent pattern,” stated Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary, who is the leader of the organization.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that i) there were few outbreaks reported in schools since early 2020 ii) in school outbreaks, it was more likely that virus was introduced by adult personnel iii) in most infections or Covid-19 cases reported in children, infection was acquired at home iv) studies suggest that children < 10 years are less susceptible and less infectious than older ones.
A Yale University study published in Pediatrics journal, looking at childcare and whether it was associated with the transmission of Covid-19, followed up with 57,000 childcare workers in all 50 US states, including Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. They did this for the first 3 months of the pandemic and for the study. Approximately 50% continued caring for the very young children while the other 50% remained at home. “No differences in Covid-19 outcomes were observed between workers who continued to provide in-person care for young children and those who did not.” This indicates that child care providers do not experience any greater risk from their work. Given the usually close proximity interactions that occur between childcare givers with children, versus the generally more distant interactions between teachers and their students (i.e. the children), this finding underscores even more the unlikely prospect that teachers will develop Covid-19 from their students and vice versa.
A BMJ publication by Munro examined the issue of transmission by children and reported that children are not Covid-19 super spreaders and that it is way past time to go back to school.
A Clinical Infectious Diseases report provided study details on a cluster of Covid-19 in the French Alps, February 2020. Of importance, one (1) nine year-old pediatric case visited three different schools and a ski-class while symptomatic . There was a large number of contacts of the pediatric case (n=112) and researchers reported that the child did not transmit SARS CoV-2 or Covid-19 disease despite these close interactions!
The Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health investigation reported that i) Infection with SARS-CoV-2 appears to take a milder course in children than in adults: most infected children present with mild symptoms or are asymptomatic ii) Very few (c. 1%) develop severe or life-threatening disease iii) Secondary attack rates in children have generally been shown to be lower than in adults, suggesting that they have a reduced susceptibility to infection iv) Deaths in children due to Covid-19 have been extremely rare: mortality seems to be consistent at around 0.01-0.1% (similar to the incidence seen every year with seasonal influenza) v) Overall evidence suggests that children may be less likely to acquire the disease vi) Their role in transmitting the virus is limited vii) Children were unlikely to be the index case viii) SARS-CoV-2 is mainly spread between adults and from adult family members to children.
An Australian study in New South Wales looked at the close contacts (a proportion of 863 contacts) of 9 children and 9 teachers and found no indications that any of the children actually infected a teacher.
Insights for Education also reported on the IDSA’s update (October 14th 2020) on safe school reopenings, where the IDSA indicated that “The data so far are not indicating that schools are a super-spreader site” (Dr. Preeti Malani).
A report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Stockholm, 2020, concluded that i) Investigations of cases identified in school settings suggest that child-to-child transmission in schools is uncommon and not the primary cause of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children in any case ii) Very few significant outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools have been documented and based on the foregoing, it can be surmised that in most cases the outbreaks were probably related to adult index cases.
A report out of the Netherlands indicates that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted principally between adults and from adults in a family to children.
A report by Public Health England on SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission in educational settings found that in their examination, “SARS-CoV-2 infections and outbreaks were uncommon across all educational settings. Staff members had an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infections compared to students in any educational setting, and the majority of cases linked to outbreaks were in staff.” And as suggested above, the staff acquired their infections from the general population in all likelihood and not from the school sites.
An Emerging Infectious Diseases publication reported on an analysis of all children <19 years of age (n=94, median age 6 years, range 2 months to 11 years) with Covid-19 and their uninfected guardians who were isolated together in 7 hospitals in South Korea. Researchers reported no SARS-CoV-2 transmission from children to guardians in isolation settings.
A publication in Pediatrics journal by Lee that focused on Covid-19 disease transmission and children concluded that “Almost 6 months into the pandemic, accumulating evidence and collective experience argue that children, particularly school-aged children, are far less important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 transmission than adults. Therefore, serious consideration should be paid toward strategies that allow schools to remain open, even during periods of Covid-19 spread.”
An Emerging Infectious Diseases publication looking at contact tracing in South Korea found that “household transmission was lowest when the index case-patient was 0–9 years of age.”
A South Korean study looking at the role of children in household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 found that the secondary attack rate (SAR) from children to household members was very low and estimated to be only 0.5%.
An Indian study in the Journal of Public Health looking at household secondary attack rates (SAR) (72 pediatric index cases having 287 household contacts were included in the study) found the SAR to be approximately 1.7%.
In The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, in a study looking at 203 SARS-CoV-2 infected children (median age 11 years, range 6 days to 18.4 years) in terms of in-family transmission, researchers reported just one instance of child-to-adult transmission. And it cannot be overstated that this transmission occurred in a household setting, thus showing just how minor is the transmissibility from child to adult. Clearly a setting in which there would be much closer physical interactions between the children and adults in comparison to that which might take place in a school setting!
In the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, a single center US retrospective study of infection patterns in household contacts of children with laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in an urban setting, found no child-to-adult transmission.
A Clinical Infectious Diseases publication reported in a meta-analysis of the role of children in SARS-CoV-2 in household transmission clusters (n=213 from 12 countries). Researchers calculated that the SAR in pediatric household contacts was lower than found in adult household contacts, RR 0.62; 95% CI 0.42 to 0.91).
A review by Li published in Journal of Global Health that examined the role of children in transmission (n=16 studies for the narrative review), found that “children may be less frequently infected or infect others…prolonged faecal shedding observed in studies highlights the potentially increased risk of faeco-oral transmission in children.” And in this regard, the latter finding has great implications for school environments where so far, most mitigation efforts focus on mask use, social distancing and the use of physical barriers between the desks of children. Given the type of transmission mechanism for children discussed in this study, the mitigation approaches noted above (apart from social distancing perhaps) would have little to no effect on the transmission of SARS CoV-2.
In a meta-analysis of 40 studies (medRxiv preprint publication by Madewell) looking at household secondary attack rate (SAR), they found that “household SARs were significantly higher from symptomatic index cases than asymptomatic index cases…to adult contacts than children contacts”.
A Clinical Infectious Diseases publication looking at transmission risks in educational settings in Singapore reported that they “could not detect SARS-CoV-2 transmission despite screening of symptomatic and asymptomatic children. The data suggest that children are not the primary drivers of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools.” This important finding also illustrates the fallacy behind the drive to screen all children coming into school for the presence of SARS CoV-2 mRNA or mRNA fragments.
A Pediatrics publication by Posfay-Barbe looking at Covid in children (n=40) in Switzerland and the dynamics of infection in families, found that “in 79% of households, > an adult family member was suspected or confirmed for Covid-19 before symptom onset in the study child, confirming that children are infected mainly inside familial clusters.”
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has stated “evidence to date suggests that children and youth (aged 18 and younger) are at low risk of serious, long-term consequences or death as a result of contracting Covid-19.”.
Why have these school closures gone on for so long? Why has the public, the parents, the children and the teachers been so badly deceived as to risk? Were decisions made based on evidence or other factors? Who is at fault here? What was the reason for this very flawed policy, as it surely is not based on available research data or even common sense for that matter? This is tantamount to sabotage of our children by government officials, Teachers’ unions, seemingly unskilled medical experts, and public health agencies, the latter charged with the health and well-being of our societies. Why have the CDC and other US health agencies such as the NIH been so slow to react to the science that was readily available so soon after the onset of the pandemic (e.g. the strong evidence from Norway, Ireland, Singapore, North Carolina etc.) and thus guide optimal and rational policy decisions based on this clear prior accumulated science (Washington Post piece September 2020, The Atlantic, October 2020)? Why have they dropped the ball on our children? What is very troubling is that the decision-makers know that the children most impacted by these closures are often in the minority groups in many instances from poor inner-city areas, least able to withstand the deficits. This is not just a safety issue, but a health equity issue.
We contend that the evidence of very low risk, if any, to children (and teachers) especially with safe reopenings, was always there. And the CDC is only now, in January/February 2021, racing to any open podium and microphone it can find to tell us it’s time to reopen schools and it can be done safely. Yet this is not new data the CDC is stumbling upon for the first time. No, they have always known this. Any medical expert or agency implying otherwise that this is new science and ‘we now understand the data’ or ‘the data is now available’ is being flat out duplicitous. The CDC always knew it was safe to reopen schools for many months now (almost a year). They, like those around the globe, had the publicly available published pediatric-children data since mid-2020 which has been consistent and clear; there is very low risk to children and that given the other serious and negative effects on our children related to school closures, the schools should not have been closed in the first place. This said, we understand that during the very early phases of the pandemic there was a paucity of any information regarding SARS CoV-2 and so perhaps the initial lockdowns can be understood and definitely forgiven. But this cannot be said of the ongoing closures.
It is very evident to populations that school closure policies have been extraordinarily harmful to our children and they will bear the catastrophic effects for decades to come. This is even more impactful for our vulnerable minority children. There have been and will continue to be overwhelming harms due to these actions and this policy in particular has injured our children.
We knew it then and now as to school closures and the risk, based on what we learnt about societal lockdowns in Covid and just how ineffective and devastating lockdowns are (e.g. Jutland Denmark, Chaudhry’s country level analysis, German evidence, UK evidence, New Zealand evidence, European evidence, Lipsitch’s evidence, evidence from Ioannidis, and evidence from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER). Policy makers knew it but imposed and continue to impose catastrophic lockdowns. It is way past time to end these school closures, societal lockdowns, and these unscientific mask mandates as they have a very limited benefit but more importantly are causing serious harm with long-term consequences, and especially among those least able to withstand them!
We knew it then and now as to school closures and risk as clear as we knew based on what we learned about societal lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic and just how ineffective and devastating lockdowns are (e.g. Jutland Denmark, Chaudhry’s country level analysis, German evidence, UK evidence, New Zealand evidence, European evidence, Lipsitch’s evidence, evidence from Ioannidis, and evidence from American Institute for Economic Research evidence (AIER). It is way past time to end these school closures as it has a very limited benefit but more importantly are causing serious harm with long term consequences, and especially among those least able to withstand them!
We point out that the impact of school closures has not been mitigated by so-called distance learning. We know that the remote learning models have in large part failed, causing severe damage to our children’s education. Our children have been harmed enough by these specious and baseless school closures. Matthew Snape, who is a pediatric researcher at the University of Oxford, stated “There is clear evidence that shutting schools harms students directly, in terms of both their education and their mental and social health.” We should take this warning seriously! Dr. Craig Wax also states it clearly: We cannot allow school closures to further damage our children and the fabric of society.”
Public health communication about Covid-19 disease has been dreadful from the prior Administration and now this one. This is very clear and the public demands far better for their decision-making. We call on the new Administration to remedy this and we suggest that this should start with immediate public health education and messaging to the teachers about their very low risk and that of the children. “Teachers also benefit from in-person school teaching. They benefit from more effective teaching, direct attention and interaction, immediate feedback and non-verbal communication, increased job satisfaction and security, and a host of other benefits.” The Covid-19 survival rate is approximately 99.995% in children and teens and it is this that must be messaged.
If we were teachers today, between the misinformation and recommendations supplied by some unions and the mess and fear created needlessly by the inept illogical and nonsensical ‘television’ medical experts who seek mainly to sow fear and hysteria, as to the risk children bring as well as the school setting, then we too would not want to go back into the school setting quite frankly.
- Paul E Alexander MSc PhD, McMaster University and GUIDE Research Methods Group, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
- Howard C. Tenenbaum DDS, Dip. Perio., PhD, FRCD(C) Centre for Advanced Dental Research and Care, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
- Ramin Oskoui, MD, CEO, Foxhall Cardiology, PC, Washington, DC
- Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT USA
- Peter A. McCullough, MD, MPH, Baylor University Medical Center, Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute, Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital, Dallas, TX, USA
- Nicholas E. Alexander