/How to Reopen Schools Safely Now

How to Reopen Schools Safely Now

Writing for USA Today, one of America’s leading epidemiologists, has outlined a plan for reopening schools while keeping faculty safe during the pandemic.

Blythe Adamson emphasizes that the repercussions from remote learning may affect not only academic performance but also interpersonal development and the economy. (USA Today)

As an infectious disease epidemiologist and economist, my specific skill set is really useful about once every 100 years. I had the privilege to serve as a pandemic responder at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House in March and April. I’m also a single parent of two daughters who attend public elementary school in New York City. I have many reasons to care about the safe reopening of schools. 

It is a great relief that kids have been relatively safe in this pandemic. Kids are less susceptible to the virus, don’t often feel sick if infected and are not big spreaders. Children are likely dead ends for this coronavirus.

Pressure to keep school buildings closed has been based on fear instead of data from consistent testing. While closing bars and restaurants clearly slowed the pandemic growth rate, school closures in the United States hardly made a difference. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never suggested closing them all in the first place. And now the American Academy of Pediatrics says the value of reopening schools far outweighs safety concerns of the virus.

Adult interactions are driving this pandemic. Transmission patterns in the Netherlands and clusters of cases in Japan showed no spreading of virus attributed to people younger than 18. Shocking results from Seattle found only 1% COVID-19 prevalence among sick kids during the epidemic peak — challenging the assumption that kids are infected at the same rate as grown-ups.