What do we need to do to open schools safely while still in a deadly pandemic with growing numbers of variants? We have yet to not only reach levels of societal, herd immunity, but we are at the beginning stages of the research on COVID-19 vaccines for children. Public officials and educators across the nation are grappling with this dilemma, leaving the country with a “hodgepodge” of plans for reopening. Different states, different districts, different plans for reopening. As the parents and adults in the lives of our children, we must be particularly vigilant in understanding the factors that are involved in them receiving a good education in safe and healthy environment.
Have you stopped to wonder why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently (and without warning) changed the guidelines for social distancing from six feet to three feet?
It wasn’t too long ago that we were told that with even a slight breeze in the air, as little as 2.5 mph, it only takes five seconds for those tiny droplets to travel 18 feet. Now, granted, we have no idea (I don’t think) whether COVID-19 would be able to survive long enough to travel and infect a person from that far away. But, what we do know is that those viral droplets and/or aerosol can travel up to 18 feet. The research on this was established in a study published in the journal Physics of Fluids. There’s no way of knowing for sure whether the current research, today, takes into account whether how we actually live and socialize — things like how our different types of relationships; cultural patterns and behaviors — interact, and play a role in how the virus transmits in the air.
This is a very important, because the research that the CDC guidelines are based on only applies to our children’s schools, and that’s the only place we can apply it to at this point. So, we must be very careful not to use this justify our social movements out in bars and restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and sporting events.
For reasons that we still don’t know, at the beginning of the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, COVID-19 was far more likely to infect adults than children. But since the beginning of 2021, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of children diagnosed with COVID-19. Furthermore, there is no data (that I could find) to suggest that the transmission of droplets and aerosols travel any less farther. Again, what we don’t know is how infectious the virus is over the course of traveling 18 feet in the air.
Most importantly, you should be clear that there is no evidence that suggests that children, schools or educational settings are the primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission. In fact, schools account for an extremely small percentage of the site of origination of all COVID-19 cases in a given country!
The research has shown that children can, and do, become infected; and are able to spread the virus to other children and adults while they are infectious. So, since the transmission of COVID-19 in the school settings appears to be affected by the levels of community transmission, we should as much attention to the COVID-19 risks in the homes and communities our children are coming from, as we do in carrying out our due diligence in the COVID-19 precaution and guidelines at their schools.
Try not to fall down the proverbial “science rabbit hole”; there’s just too much information coming at us that seems to change daily to try to keep up with the details of the latest, breaking news. We are all dizzy trying to follow the science, as they want us to do — but it’s so hard to hit a moving target. There have contradictions among the “experts” since the beginning of the pandemic. However, when it comes to our children going back to school, there is enough peer-reviewed research to support the reduction in the guidelines for social distancing. Make no mistake, schools have to reopen in some way … soon. This is in large part because of the obvious economic realities behind the need for schools to reopen — so parents need to get back to work. More importantly, there is grave concern about the mental health toll that being out of school is having on our children.
Even before the pandemic, there was plenty of research which showed that the school environment is critical for fostering our children’s academic motivation and social development. Furthermore, for many of our children, schools are the only place they access support for mental health care. This is true for upward of 35% of public school students in the United States. So, whether we are comfortable with it or not, schools need to and are going to reopen.
With its new three-foot guideline, the CDC supports the decisions of the many school districts and government agencies around the country who are announcing plans for reopening schools. This shouldn’t be a problem for us; Isn’t this what we look to entities like the CDC for? We want them to make sure that the policies and practices that impact our daily lives are guided by, if not grounded in, science and research.