The biggest reason, of course, is that we don’t really know that kids are all that safe from the effects of the coronavirus. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently quoted an article that put the COVID-19 death rate for children and adults under 25 at a relatively miniscule 1 in 1.25 million. While it’s true that young children are not packing the ICUs at the same rate as older people, doctors are reporting cases in which previously healthy young children are experiencing fever, nausea, and rashes — signs of a delayed immune response to the virus. The number of cases appears to be relatively small, in the hundreds so far, but several children have died. The syndrome has also started showing up in young adults. Until and unless we better understand why some children are getting sick while others are not, caution is warranted.
Even if the death rate for children really is low, mortality rates should not be the only measure by which we judge the effects of COVID-19 on individuals, including young children. There are other medium- and long-term effects: The U.K. National Health Service has estimated 45 percent of hospitalized coronavirus patients will need ongoing medical care, even if they survive the virus. Another 1 percent are expected to require permanent care. These are people who don’t show up in the death statistics, but whose lives and livelihoods will be greatly altered. And we still don’t know what the long-term effects might be on children who contract the virus.