There is evidence everywhere — if only the authorities would consult it — that children are not efficient transmitters of COVID-19. A study of 150 schools in the U.K. showed that we do not have to quarantine students who come into contact with other COVID-positive students. We can just test them, and so long as they stay negative, they don’t spread the coronavirus to their classmates. I expect that even the testing regimen will begin to go away in Europe.
When we booked tickets to Ireland, we saw that American-based airlines such as United required all children two years and older to wear masks. We imagined our two-year-old son fussing with them, and us getting kicked off the plane. This wasn’t fanciful: An American Airlines flight was recently turned around and a family kicked off because a young child in the middle of an asthma attack was using his inhaler rather than wearing his mask. We booked Aer Lingus instead. We wore masks, but at least the kids were spared. The flight attendants treated our children with sympathy and understanding, rather than hostility. Everywhere in Ireland the kids were spared from masks. And guess what? All their close contacts in Ireland are still living and breathing. More distant and incidental contacts were fine, too — Ireland’s contact tracing was more extensive than anything in the U.S., and we received no calls.
It’s not just travel. The mask factor has featured in our decisions about our kids’ after-school activities, where or whether they’d attend school, their weekend pursuits, even which houses they’d visit. And I’m glad. The more that kids have a normal life in which they interact with adults and other kids outside our home — seeing one another’s faces — the happier they are. It’s important for children to see and be seen by others.