Evidence suggests that greater harm is being done by keeping children out of schools than by opening up. According to a report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Children living in poverty, children of color, English language learners, children with diagnosed disabilities, and young children face especially severe losses.” It’s not just these deficits, which could reduce future income and job prospects for millions of vulnerable kids. Many depend on schools for food and health services. And working-class parents, who don’t have the luxury of telecommuting, can’t work if their kids are not in school.
The reason we shut down schools in the spring was because children are usually the most vulnerable group during a pandemic. But we now know that children are least vulnerable to covid-19. New York City, which was the epicenter of the pandemic, reports just 16 confirmed or suspected deaths among those 17 and younger — almost all of whom had an underlying illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “so far in this pandemic, deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons, with only 64.”
Schools may in fact be safer than once feared. The Wall Street Journal reports that kids are “less susceptible than adults to catching the virus at all, meaning they are less likely to spread it, too.” According to the New England Journal of Medicine report, schools in Finland, Belgium, Austria, Taiwan and Singapore have all reopened without increased case counts.