“This push to open schools is guaranteed to fail,” says Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and molecular virologist, and the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. I’ve been corresponding with Hotez, and with several epidemiologists, over the course of the pandemic, and have noticed a starkness in their views in recent weeks. “The social-distancing expectations and mask requirements for the lower grades are unrealistic,” Hotez told me. “In communities with high transmission, it’s inevitable that COVID-19 will enter the schools. Within two weeks of opening schools in communities with high virus transmission, teachers will become ill. All it will take is for a single teacher to become hospitalized with COVID and everything will shut down.”…

The evidence is all around us. There is the summer camp in Georgia where hundreds of kids and counselors—nearly half the camp—got infected after only a few days together. Then there’s the school in Indiana where, just hours after reopening last week, a student tested positive for the coronavirus. (“We knew it was a when, not if,” the superintendent told The New York Times, but officials were “very shocked it was on Day 1.”)

There’s also the JAMA Pediatrics study that suggests that babies and young children can carry extremely high viral loads of SARS-CoV-2. The study’s authors found at least as much viral material in the throats and airways of young children as in infected adults, and sometimes 100 times as much as in adults. We’ve long known that kids older than age 10 can efficiently transmit the virus, but this new research suggests that younger kids pose a risk of transmission to the people around them, just as older children do. The more we learn, the more likely it seems that children are highly effective vectors for transmission. Springtime school closures took place before the virus seized the nation. A return to the classroom now—even with thoughtful precautions—would create excellent conditions to test just how quickly COVID-19 can saturate a community. School was deemed unsafe for children, teachers, and staffers back in March. The pandemic is worse in the United States now than it was then, with multiple epicenters burning across the country. So why would schools reopen now?