When the CDC issued its latest set of pandemic guidelines, many were disappointed, to put it mildly. The revised rules were particularly wishy-washy on the subject of reopening the schools, leaving far too much wiggle room for the teacher’s unions to keep them closed far into the future, or running virtual learning instead of going back to the classrooms. What Dr. Fauci and the leaders of the CDC probably didn’t count on was being challenged based on the science that they were supposedly relying on to guide them. And the challenge in question isn’t coming from any armchair quarterbacks, either. Dr. Tara O. Henderson, Dr. Monica Gandhi, Dr. Tracy Beth Hoeg, and Dr. Daniel Johnson are four of the doctors who conducted one of the major studies of the pandemic in Wisconsin and it was their work being cited by the CDC. Now they’ve published an editorial criticizing the health agency for “misinterpreting” the data and calling for all schools to be reopened for in-person classes. (USA Today)
The recent school reopening guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an example of fears influencing and resulting in misinterpretation of science and harmful policy. In the U.S. 50% of schools are closed and more only partially open. President Biden ran on a campaign indicating that science and data would guide his policy. As we approach the anniversary of the first COVID shut down, this approach is needed more than ever, especially when it comes to schools.
Like in so many states, California and Illinois schools are being hamstrung by the CDC guidance. The guidance does not take into account the data we have regarding little disease transmission in schools. Nor, although the guidance cites the work performed across Wisconsin districts performed by our group and published in the MMWR, does it take that data and new analyses from that dataset into account. Keeping schools closed or even partially closed, based on what we know now is unwarranted, is harming children, and has become a human rights issue.
Ouch! That had to sting a bit.
The doctors go on from there to hit the CDC with a barrage of facts that have now been clearly established. They first note that children are the least likely to suffer poor outcomes from COVID. As of March 3, 286 children have died from COVID as compared to more than half a million adults. That’s on par with the number of children who die from pneumonia every year. And at this point, we’re losing more children to suicide than we are to the novel coronavirus.
They next point out that transmission rates in schools are shockingly low. They cite one Wisconsin community where the test positivity rate reached more than 40%. But among the nearly 5,000 students and 654 staff members participating in classroom education with only minimal precautions, only seven students tested positive over the course of the study. And zero teachers contracted the disease. They go on to say that no data supports the need for six feet of social distancing in schools, a requirement that blocks almost all schools from fully reopening. The doctors provide data showing that three feet of separation is fine.
After piling on more data from multiple studies, the doctors proclaim that “we must act for the children.” At a minimum, huge numbers of them are receiving either inadequate educational help or, in some cases none at all. But beyond falling behind in their studies, the school closures are taking a mental and emotional toll on kids. As already noted above, suicide rates among children are growing at an alarming rate, largely driven by a lack of social interaction.
The reason that the politicians and their servants at the CDC are being too timid about the requirements to reopen the schools is that they are afraid of and beholden to the teacher’s unions. And the unions don’t want to return to class until a list of demands is met that includes things that are not required based on this data. Joe Biden and the Democrats claim to be the “party of science” who will “follow” the data when crafting a response to the pandemic. Well? Here’s the data, straight from the researchers’ mouths.
It’s time to reopen the schools fully. Any further failures or delays will result in more damage and that will fall fully on the shoulders of our elected officials, not our doctors.