The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is pushing government officials and school administrators to allow students to return to class in the fall despite the coronavirus.
The AAP said in a Monday statement that the cost to children of keeping them separated from school and their classmates may be worse than the disease and lead to abuse, drug use, and even suicide.
The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of inperson learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.
The child health professionals noted that keeping children from in-class instruction has already had a “substantial impact” on students’ physical health and nutrition, as miss consistent exercise and school meals. As for the threat of the pandemic, the AAP said that the coronavirus is much less dangerous to younger people, and students with healthy immune systems are less likely to spread the disease further, especially if precautions are taken such as wearing face masks in class.
SARS-CoV-2 appears to behave differently in children and adolescents than other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza, on which much of the current guidance regarding school closures is based. Although children and adolescents play a major role in amplifying influenza outbreaks, to date, this does not appear to be the case with SARS-CoV-2. Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.
The number of coronavirus cases across states such as California, Florida, and Texas are beginning to rise as states have begun to exit lockdowns, orders that have generally coincided with mass protests that began after Memorial Day across the country. Some states have begun to backtrack on reopening and close down businesses, such as bars, that were recently allowed to restart operations.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered bars again after allowing the businesses to reopen. The governor said last week that while cases are spiking across the state, fatality rates are not seeing a similar upswing because the new cases are largely in younger people who are less vulnerable to the virus and more likely to socialize as restrictions are relaxed.
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