Many schools across the country are making decisions for students. At least 63 of the 101 largest school districts in the country have decided to start the school year using virtual learning. There are other school districts that have decided to come in person, although many have virtual options. My child’s school is up to each family to choose from, and while it’s difficult, I’m grateful we have the options. Families across the country are having difficulty accessing child care, technology and even food – all of which can make a return to school necessary.
Our school also took the extra step of examining all students, faculty and staff over the past week, and the results will be available within 96 hours. My girls all test negative, and that gives us peace of mind for kids who choose to go to school, as students who test positive will be asked for home isolation. . I fully realize that this kind of “guaranteed” testing is sadly not enough in this country and it is not a perfect tool either. Some tests have been known to give a significant amount of false negatives, depending on the type of test you have and how soon you get it done. And, even though someone might test negative today, there’s no guarantee they won’t test positive for the virus tomorrow.
Much of the discussion about going back to school revolves around the risk to our children’s health. According to the CDC, the largest pediatric study in China found that 90% of children with Covid-19 develop mild or moderate symptoms, 4% have no symptoms at all, and 6% have a severe or severe illness. .
By the first week of August, 90 children in the US died of Covid-19, accounting for less than 1% of all deaths, according to analysis by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Association of Children’s Hospitals.
As of August 6, MIS-C, a multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has been identified in at least 570 children nationwide, between the ages of 1 and 20. About two-thirds of those children do not have any underlying medical problems. before being diagnosed with MIS-C, like Juliet Daly, a 12-year-old boy in Louisiana who nearly died in April.
It is true that children are at much less risk of getting sick from Covid-19 than adults, but that does not mean they are immune. They can become infected and spread quickly. A study widely cited in Korea found that children between 10 and 19 years old spread the virus as much as adults. In fact, they have the highest proportion of Covid-19 among their family contacts. Interestingly, in that same study, children under the age of 10 did not account for a significant amount of viral transmission. This is surprising because a recent study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics concluded that younger children are more likely to carry a higher amount of the virus in their nose than adults. And any parent will tell you how easily young children spread the virus in their home. (When our kids were very young, a cold in any of them meant the whole family would get sick soon.)
So I decided to take a closer look at the Korean study, and found one very important detail: It included less than 30 positive cases under 10 years old. Of the nearly 60,000 contacts tracked in that study, only 237 were from children under 10 years old. The low rates of transmission among young children may not be because they are less likely to transmit the virus but because they are largely at home. months ago, and as a result there was little contact.
As our children become more and more mobile, they will become part of a large national experiment, and the rate of infection will inevitably increase. In just the past four weeks, the number of children infected in the United States has increased 90% to more than 380,000, according to the same analysis by the AAP and CHA. While some of that increase may be due to increased testing, younger kids starting out of home for the first time also play a role. And, in most of the country, schools haven’t even reopened.
It is also important to remember that a school community is made up of many students who are not just young students. According to a recent analysis, nearly a quarter of teachers working in the US school system are at a higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19, due to their age or pre-existing medical condition. I was especially impressed by the stories of anxious teachers across the country who said they had written down their will to look forward to returning to school.
My family also took a closer look at the prevalence of the virus in our area. In the Fulton County School system, where we live, the guidelines for schools to return to direct, full-time instruction require that the county’s new rate per 100,000 residents be less than 100 cases in 14 last day. What is the current rate of Fulton County? 316.2. Atlanta Public School decided to switch to a completely virtual learning mode for the first nine weeks. In addition, our county, which includes parts of Atlanta, also does not meet the federal government’s criteria for returning to school. According to the test criteria from Coronavirus Task Force, we would have to go through two phases, each requiring a 14-day downward trajectory for recorded cases and ability to treat all. patient without crisis care. We simply weren’t there yet.
In the end, the seven-day positive rate in Georgia (ending August 10) was 11.3%, based on data from the Covid Tracking Project, which means we haven’t done enough testing yet. in your own area. Surgeon General recently said he wants to see a positive rate below 10% in communities before schools consider reopening. We are close, but still anxious to put students back in such a viral community environment. It is worth noting that when we started pulling children out of school around mid-March, there were fewer than 5,000 known cases of people known to have been infected in the United States and confirmed deaths as two. number. Now, school districts are considering reopening because more than 5 million people have been infected and more than 164,000 have died in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Just over the past few weeks, we have gotten some clues as to what might happen when schools start to reopen. An overnight camp in North Georgia had nearly 260 participants infected, although the CDC notes that some may have contracted Covid-19 in a different way. A high school in Woodstock, Georgia, is temporarily closed after at least 14 Covid-19 positive cases during the first week. Hundreds of children are under quarantine in the county. Another school in Dallas, Georgia, opened and then closed after six students and three faculty members became infected. Their plan is to reopen after school disinfection, though it’s unclear how much of a difference it will make, since there’s no requirement for a mask – and a sneeze or cough again there is. can contaminate the classroom.
There are many more things to consider but in our family’s mind the evidence is clear. After reviewing all the objective criteria and evaluating the situation in our community, we made the decision to keep our girls out of school during this period. This is not an easy decision, but we believe we respect the most science, reduce the risk of further spread and adhere to the criteria of the task force. As a compromise, we will allow your child to have a physically different orientation meeting with their new teacher so they can meet in person before starting to interact with them on screen. And, after two weeks, we will reevaluate. It is important for us to understand what triggers will occur in our schools, about newly diagnosed infections or illnesses, that will require a return to virtual learning. Full transparency and honesty from everyone will be needed more than ever.
None of these are easy, and some families may reach different conclusions after looking at the same data. At the age of Covid-19, it seems that we are all compelled to become amateur epidemiologists, at the same time, to be the best parents we can be.