Should schools open given that worldwide we are seeing 300,000 new cases daily, with the U.S. contributing soon 100,000 of these? Well, there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue. Sadly, most of the arguments to reopen schools have less to do with education and more to do with saving the economy or providing needed child care that some families unfortunately do not have.
Arguments in favor of reopening schools include the advantage of a face-to-face education, the development of socialization skills and realistically, providing a form of day care so parents can return to work. Other reasons include ensuring that all children get at least one good meal per day and monitoring for child abuse (which only gets reported when the children are in school). Also, about 7.1 million children receive mental health services through the schools. The last of these have little to do with education, but instead represent how our schools have had to compensate for a breakdown in the family structure which has become all too common, especially when faced with poverty.
The argument against re-opening is pandemic control, pure and simple.
If reopening schools is mandated, it would seem that our children are less important than our criminals. Those behind bars are being released since COVID-19 is “far too dangerous to keep prisoners in a confined area” while our children are being forced back into the classroom. Dissect that one out.
Could schools possibly reopen without a wave 2 surge in the pandemic? It’s not likely. One school in Indiana which opened a couple of weeks ago supplied an example of what we can expect. Within just a few hours on day one they already had children in quarantine. It is already likely the school will close again. Another example is a children’s summer camp in Georgia. This camp enforced strict protocols, including requiring attendees be COVID-19 tested and proven negative prior to attending camp. Regardless, within only four days 260 cases of COVID-19 developed among the children and staff and the camp was closed.
To avoid this scenario, hundreds of districts across the country that were once planning to reopen their classrooms, many on a part-time basis, have reversed course in recent weeks as infections have spiked in many states. Those who do decide to reopen are having to prepare for the near-certain likelihood of quarantines and abrupt shutdowns.
Can we really expect that children, especially the youngest, will be able to do what is needed to eliminate transmission risk? Of course not. All it takes is one breach and an entire classroom is infected. Can young children spread the virus (prior myth, they can’t)? Clearly, they can, and very effectively. Infected children may have mild, or perhaps even no significant symptoms. They become the dreaded silent spreaders who will take the virus home to everyone in the family. That will be wave 2. If you think this has been scary so far, experts believe this may just be the beginning if schools are forced to open.
Another myth is that young people all have a mild form of the disease which will not impact them in any meaningful way. In reality, 80% of the young should have a mild form of the disease. This leaves the other 20% who will become severely afflicted. Twenty-somethings are getting sick from COVID-19 and staying sick. The stories that follow are a warning from millennials to millennials: Don't play the odds with coronavirus because this disease could permanently damage your body.
During training one third of the U.S. Female Olympic rowing team became infected. One member Emily Regan, a four-time world champion, states, “I’ve never struggled like this before in my life. I suffered a searing headache that lasted for six days, like my brain was being destroyed by my sinuses." Emily used to train intensely for two hours daily. Weeks after COVID-19, she still couldn’t walk 20 feet without feeling like she would collapse. Finally, three months later, she feels that she can train again towards competition, although still isn’t back to normal.
Other stories/quotes from patients in the younger demographic:
"You kind of feel like a leper"
"I felt something foreign taking over my body."
“Within a week and a half, it felt like my body was in an all-out war."
"While hospitalized I saw doctors bringing out dead bodies every day. I heard ambulances probably 50 times a day. I'm glad that I'm alive because a lot of people my age died. Post-COVID-19 symptoms aren't imaginary. Every day I have brain fog, difficulty concentrating and problems with short-term memory that make reading, writing and speaking harder.”
Oregon specific news:
Smaller communities are rapidly becoming the new hotbed of the virus as was predicted. Umatilla County in eastern Oregon registers a 16% positive COVID-19 test rate with 2122 cases (5% rate or less is deemed acceptable).
The phased reopening hasn’t gone well. A new OSPIRG report of 36 counties recommended that all state bars and indoor restaurants be closed again and that eight counties go back on lockdown completely for at least another two weeks. It also warned that 12 additional counties might soon be losing control of the spread. Coos County is not yet one of those mentioned.
Coos County is now at 91 cases vs. 57 cases just two weeks ago. We’re certainly not out of the woods yet.
If this sounds like I’m trying to scare you here, well, I AM. Wear a mask, social distance and stay safe.