The Center for Disease Control published new and surprising guidance encouraging the opening of school.
The center emphasized that while the home is important to a child’s development, schools provide learning and development resources not available in most homes.
Aside from a child’s home, no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and well-being than their school. The in-person school environment does the following:
- provides educational instruction;
- supports the development of social and emotional skills;
- creates a safe environment for learning;
- addresses nutritional needs; and
- facilitates physical activity.
The CDC also indicated multiple times throughout the guidance that children are at much less risk of harmful effects of COVID-19 than middle-aged and elderly citizens.
Death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults. At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.
The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.
There have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members. This is consistent with data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community.
While precautions are necessary, the CDC described prolonged school closure as “harmful” and counterproductive to an educational upbringing:
Extended school closure is harmful to children. It can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs., Following the wave of school closures in March 2020 due to COVID-19, academic learning slowed for most children and stopped for some.
The guidance comes at a volatile point in the court of public opinion where citizens and leaders alike are torn on whether to open schools. The cornerstone of this tension is the plethora of misinformation provided by the media and various state government leaders.