A survey of 175 pediatric infectious disease experts conducted by The New York Times found that the overall scientific consensus is that children and teachers should return to classrooms.
As schools nationwide remain closed, with many closing their doors to conduct ineffective online learning programs that leave kids isolated and parents forced to stay home in many cases to supervise, The Times asked experts on the matter to weigh in. Their conclusion: The threat is very minimal to students, faculty and staff members, as long as precautions are taken.
This is of course counter to the Biden administration’s definition of what school openings look like — with one day per week in-person instruction. But President Joe Biden vowed throughout the campaign to listen to the science.
Scientists, perhaps to the chagrin of Democrats and liberal teachers unions, are telling teachers to get back to the business of teaching.
Claire Cain Miller, Margot Sanger-Katz and Kevin Quealy of The Times shared the results of their survey on Thursday.
“Many of the common preconditions to opening schools — including vaccines for teachers or students, and low rates of infection in the community — are not necessary to safely teach children in person, a consensus of pediatric infectious disease experts said in a new survey,” the reporters said.
Those polled largely concluded that a return to full-time, in-person learning is appropriate 11 months after schools nationwide were shuttered in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of those surveyed, however, agreed that in order to be successful, certain mitigation measures need to be taken.
Of the experts surveyed, 97 percent recommended masking as the single most important factor to ensure safety at schools, when asked to rate a list of ten mitigation measures. A distance between students was the second most important factor, while measures including using building disinfectants and plexiglass barriers were the least recommended.
Interestingly, 86 percent of the 175 experts surveyed told the paper that vaccinations for teachers, parents and students should not be a precondition for school openings.
As long as masking, social distancing and ventilation systems are used, the consensus was that schools should be open fully. Aside from an outbreak at a school, the experts agreed schools should be reopened and remain open, even in areas that are experiencing a high rate of infection.
It remains to be seen if this information will be evaluated by the Biden administration, which remains bogged down by pandemic politics.
On Biden’s plan to have schools open for (at most) four or five days per month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki vaguely commented Thursday that officials are waiting to act until science has spoken.
“The president wants schools to open safely and in accord with science. And we are going to listen to science and medical experts — the CDC guidelines, we expect them to come out tomorrow,” Psaki said, according to the New York Post.
“We are eager to hear more about the clear science-based guidelines for opening schools and how we can do that safely and how we can keep them open. The president will not rest until every school is open five days a week. That is our goal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did release those guidelines on Friday, and the organization advised it was “critical” for schools to begin reopening and to stay open.
“Evidence suggests that many K-12 schools that have strictly implemented mitigation strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open,” the CDC report said. The guidelines offered a way to resume education for students that was more or less in line with what experts told The Times.
Masks, distancing and vaccines, when available, were all recommended. One bit of interesting information from the CDC, however, regards the multiple mentions of the negative mental health effects all of these closures have had on students.
The CDC argued that schools “help to mitigate health disparities by providing critical services including school meal programs and facilitate access to social, physical, behavioral, and mental health services.”
“Many students are either missing or have had interruptions in these services due to school building closures and virtual and hybrid learning,” the website said.
“Safe in-person schooling can also offset the negative social, emotional, and mental health impacts of prolonged virtual learning. Minimizing the risk of spread during extracurricular activities and social gatherings outside of school can help maintain in-person instruction.”
The CDC has an interest in the mental health of students, which signals that depression and loneliness are potentially larger threats than COVID-19. Essentially the expansive guidelines concluded that every measure should be taken to return kids to in-person learning, as they’re being psychologically tormented.
Meanwhile, the CDC recommended schools utilize the same mitigation efforts that have been used for nearly a year now to attempt to slow down infection rates.
The 175 experts surveyed in The Times study were also asked another eye-opening question: “Who Needs a Vaccine Before Things Can Go Back to Normal?”
By “normal,” assumedly the question means normal normal — a time before the COVID nightmare forced a generation of children to lose a year that can never be recovered.
A shocking minority amount of those surveyed, 9 percent, said no vaccines were needed to get back to normal.
The number is small, but still, these people are experts. That’s a surprising number of pediatric infectious disease experts who are OK with getting things back to normal right now with no precautions or mitigation efforts.
That’s information that can’t be discounted.
A majority, 53 percent, said that all students and teachers should be vaccinated before the masks can be discarded. A commended 18 percent said adults in either schools or in the community should be vaccinated, while the remaining 21 percent advocated for high school students and adults to be vaccinated before a return to pre-pandemic learning.
When combined, the science is telling us to get back to some degree of normalcy by opening schools again. The only question: Will Biden and other Democrats finally listen to science?
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