Keywords: reopening of schools; frequent handwashing; social distancing; no crowding; wearing of masks; COVID-19; pandemic; Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C).
A Difficult Challenge for All
Parents, educators, and political leaders are asking the difficult question: “Should students return to school within a few weeks? Some take a strong position that children should return to school for their social and academic wellbeing. Some political leaders take this position, their main concern being to free up parents to go back to work. Some parents also hold this view, but there is a big divide here, as some parents believe that their children should not be mandated back to school at this time, particularly because of the high and increasing incidence of COVID-19 in many jurisdictions. Educators also recognize the importance of having the offline relationship with their students, but they also recognize the potential for teachers becoming infected by their contact with students in the classroom.
What the Reports Say
Some point to the reports that children are not as much affected by the virus as adults, and even if they were to contract the virus, their health could not be seriously compromised. The South Korean study showed that children between the ages of 10 and 19 transmitted the virus as readily as adults, while children under 10 were not found to be high transmitters. While for some time it was thought that young children were safe from the virus, there have been urgent calls for the reopening of schools.
What about Keeping Children Safe
But in more recent times, COVID-19 seems to be infecting children and younger people to a greater extent than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. The argument that can be brought against children returning to the classroom is that there is the likelihood that they can become infected. There are even reports of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C), a form of COVID-19 infection, which affects children differently from the way COVID-19 affects adults. In children, different parts of the body may become inflamed, with cases showing inflammation of skin, eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys, brain or the gastrointestinal system. While COVID-19 in children could be slight, it could sometimes be deadly. Any evidence of skin rashes or other symptoms in children should be treated immediately and with appropriate health care. Reports from Texas and Florida reveal recent COVID-19 deaths of children under 10.
What about Parents, Grandparents and Teachers
Even if children’s infection may not be deadly, children can have a serious impact on their teachers and parents. Since many children live in multigenerational family residences, this could take a huge toll on grandparents as well.
The Threat is Enough to Discourage Reopening
This threat of the spread of COVID-19 to the older generations is enough to discourage some from supporting the reopening of schools. Yet, many parents, teachers and political leaders urge return to school for convenience, children’s socialization and academic development, and the country’s economic well being. Many other teachers are fearful of the impact on themselves, their families, as well as on their students.
Families Must Make Their Decisions
Whether to send their children back to school is a decision that families must make. Families are in the best situation to assess their risks and make intelligent and informed decisions. However, for families to be able to make informed decisions, political leaders and health authorities must be very honest with their constituents, telling them the true state of the infection in their particular local areas. Hiding the truth or telling half-truths is presenting parents with only part of the message and depriving them of being able to take the whole picture into consideration in their decision-making.
Regardless of the Decision, Follow Instructions
Regardless of the decision that families must make, they must urge their family members to follow the rules. It is only by bringing the pandemic under control that economies would flourish again. This means all individuals, old and young, must commit to following the instructions: frequent handwashing, social distancing of at least 6 feet; no crowding, and the wearing of masks.
CDC (2019). Considerations for schools: Operating schools during COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (2020). Emergency Department, ICU and Inpatient Clinical Pathway for Evaluation of Possible Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C). Retrieved from https://www.chop.edu/clinical-pathway/multisystem-inflammatory-syndrome-mis-c-clinical-pathway
Mayo Clinic (June 12, 2020). Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mis-c-in-children-covid-19/art-20486809