COVID-19: Far More Dangerous Than School Shootings

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Photo by NIAID-RML.

An anecdotal comment from the Notes last night:

SuZQ – My oldest son and his wife have three kids. They have been doing online school since the start of the year. This past week, their school district forced kids back into the classroom because so many kids are falling behind. This was the first time our little granddaughter who is in Kdg was actually in a school setting.

Long story short, they had to take her to get a COVID test today because she is running a fever and came down with a horrible cough. And now the whole family is quarantined including my daughter-in-law who is a teacher at the same elementary school. My son and DIL just got their second vaccines this past week so not long enough for full antibodies.

I wonder how many other families from that school have sick kids getting Covid tests this weekend.

This story hit home for me, because we’re running into a similar issue. Plano, TX is withdrawing support for virtual learning; thankfully, they’re doing so starting in August, so kids whose parents wish to keep them safe can continue to do so for the remainder of the year. After that, the parents will have the option of public school or officially pulling the child out to home school.

There are arguments in favor of this approach. Having a single form of schooling is much more cost-effective for the school system. Allowing direct oversight allows better monitoring during tests, which in turn allows greater oversight of the school systems by the state and federal governments. Eliminating a health exemption allows the school to have more control over the education of children who are not showing sufficient growth.

Meanwhile, the health concerns continue. The only way to verify actual spread is through mass testing, and while the United States does not conduct such tests many other countries do. In places where testing has occurred, a few scientific results – results which are in keeping with reasonable expectations – have been determined.

Children seem to shed only about half the viral load of adults. This tracks, because the lung capacity of children is considerably lower than adults. If they’re not breathing as much air out, it’s reasonable to expect them to discharge fewer viral cells. It would also explain a charted resistance to contracting the virus in the first place. The difference between those two figures (about 50% decrease in virus production, while the resistance is far lower than 50% although there is considerable variance between the studies) would be explained if children require a smaller viral load to contract the illness.

Under these views, a process where kids were sent back to school with all available precautions (constant and monitored mask usage, maximum ventilation with a significant preference for open windows and other open-air processes, temperature checks at the entry, full distancing) would be reasonable if it were accompanied by regular testing of all students, at least once a week but possibly more often. Instead, the United States is pushing kids back as soon as possible while giving lip service to health concerns.

We are being told that three feet is now sufficient, based on a numerical analysis of testing results from school reports. We are told that children suddenly obey all rules and restrictions even more than do adults. We are told that additional funding for things like janitors to wipe down surfaces will be an important step forward (surface contact, while absolutely still a threat, has been demonstrated to be third in transmission methods, something to watch for but relatively minor.)

What has been overwhelmingly demonstrated is the usefulness of open air. Even with different levels of distancing (three feet outside vs. six inside), people are far less likely to pass the disease when outdoors. Few American classrooms are designed to allow full outside air flow, though; in many schools the windows no longer open. These modifications have been made because of children’s safety, whether concern for a child falling from a window or a potential shooter getting in.

The core of the problem is this: people are continuing to address the COVID-19 pandemic among children in relation to the adult epidemic. This is fundamentally wrong, despite the fact that an infected child can (and studies have shown, often will) pass it to adults.

The question is not whether a child is less likely to die or suffer permanent injury compared to an adult, the question is whether they are less likely to die or suffer permanent injury compared to other childhood threats.

Measles, mumps, and rubella all require vaccinations before allowing children entry into school, barring special circumstances – and those exceptions are sometimes eliminated during local outbreaks. All of those diseases are less infectious than COVID-19 and have far fewer incidents of severe injury per thousand cases among children. School shootings are exceedingly rare; in order to pad the statistics to where they seem like a regular threat, things like on-campus shootings between criminals overnight (which happens because they are large, visible places without much monitoring) and parking lot suicides are included, and even then the numbers are minute. Children very rarely fall from windows. Nevertheless, all of these problems have been addressed in the name of keeping the children safe.

The effort to frame the disease against the death rate of adults is a bit of statistical smoke and mirrors, designed to provide an illusion of safety. Certainly, it’s safer for children (assuming all protocols are followed) than it would be for adults regarding COVID-19, but that’s akin to saying that the appropriate way to deal with a child playing Russian roulette is to replace their six-shooter with a custom twenty-cartridge cylinder. The rational response is to take the gun away, instead.

That’s not what’s happening. Throughout the country, the restrictions are being rolled back. Anecdotally, on a personal level, I can’t help but see pictures sent by our school district – of children in masks in the hallway, and then an unmasked child smiling while a teacher stands directly behind them, and another of two masked children – one of whom has the mask under their nose – sitting back to back reading for a posed shot – and suspect they’re not taking it as seriously as I’d like. This, after they’ve already stopped taking temperatures at the door, and after some of the elementary schools in our city reporting more than 10% of the children having tested positive over the course of the year (this, despite the fact that children don’t need to get tested if they’re not showing symptoms and that more than 30% remain in virtual learning.)

In 2019, eight people were killed and another forty-three injured in school shootings. Those numbers, as mentioned above, include things like suicides and altercations at sporting events, but they do not included the after-hours campus activities which are often included. What they do incorporate are teacher and parent deaths.

Through February 11, there had been 241 child deaths in the US from COVID-19. Those do not include teacher deaths and parent deaths, for obvious reasons – and they also do not provide a full number, because seven states do not report the age at death to the national health authorities, and those are only deaths which were directly attributable to COVID-19 as opposed to related illnesses which were aggravated by COVID-19 or “Long COVID-19” issues – issues which can be terrible, as evidenced recently by the suicide of the CEO for the Texas Roadhouse chain.

The numbers aren’t close. And that’s before we decided to push all the kids back into close quarters without testing and without requirements for ventilation or checks (much less enforcement) on whether other precautions are being followed.

If we were willing to take the health of children seriously, we would be focused on vaccines, testing and contact tracing right now in all of our efforts to get them back into school. We are not, and we do not care about our kids.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.