R Levinson et al. NEJM 2020; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMms2024920. Full Link: Reopening Primary Schools during the Pandemic
Children miss out on essential academic and social–emotional learning, formative relationships with peers and adults, opportunities for play, and other developmental necessities when they are kept at home. Children living in poverty, children of color, English language learners, children with diagnosed disabilities, and young children face especially severe losses.
School-provided social welfare services support the health of U.S. communities made vulnerable by systemic racism, inadequate insurance, family instability, environmental toxicity, and poorly paid jobs.1 More than 50% of all U.S. school-age children rely on their schools for free or reduced-price daily meals. Despite efforts by school districts to maintain these services even when school was conducted remotely, a majority of children have been unable to access the full nutritional benefits to which they’re entitled.5 Schools also provide physical, mental health, and therapeutic services to millions of students per year. Many of these services have proved inaccessible to children — particularly low-income children of color and children with noncitizen family members — when schools are physically closed.1 Finally, safe and consistently open schools are essential for many parents and guardians (particularly women) to be able to reenter the workforce — including the health care sector…
Most locations (except Israel) whose schools are open had already achieved low community transmission rates (<1 new case per day per 100,000 people) and have remained focused on maintaining population-level infection control…
The safest way to open schools fully is to reduce or eliminate community transmission while ramping up testing and surveillance…These precautions are especially important insofar as 17.5% of teachers are 55 or older…
The fundamental argument that children, families, educators, and society deserve to have safe and reliable primary schools should not be controversial. If we all agree on that principle, then it is inexcusable to open nonessential services for adults this summer if it forces students to remain at home even part-time this fall.
My take: This commentary makes strong arguments for reopening schools; however, in countries where this is succeeding, community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is low and we are nowhere close to low.
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