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Mass. General Hospital experts make the case for students returning to in-person learning

Will we let science guide public policy?

Photo: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

Two health experts in Massachusetts penned an op-ed making the argument that it should be safe for students to return to their classrooms and resume in-person learning.

The editorial by Dr. Lloyd Fisher, president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Sandra Nelson, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, was published on Thursday.

The doctors acknowledged that social distancing and lockdowns have been beneficial in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, but explained the danger of a continued lockdown to the development of children.

For most children COVID-19 has not had the devastating and life-threatening physical health effects seen in adults. But the negative impact on their education, mental health, and social development has been substantial.

Children with emotional, psychological, or developmental disabilities often receive necessary services through schools. Because some of these services were put on hold, continued school closures have been especially detrimental to this group of vulnerable children.

They pointed to the evidence that the coronavirus is less of a threat to children than it is to older groups.

"Children are less susceptible to infection and less likely to become severely ill when infected with COVID-19," they wrote. "Thus far children have not been major drivers of transmission; and evidence from the pre-lockdown era points to lower rates of transmission in schools than in other community settings."

This, combined with the fact that health officials know better how social distancing can thwart the spread of the coronavirus, lead the doctors to conclude that the benefits of in-person classroom instruction outweigh the risks.

We have done a great job in Massachusetts, heeding the call for distancing to get our transmission rates down. We believe a return to school in this setting and with mitigation strategies is safe, and that Massachusetts can and should continue to be a model for safe reopening.

Massachusetts is six weeks away from the beginning of the regular school year.

A national debate

The national debate over whether children can safely return to classroom instruction under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic has developed into a partisan struggle.

President Donald Trump and many of his allies have argued that it is essential for students to return to classrooms in order to mitigate the negative effects on children and their parents.

Many of the Democratic governors and politicians of the left have argued that it is far too dangerous at a time when coronavirus cases are increasing in the United States.

Here's more about the classroom coronavirus debate:

McEnany downplays fears of reopening schools www.youtube.com

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