In March, schools in nearly every state did the unthinkable: They shut their doors for months, thereby destroying the social lives and education of a generation of children — all for a virus that poses no statistical threat to them. Now, weeks (and in some places, even months) after certain schools have reopened, the entire fear of kids as super-spreaders turned out to be a fabrication. While some of us knew this from day one and could have saved a generation of children months of despair, the New York Times finds it "surprising."
On Monday, the NYT reported that despite fears that New York's 1,800 public schools would serve as death traps, "nearly three weeks into the in-person school year, early data from the city's first effort at targeted testing has shown the opposite: a surprisingly small number of positive cases." The city received the results of 16,298 random tests throughout the public schools and found just 20 staff members who tested positive. How many students? Just eight — in all of New York City! And there's no evidence of serious illness among them.
It's not as if the virus is not spreading in the community. The schools reopened just as a resurgence of the virus became apparent in Brooklyn and Queens, yet there were just four positives out of over 3,300 tests in those two boroughs.
Rather than focusing on balancing nursing home safety and family visitation through mass testing, Gov. Cuomo is wasting testing resources by randomly testing 10%-20% of the public school's population every month, all for a virus that clearly does not spread much among children and certainly does not pose a greater risk to them than the typical pathogens they pick up every year in school.
"The emerging scientific consensus is that younger children do not spread the virus as easily as older children and adults," wrote the Times in an article titled, "Surprising Results in Initial Virus Testing in N.Y.C. Schools."
Well, no kidding. We could have told you that in the spring and saved months of lost education for kids and work hours for parents. Among over a dozen studies and data analysis from different countries showing that young children do not spread the virus (they get it from their parents at home), Icelandic researchers sequenced all the genomes from samples of every positive case in the country and failed to find a single instance of a child infecting parents.
The fact that so few children are infected in schools is truly astounding given the widespread outbreak of cases in communities in the majority of states this month. Emily Oster, an economics professor at Brown University, created a dashboard of 300 schools offering in-person classes. She found just 10 cases per 100,000 among students, and that rate has held steady into October despite the growing community spread.
What's become obvious from the body of data on schools and day cares is that even the low numbers of cases in schools aren't being spread in schools, but from home. If children were spreading to each other at the same rate adults do, we would find entire classes infected.
A recent survey of over 57,000 day care providers in the U.S. published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found no association between exposure to child care and a diagnosis of COVID-19.
Given that the jury is in and the verdict is rendered, how are there still so many schools closed indefinitely? The teachers' union in Fairfax County, Virginia, wants schools closed for the remainder of this school year. According to Professor Oster's database, there were just six student infections per 100,000 in Virginia during the first two weeks of October.
Moreover, why are children being abused with social isolation and mask-wearing for hours on end? Supporters of these measures might suggest that these regulatory rituals are the key to keeping the numbers low. But the reality is that we are not seeing the mask-wearing work among adults in any other setting. The number of infections among schoolchildren remains low, even as the numbers in the communities skyrocket, despite universal mask-wearing.
According to Pew Research, as of August, 80%-90% of residents of most regions reported regularly wearing masks. Those numbers have only grown as the mandates and the social norms and pressures have intensified over time.
Joe Biden said at the first debate that if we had universal mask-wearing, then deaths could be cut in half. But we have already had these mandates in place for months, and almost everyone is complying. So why are kids not spreading it while everyone else is? If anything, kids would be less likely to maintain proper hygiene and protocol while wearing masks than adults.
Furthermore, if you look at any data among schools that have reopened, you will find that the rate of infection is much higher among the staff, who are wearing masks just as religiously (and likely, more properly) as children. According to Professor Oster's dashboard, the infection rate for staff is 2.5 times higher than for children. And whereas the rate among children is flat, the rate among staff is going up with the community spread.
Finally, in a similar vein, we are seeing exponential spreading among college kids, despite very strict mask and social distancing mandates. Now, obviously, it's nothing but a casedemic – with nearly no hospitalizations and zero deaths – but the fact that it's spreading prolifically among school staff and among college students who wear masks, but not among younger children, demonstrates that there is a natural phenomenon playing out here, not human input.
Clearly, children do not spread the virus, but merely get the virus from their community, whereas adults in school spread the virus commensurate to the level of community spread.
This point is starkly evident in the data from Wisconsin. The Badger State saw the biggest spread in the nation coinciding with the opening of schools. The result? Yes, the infection rate among Wisconsin's schoolchildren did increase from 14 per 100,000 to 18 from mid-September to early October. But among the staff, it increased from 29 to 84! That demonstrates that school openings play no role in the spread and that the numbers are a reflection of the community spread, which mainly affects adults. The relatively few kids who get the virus would have gotten it from their parents or community regardless of whether they were in school, not from other students.So, what is it going to take to restore the lives of our children? Certainly not data and science, because the shutdown and masking of young children was never driven by science to begin with.