Who are we trying to protect?
We say it’s for the safety of your children, but it is clear that the decisions Hawaii is making in regards to COVID policies are for the sake of some adults.
by Chanda Tsing
Let’s put the last 18 months in perspective.
Children are behind in school thanks to many days missed as schools regrouped in an attempt to provide instantaneous online learning. In addition, it is apparent that online learning did not provide as broad or in-depth learning as what children would have received in school. This is compounded with a lack of social learning that takes place with peers. And this was all done to avoid the risk of children catching Covid-19.
Was this justified at the beginning, with all the unknowns? -- perhaps. But we now know that kids are about half as likely to get Covid-19 than adults. More harm was being done by keeping them from school than it was for them being at school. We may not have quantitative studies in Hawaii, because the vast majority of students were confined to online learning for much of last school year, but we can take a look at some places that did have children return to school.
Between March 2020 and June 2020, 1.95 million students in Sweden attended school, without masks. Only 15 of those students developed a severe case of Covid-19. To put this in percentages, .0008% of the students were in danger, and none of them died from Covid. Compare that to what may happen to adults in a similar situation, especially those susceptible age groups. 100,000 infected people may leave as many as 1,400 dead ages 65 and older and 15,000 among those 85 and older. The risk is many thousand times higher for an aged adult than it is for a child.
A more recent study indicates that 2 children in 1,000,000 will die of Covid-19. That is .0002% of children.
Another example from Germany states the same case. Using the advantage of a staggered summer break, the impact of school closure and reopening with Covid-19 cases was looked at, and no association between closing or opening schools and overall cases was found. Closer to home, studies were done in Florida, Utah, and Missouri that showed opening schools did not lead to noticeable rise in Covid cases.
From my small experience this past year, our school of approximately 400 students opened fully in December of 2020 and remained open through May 2021. Of the handful of Covid cases reported in connection with the school, they were all adult cases and only affected students because of the need to temporarily close classrooms.
Again I go back to the question, who are we trying to protect?
As we look forward to the 2021-2022 school year we see the need to open schools to in person earning. Schools open rather than closed is so important, but only part of what needs to happen for our children. Look back at the study done in Sweden, the students were in schools, fully opened, without masks. That is what we need to give our children.
It is now common knowledge that the rates of depression and anxiety have sky-rocketed with the policies of Covid-19. In fact, 8 in 10 children are experiencing increased negative feelings according to a study done by Save the Children. Yet, it is hard to distinguish what aspects of our Covid-19 life may be influencing such trends.
Professionals are making these types of statements concerning face masks. It is not a simple thing to separate the effect of wearing masks from that of greater anxiety and stress experienced with Covid-19. A mask can make one feel there is a physical barrier between themselves and others. Face masks may complicate social interaction. One’s ability to face match (recognize people) is detrimentally impaired. One’s ability to read another’s emotions is about 3 times lower when a face mask is used. Masks reduce the information we have available to express ourselves and understand others by intercepting important non-verbal communications that are universal to our emotional connection.
Some consider masks for children a way to ensure safety of their family and older generations that may come in contact with them. However, children that are exposed to Covid-19 are approximately half as likely to acquire Covid as others that live with them that experience the same exposure to the virus. Data suggests that should children become infected with Covid-19 at school, they are unlikely to spread it to their family. Another source states that children do not appear to be major spreaders of COVID-19.
Hospitals report increased numbers of kids requiring interventions for mental health incidents, so we do know the mental health of our children is being challenged. While we are not trying to downplay the seriousness of Covid-19 for many populations, we do see that while children are not dealing with Covid as an infectious illness, we do not understand the full scope of how Covid-19 is affecting them.
The risks of Covid-19 remain quite low for the younger population; there are other startling numbers that should be considered. For people in the in the age range of 5-14 and 15-24, both groups are 10 times more likely to die of suicide than Covid. If mental health needs are on the rise, we can expect these numbers to rise as well. For the age group 5-14 years of age, only 2 causes of death are more likely, malignant neoplasms (cancer) and transportation accidents. And transportation accidents is the only thing more likely to kill someone in the 15-24 age group than suicide.
Hawaii lags behind all recommendations for mask wearing out of doors, requiring students to wear them out of doors while on school grounds through the school year ending in May 2021. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that in general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. The World Health Organization states, “Even when you’re in an area of COVID-19 transmission, masks should not be worn during vigorous physical activity because of the risk of reducing your breathing capacity” (PE and recess). And the need to wear a mask in hot, humid weather (think Hawaii) has been called “draconian” by health professionals.
Some say that masks will need to be worn until all can be vaccinated. This again causes one to ask the question, who are we protecting? What is the need for children to be vaccinated? And should we be pushing for emergency vaccinations for this age group?
As we have seen, children are dealing (managing?) with the Covid-19 virus better than adults. One reason is that children’s immune systems are uniquely adapted to fight new pathogens the first time, whereas adults tend to depend more on immunological memories.
Trials for children’s vaccinations may not be complete until well into 2022. Children should not wait that long to return to their lives. Emergency authorizations have been used for adults in pushing the vaccine out to the general public. Considering the effects of Covid-19 on that population, especially 65 and up, these emergency authorizations seem to be justified despite possible risks involved. However, for a population, such as children, that is affected by the Covid-19 virus in such low numbers, the risks of the vaccine actually outweigh its benefits and the vaccination should instead proceed via traditional FDA approval pathways for children. Remember the 2 deaths in a million? If we want to vaccinate all children to save those 2 lives, we will potentially cause 45,000+ children side effects from the vaccinations. If parents are hesitant to send their children back to school without vaccinations, they need to be educated in a way to put this in perspective.
In the past 18 months, as governments and policy makers have strived to protect us from Covid-19, many emergency orders were put in place. Much was done with unknowns. Now we have time and experience on our side. Do not move forward with the protocol we left off with at the end of the previous school year. It is time to move forward. It is time to help an aching population feel normalcy once again and not hold them captive to protect a few. It is time to open our eyes to the reality of what Covid-19 had done to us, not just as an infectious disease, but as a threat to our mental health. It is time to protect our children.