If you are a parent with school-age children this year, I am sorry. As a mother of a small child too young to start school this year I can only be thankful that I don’t have to make the agonizing decision you are facing. The USA has failed to contain and suppress the COVID-19 virus so thoroughly that our cases far surpass every other country in the world. John’s Hopkins has put together a very thorough statistical website here.
As with any new disease there is a only so much available data, although new studies are coming out about this topic and research is being done. As a result, there has been much speculation about young children’s ability to contract COVID-19 as well as spread it. As of right now, it seems that overall children do have milder cases, requiring fewer hospitalizations. This is thought to be in part due to their expression of ACE receptor on the cellular level- something that changes as humans age. This information is somewhat encouraging, and you can read about these studies here:
However, there is new data showing that while school children seem to have milder cases, they do harbor significantly higher amounts COVID-19 viral particles in their nose and throat-even if symptoms are mild. What this means is that children with very mild symptoms can spread the disease to a greater extent than adults. This is true of other viruses as well such as RSV. It does put those adults at home at greater risk to have children at school, especially those children who are perhaps too young to follow PPE and social distance precautions with any consistency. Here is the link to that new information.
As with all truly difficult decisions in life, it isn’t just about the potentially life-threatening health risks. Children have been out of school since early March and many parents are essential workers. Add to that the fact that additional unemployment benefits are ending, and many folks have only received a one-time check that likely hasn’t lasted them 4 months. There is also the issue of children falling behind in their education as distance learning is not possible for all children in all households. Special needs children in particular can need services that parents are not able to provide on their own.
How are working parents to return to or continue working (either from home or physically present) at their jobs without school or safe childcare? Why hasn’t our country made school safety and crushing this virus more of a priority so that parents are not facing this awful dilemma? These are the questions I ask myself as I scroll my Facebook feed and read through the posts of my friends who have older children. They are looking for private school or tutor options, researching outdoor schools, trying to do the absolute best they can by their children, as all parents do. Whatever decision you have made about school is the right decision for you and your family. But it really should not be this hard. Parents, especially working parents, have been hit hard by this pandemic and I just want everyone reading this to know that I am here for you. I understand you. I wish things were better.