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This is one of those things I thought was common sense, but is apparently so scandalous, people have threatened to call Child Protective Services on me (no, really).
Let’s look at the numbers for how kids are impacted by COVID. For children 14 and under over the course of the entire year-long pandemic, 134 American children have died according to the CDC. Of these 134 children, when details are released about their health prior to the COVID diagnosis, tales like this are common,
The immediate cause of death for a 2-month-old the state’s top medical doctor said died because of COVID-19 was a birth defect called gastroschisis, a condition in which a baby is born with intestines located outside the body, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner.
It’s unclear how many of these 134 children who have died over the course of the past 12-months, were healthy or if they were suffering from already near-fatal conditions prior to their COVID diagnosis.
There have been reports of additional complications for some children diagnosed with COVID, yet it is a rare diagnosis. At the height of the pandemic in Europe, less than 100 children were diagnosed and treated for it.
Scary, yes, but put alongside the numbers of pediatric flu deaths and complications, when regular flu seasons see a comparable number of pediatric deaths (some seasons, like 2009-2020, saw double the flu deaths than the number of COVID deaths we’ve had so far).
All this to say: Life has always carried the risk of viral death and complications for children, and there is no more risk from COVID than there is from the flu during regular years. Yet, before 2020, we never shut our lives down because of a virus, we never would have dreamed of canceling school and life for children for close to a year, forcing them to hide inside their bedrooms glued to computer and phone screens.
Sickeningly, we likely will see school districts across the country continue this “digital learning” model into the fall of 2021 and beyond. They’re now calling for the “eradication” of the virus before schools can reopen. Anyone with even a basic understanding of viruses can explain that there is no such thing as full eradication, especially not in this circumstance.
Teachers are also insisting that children also be inoculated before they can return to the school building in-person. That possibility is a long way off; supplies for actually at-risk populations are still limited and vaccine safety trials are still in the testing phase for children under the age of 16.
It’s time for us to say the quiet part out loud: It is okay for a child to contract COVID. Is it ideal? No, no parent would wish any virus on their child. But we’re facing a choice: Keep our children locked away or expose them to a virus that is in no way more dangerous for their age than common flu strains they’ve been exposed to in the past. The alternative is intolerably riskier.
Writing for the New York Post today, I wrote about the psychological toll that this pandemic has taken on kids, and the situation is already dire. Kids who were already at increased risk of mental illness will now, according to mental health experts I spoke with, almost certainly see their illness accelerate and worsen. And for kids who had no underlying risk factors for mental illness, their resiliency is being tested as our mitigation efforts stretch into their second year. We’re already seeing frightening spikes in mental health visits to emergency rooms and suicide clusters are appearing across the country in children as young as ten. We can’t just look at the data on the virus as we consider children’s health, but we also must consider data surrounding mental health, suicides, and drug use. When we factor those numbers into the equation, the choice is clear: We must release children from this purgatory we’ve imposed upon them under the guise of protecting their health. We must release them for their health.Published in