BACK TO SCHOOL IN A NEW AGE
It is September and kids are back to school, some still remote and others physically back in class. Safety is the number one priority for students, teachers and parents. There are many decisions and considerations by local school districts to determine what is best for our students and teachers.
This should not be a political decision but rather a decision based on what is best for our kids. From my perspective, we must always make important decisions based on a risk benefit analysis. If the risks outweigh the potential benefits, then it is likely not a wise decision. However, if the potential benefits far outweigh the possible risks, then we can feel comfortable about taking action.
Sometimes, there are risks no matter what, so we have to make decisions to minimize risk and do what is best while accepting certain risks that are less consequential than others. I weigh these considerations in every major decision I make, whether personal or professional.
In the case of COVID and kids we know that in the United States and globally, much fewer cases have been reported in children (ages 0-17 years) than in adults. Young kids are much more resilient to COVID infection and sickness than older adults. It makes sense since the evidence reveals that it is older people with co-morbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory issues, kidney disease and obesity that are not only more susceptible to infection but also once infected do very poorly.
Mechanistically, we can explain this by the protective effects of nitric oxide. As illustrated below, when we are young, our body makes sufficient nitric oxide. The older we get, the less nitric oxide our body makes. It is the loss of nitric oxide that causes high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory issues, kidney disease and obesity, the same conditions that put us at risk for COVID infection and rapid progression of disease that leads to hospitalization and death. This is why kids are protected from COVID, except of course the kids that suffer from some of the conditions above.
The body’s ability to produce nitric oxide has also been shown to inhibit Corona virus replication. So if your kids are healthy without any underlying conditions above, you can feel confident that their likelihood of getting sick from COVID is really low.
While there will always be at risk populations, including some kids of an increased risk of COVID infection and sickness from it, there are also additional risks of isolation and keeping them from classroom learning and social interaction.
School absence for prolonged periods results in falling behind in education but also limited interaction with other children and adolescents. Some kids may end up completely losing their social network. Most kids haven’t been to school since March. What kind of consequences can this kind of social isolation have for children and young adults?
A recent report from the Wall Street Journal reveals the toll isolation has taken on kids during COVID era. Social support from friends and peers helps to protect adolescents from mental disorders. Playing with peers has important developmental benefits, and doctors worry that children are missing out on them now. Social behavior includes how an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behavior influences, and is influenced by, other people. Creating social relationships is central to human well-being, and not just due to the pure joy of being with friends, or when learning social norms.
It is evident that experiencing social interactions is vital during childhood development. The absence of social relationships and behaviors have been shown to affect child development in various ways. For example, previous research has revealed that socially isolated children tend to have lower subsequent educational attainment, be part of a less advantaged social class in adulthood, and are more likely to be psychologically distressed in adulthood.
The mainstream media does a great job of creating fear and panic. It is important we keep things in perspective and make decisions based on real science and evidence that are best for each of us and our kids.
These decisions should be local. The school where my kids go has roughly 900 students in the entire K-12 and only a dozen or two students per class. This is a much different situation than inner city schools with tens of thousands of students. The policies governing large school are obviously different than those governing small schools.
While there will certainly be COVID outbreaks in some schools, just like the seasonal flu every year, young healthy kids will recover and do just fine.
There are also safe and effective therapeutics for COVID on the horizon. I would stay away from COVID vaccines, especially those that are rushed to market without proper long term safety studies. Vaccine injury in kids is real and devastating and in my opinion unnecessary.
The risks of continued isolation and quarantine, especially for kids, may cause long term damage to their mental, social and intellectual well-being. For me, that risk far outweighs the slight risk of illness from COVID. Obviously take proper precautions, but kids need to be outside playing, exercising and interacting with their friends and classmates and learning. Their future, and ours, depends on it.