Covid 19. Schools reopen? Yes or No?

One of the greatest points of disagreement in the media, politics and at home is over the reopening of schools.  On one side of the discussion is that school is critical to the development and well being of children.  Schools provide instruction in important subjects, develop social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, mental health therapy, physical activity and also allows parents to go to work.  The other side of the discussion is if reopening of schools is safe for the children, teachers and general public.

There are many countries that have reopened their schools and their methods and results should be lessons for the US. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2020-07-22/how-countries-reopened-schools-amid-the-coronavirus-pandemic

In summary, many countries have demonstrated that it is possible to open schools without causing spikes in cases and more importantly without causing spikes in deaths.  Children are 8 X more likely to die from fly/pneumonia than covid 19.

Denmark was one of the first countries to reopen schools after they shut them down.  Denmark reopened their schools on April 15 for children 2-12.  The measures they implemented appear to be successful as there has been NO increase in covid 19 cases and no serious outbreaks in schools.  On May 18 those aged 12-16 were allowed to return to using the same protocols.

Similarly, schools in Germany, Finland and Norway have reopened without significant spikes in the number of new cases and more importantly, no increases in deaths.

South Korea and Israel are examples of countries that reopened, closed and reopened  In both cases, there was a general increase in the number of covid cases that coincided with the reopening of schools.  However, in neither country was in shown that it was the reopening of schools that caused the general increase in covid.  In both counties other restrictions to the public were also lifted at the same time schools was reopened.  For instance, in Israel, groups of upto 250 were allowed to meet at the same schools reopened.  Schools are now open in both of these countries.

The big question everyuone is asking is “is it safe for children to return to school?’  Often this question is  addressed by the number of children who may become infected.  Although, no one wants any child to get sick, the facts are that people (and children) under the age of 26 have a significantly higher risk of dying from flu than dying from covid 19.

From 2007-2017, 172 million people died from flu and pneumonia.  This is an average fatality rate of 60,000/year.  However, the real detail is in the age of the people effected.  By the numbers, children between 5 and 14 have a 1 in 200,000 chance of dying from fly/pneumonia but a 1 in 1.5 million chance of dying from covid 19.

The following shows the relative risk of death from covid 19 vs pneumonia/flu.  Note that those under the age of 15 have 4 to 9 times higher risk of dying from flu/pneumonia than covid.

Evidence is mounting that children are less susceptible to Covid 19 and are less likely to transmit the virus to others.  When children under 15 test positive for covid 19, almost 40% have no symptoms and majority develop fevers and fatigue but recover. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/145/6/e20200702

The data from around the world is consistent in showing that children are at lower risk from covid than from the flu.  However, there are still concerns about the risk to teachers, staff and student families.  It is likely teachers and staff will be the sources of infection, not the victims.  The results from many countries who have reopened their schools since April and May clearly show that there are ways to reopen schools without causing an increase in the number of cases or the number of deaths due to covid 19.

The current CDC estimate is that the overall fatality rate of covid is .65%.  However, this number is dominated by the fact that the fatiality rate of people over 65 is 5.6%.  The fatality rate of those under 64 is lower than that or flu/pneumonia.

The fatality rate of children who tested positive for covid is .03%.  Or, 99.7% of children who get covid 19 will recover.  This fatality number is much lower than many other diseases and causes for children.

As a last calibration, it is interesting to note that even in this year of the global pandemic, there are still more deaths attributed to pneumonia/flu than covid 19.  Covid 19 is to be respected and avoided but our overall understanding of the disease, use of social distancing, masks, testing and improving treatments have lowered the fatality rates down to levels of other diseases that we have learned to endure without shutting down our society. https://freopp.org/estimating-the-risk-of-death-from-covid-19-vs-influenza-or-pneumonia-by-age-630aea3ae5a9