Both in our personal lives, and as a community, nation, and country, we have seen the toll that school closures and other activity restrictions have had on our children. It has disproportionately affected at-risk children, also. Kids without a structured or safe home life are being far more greatly affected by the isolation and lack of activities. I want to share several articles and research that shows it is time to get our kids back to something more closely resembling January of 2020, in terms of school and extracurriculars and sports. We have been told to ‘follow the science’ for quite a while now, and I wholeheartedly agree with that.  In March of 2020 we really didn’t know what we were dealing with…and the unknown can be scary. I truly believe decisions made then were made with good intentions, as we did the best we could at the time. Fortunately, we have more science and we know more about how the novel coronavirus affects and spreads among kids. And it’s good news and good evidence that we can start to make our kids more of a top priority and help them grow and learn in varying ways—clubs, sports, other extracurriculars, in addition to in-person school!

1. Last November, the New York Times published an article on kids and Covid, citing new research as to why kids react differently to this virus. It was titled, “The Children Never Had the Coronavirus. So Why Did They Have Antibodies? 

More kids than adults (43% to 5%) have antibodies present in their bodies that attack and kill the novel coronavirus. These antibodies are developed in the kids from previous infections/colds that they have had.  Basically, because kids tend to be 'sick' more often, they're actually more protected and have an immune system more ready to defend the body against a similar infection or virus...like this one (the common cold is caused by different viruses which are also from the 'coronavirus' family). This research focused on children between 6 and 16 years of age.

Some studies have shown that kids can have a larger 'viral load', meaning they have more virus present in their body. This has led to an assumption that because there is more viral load in the kids, then they probably spread the virus more. Fortunately, this has been proven wrong as well. You see, the way the virus is detected (PCR testing) means you are actually only detecting a short genetic sequence of the virus, so it's impossible to know if that is "live" virus...let alone something that could infect someone else. In fact, just last week, on January 21st, the WHO released new ‘guidance’ to laboratories around the world to reduce the technique used in PCR testing to get a more accurate representation of Covid cases. In doing this, they are acknowledging that any small particle of virus detected in a test was deemed a “positive test,” resulting in far too many positive tests.

2. A study of 300,000 adults living in “health care worker households” in Scotland found that households with school-age kids have a DECREASED risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and appear to also be associated with a DECREASED risk of COVID-19 disease severe enough to require hospitalization. Considering this information, it is possible, if not even likely, that kids may help keep their parents safer, and even, to a lesser extent, their teachers and other adults within their cohorts!

3. The WIAA and the University of Wisconsin also studied the subject of youth sports after the Fall Sports season. Their findings "suggest that participation in sports is not associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 among Wisconsin high school student-athletes. In fact, no specific sport had a statistically higher incidence rate than the background incidence among adolescents across the state during the same time period. Furthermore, we identified no difference in COVID-19 incidence between student athletes from schools with in-person versus virtual instruction. In addition, these findings agree with the existing literature regarding COVID-19 severity in children, as none of the cases were reported to result in hospitalization or death." And that study involved high schoolers, who are more likely to get Covid and spread it than are K-8th graders.

4. Here is the most important study, in my opinion. Kids are suffering mentally and emotionally from lack of school-related activities and sports. A study, also from UW-Madison, shows that moderate to severe depression has increased by a multiple of 3, as of May of last year. I worry what the number would look like today, after almost a year of similar activity and sports restrictions.  Also found in the study was a significant loss of physical, psychosocial, and overall health since the shut down of schools and sports. Along these lines, a study was released last week that estimated 3 million students may have dropped out of school learning completely since March, according to Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit that focuses on underserved youth.  Children rely on their teachers and coaches for more than just education and instruction, and it saddens and worries me to think of the long term ramifications that this isolation is causing.

5. An article form the Journal of American Medical Association studied how often Covid is transmitted within the household. Surprisingly, if kids are asymptomatic but are carrying the virus, the chance of them transmitting the virus to another household member is only 0.7%.  Less than 1% will transmit the virus to people they live with!  There was “significantly higher secondary attack rates from symptomatic index cases than asymptomatic or presymptomatic index cases, although less data were available on the latter. The lack of substantial transmission from observed asymptomatic index cases is notable.”

Put this all together and in my opinion it certainly makes a strong case for increasing the opportunities for the kids, in terms of in-person schooling, extracurricular activities, and youth sports.  We all know kids learn and develop in different ways…it’s time to get them back to a diverse option of activities and opportunities!

I hope this post helps to provide, at the very least, some peace of mind. This is quite a lot of information, but by the time you read this, more research will have been published and I’m quite certain it will continue to reinforce my opinion and what I’ve shared here.  In fact, on January 26th, a study of schools in rural Wisconsin will be published.  Doesn’t get much closer to home than that, and I look forward to seeing what is found in that research. 

As I said, I hope this provides, at the very least, some peace of mind.  Adults and parents especially are very good at worrying about our kids.  While that worrying won’t stop, the worrying about the safety of our children when it comes to coronavirus transmission at school and in sports can be eased as we continue to learn more about it.

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