“An open letter to my daughters:
Dear Charlie and Sophie,
Tomorrow I have to send you back to school. I know that, as a first grader and kindergartner, you are not protected and cannot get the “shots” ….
I know I am sending you into a school where… parents did not send them [other children] in masks…. teachers and officials at your school won’t be wearing masks either…. They’ll even ask you to take off your mask indoors so you can “breathe”
… I am going to ask you to wear your mask anyway because I think we should try not to catch COVID….”
More than 500,000 children tested positive for coronavirus in the United States between August 5 and August 26.
Almost half of the cases (203,962) were during prime school start-up dates from August 19 to August 26, and it’s getting worse every day. It seems that we are not sending our children back to school to get an education, we are sending them back to school to catch Covid-19—Delta variant.
A study just released on September 3, 2021, shows that the hospital rates for young people have skyrocketed for COVID-19 by jumping nearly 500% since late June. This jump is mostly blamed on the Delta variant. The study also found that adolescents aged 12 and up who were not vaccinated were ten times more likely to be hospitalized than adolescents who had received the vaccine. This graphic from the study illustrates the problem:
Why are so many more children getting COVID this year than last year?
The Delta variant is new. It is different from the coronavirus that we confronted last year in school. The Delta variant is much more contagious and easier to catch. It spreads more easily; even infants and toddlers can spread the Delta variant.
To illustrate how easily the Delta variant can spread in classrooms, let’s look at one careless, sad example. In this example, one teacher spread coronavirus to many students:
An unvaccinated teacher from Marin County, California decided to go ahead and go to school and teach one day even though she had a cough, slight fever, and a headache. During reading time, she decided to take her mask off to read to her students. Although the students were wearing masks, 80% of the students sitting in the first two rows, those closest to the teacher while she was reading, later tested positive for COVID-19. Four siblings of these infected students also came down with COVID. Four parents of children who tested positive from this one classroom episode, also came down with COVID, and only one parent was unvaccinated. Six students tested positive for COVID after a sleepover that was hosted by one of the students from the original class. None of the students were eligible for vaccine because they were younger than 12 years old. Of the 26 elementary students who caught COVID from this one unvaccinated teacher removing her mask to read a story, 18 of the students were tested and found to have the Delta variant.
This example shows how easily community spread gets started. One unvaccinated teacher, who took her mask off only to read to her students, infected 26 elementary age students with COVID. Who knows how far it spread through the community? Classrooms have become incubators for COVID. School classrooms are one of the primary places that children are now catching COVID-19.
We must stop the spread of coronavirus among our children.
Yes, I know, there are still people saying that COVID is not that bad and that it is not as serious for children.
However, is that actually true? Remember, I have talked about misinformation before. We need to reexamine the facts. We need to stop listening to people who do not know what they are talking about. Just because you read it on the Internet, hear it on the radio, or see it on the TV does not make what the person is saying true. In everything that I write, I give you the information’s actual source, and I encourage you to go to that original study or source and read the facts. If you have nothing to hide, you have no reason not to show your sources and make it easy for others to also read those sources. I always encourage my readers to check the sources, and I try to make it easy for you to find good quality information. Dig a little deeper; insist on knowing the truth; don’t fall for misinformation or lies—children’s lives are at stake.
The truth is that over 400 children have died from COVID-19 in the United States, and more are dying every day. COVID is making schools a dangerous place for children.
Why is Covid more dangerous for children this year than last year?
As I have said before, the Delta variant is not the same as the COVID-19 that children faced last year in school. This is a more easily transmitted disease variant. As Mark Wietecha, CEO of the Children's Hospital Association, explained,
“… many children hospitalized with COVID-19 now, likely driven by the Delta variant, are sicker than those who had contracted previous strains.”
So, the Delta variant this year is more dangerous for children because (1) it’s easier to catch which means that more children are getting COVID this year than last and (2) because children are becoming “sicker” from COVID this year than last year.
What are we as a nation doing about this increased risk and danger to our children? We are demanding that they absolutely must attend in-class instruction with no guarantee of masks and no assurance that anyone will bother to get vaccinated. In some states, governors and other politicians are even fighting tooth and nail to try and keep anyone from wearing a mask in school. They say we need the “freedom” to choose. Unfortunately, children younger than 12 years do not even have a choice about getting vaccinated to protect themselves; they’re not eligible. Where is their freedom?
Remember, our earlier example with the unvaccinated teacher who took her mask off to read to the children? Yes, she had “the freedom to choose.” She chose not to wear a mask and not to get vaccinated which meant she thereby chose to infect 26 children with COVID-19, all under the age of 12.
Anytime you choose not to wear a mask, to take your mask off—even temporarily, or not to get vaccinated, you are choosing to expose an innocent child to COVID-19, either through classroom exposure, family, or community spread. Either way, you are still responsible. Your “freedom to choose” may seriously harm the life of a trusting child.
We need to start making wiser choices. We as adults do not have the right to choose to make children sick and to endanger their lives.
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, explained why Delta is so much more dangerous for children in a recent interview.
“…more than 400 children have died of COVID-19. And right now we have almost 2,000 kids in the hospital, many of them in ICU, some of them under the age of four…. This means that “kids are very seriously at risk….”
The Delta variant is more dangerous than a cold or the flu. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the CDC, of those 2,000 children who are in the hospital, one-third are in intensive care (ICU). Anytime a child is placed in ICU, it is serious. COVID affects all ages. Even infants have been so seriously affected by Delta that they have had to be placed in ICU. COVID is also causing many long-term health problems for children.
What is long-term COVID?
Some children experience post-COVID conditions—new, returning, or even on-going health problems caused by COVID-19.
- One student went from playing on 3 basketball teams simultaneously to having trouble even walking for 10 minutes. As her mother explained, "Her central nervous system has just been trashed. It's like a tornado just went through… No one really knows what the next steps are or how the recovery looks…. "
Six months after COVID, the student has “… graduated from a liquid diet to rice, soup, and applesauce.” Unfortunately, the doctors still do not know whether she will completely recover. She did not have preexisting conditions.
Covid patients are also showing cognitive problems that directly affect their ability to learn in the classroom.
- A 15-year-old explained that when he returned to school, class work that he had previously completed looked totally confusing to him; in fact, he was convinced that he had never even seen the paper before. Yet, his teacher reminded him that before COVID-19, he had been acing this material. It wasn't just a cognitive “mix-up,” the student said numbers floated off the page in math class, and he actually inserted French phrases into his English assignment. Before COVID, he was a top student. Now, he asks, "Am I going to be able to be a good student ever again? Because this is really scary."
Dr. Molly Wilson-Murphy of Boston Children's Hospital contends that not only ICU patients can experience long-term COVID conditions. As she states, some children start out with quite mild illnesses and then later develop long term symptoms. Fatigue, headaches, brain fog, and issues with memory and concentration are common among long-term COVID patients.
Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a pediatrician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, goes on to explain another long-term condition called MIS-C.
“… COVID-19 has been linked to a serious condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in which different organs such as the heart or brain become inflamed. This may occur weeks after a child has been infected, and as of late July the CDC has received reports of more than 4,400 children who have been diagnosed with the condition (which is known as MIS-C in children).”
So, you see, the “freedom to choose” has directly affected and changed many young people’s lives.
Physicians are not sure why some children get long-term COVID conditions and some do not, but it is clear that COVID-19 can be very serious for children. The Delta variant is not like a common cold or even a seasonal flu. The Delta variant is a treacherous virus that can change a child's life forever.
Dr. Andrew E. Budson, M. D. writing for Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School, says that:
“The COVID pandemic has now claimed as many American lives as World War I, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War combined. Most of these deaths are due to the well-known pulmonary complications of the coronavirus. It has become increasingly recognized, however, that the virus also attacks the nervous system. Doctors in a large Chicago medical center found that more than 40% of patients with COVID showed neurologic manifestations at the outset, and more than 30% of those had impaired cognition.”
Although some people who have recovered from COVID, including children, go and resume their daily lives without difficulty, there are many who do not. Some have difficulty and struggle for long periods of time while others never recover. Their lives are changed forever. We need to stop and think about what we're sending children into when we send children into the classroom to confront the Delta variant. COVID-19 can attack any child, and there is no way to determine how serious the results will be.
Any COVID patient placed in ICU is at high risk for brain damage. It is particularly dangerous for children because their brains are still developing. If “brain growth” is stunted or stopped, then the damage can be permanent. One example is Nia Haughton, a 15-year-old survivor who still struggles to find the right words to say when she speaks and has a patchy memory.
“For days, her lungs labored to stave off collapse until the medical staff tried “proning” her for 16 hours a day. … Nia was turned to lie on her front at a slight incline, but kept on ventilation…. This approach allows oxygen to be blasted to the back of a patient’s lungs…. after several days in recovery, her condition worsened once again. This time, it was her brain rather than her lungs…. After repeated, violent seizures … she was taken back into the ICU. … Nia’s voice and behavior appeared to regress to a younger version of herself.
Her mother said, “I don't know which was scarier, her being on the ventilator not being able to breathe, or the fact that she came out of it with a completely different personality….”
Even cases of mild COVID can still lead to brain damage. The cognitive effects of COVID on memory, attention, and executive function (the mental skills and processes that allow a person to think and get things done) can be extremely damaging to children. A child who experiences a sustained attention loss from COVID will have trouble learning in the classroom. In many of my reading blogs, I frequently talk about “changing the gray matter of the brain” and “rewiring the connections in the brain.” This process is essential in order to teach children who struggle to learn to read.
Attention deficits - a child's ability to pay attention - can cause a child to have difficulty learning to read or be successful in the classroom. Executive function is also affected by COVID. The mental wiring, connections in the brain, and the cognitive ability to think are essential for all learning that takes place in the classroom.
Yet, when we send children into the classroom without any kind of protection from COVID, no mask, no vaccines, then we are willingly endangering children's ability to learn.
Wait! Isn't the reason we're sending children to school because we want them to learn? Unfortunately, by exposing children to COVID, we are destroying the very education we say that we want.
Delta is dangerous for children.
Politicians can no longer say that it is okay to send children back to school because COVID-19 is not dangerous for children or claim that children do not catch COVID. As the Broward County Public Schools in Florida reported, “… 357 students and employees have tested positive since the start of school.”
Yes, reopening schools has caused a major surge in COVID-19. This surge directly affects children. Each time you march in the street, stand at a microphone and demand freedom, protest mask or vaccine mandates, or refuse to get vaccinated or wear a mask because you say that you have the “freedom to choose,” you have stolen “life” from a child.
What do We Know so far?
- COVID-19 is spreading through the schools like wildfire.
- COVID-19 can be very dangerous for children.
- COVID-19 definitely effects children’s ability to learn.
So, why are some parents, politicians, and in some cases even teachers fighting mask and vaccine mandates?
We need both mask and vaccine mandates in all schools.
Why do we need both mask and vaccine mandates? Why are masks alone not enough?
Study after study shows that states with high vaccination rates have lower COVID-19 infections. No, not zero but lower. Vaccine mandates do save many children from COVID-19.
In one study that measured COVID-19 cases among young people during a two-week period in August 2021, the number of children placed in the hospital was higher in states with low vaccination rates. In states, where more people were vaccinated, COVID-19 cases were lower. Children living in states with low vaccination rates were three times as likely to be placed in the hospital. We must stop using children as political pawns. We must have vaccine mandates to protect our children. This graphic from the study shows the difference between being vaccinated and not being vaccinated.
Schoolwide vaccinations are essential for teachers, staff, custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. We cannot continue to play politics with children's lives. We need nationwide vaccine mandates for all schools.
Unfortunately, vaccine mandates may not be enough, we also need nationwide mask mandates, especially since children younger than 12 are not eligible for the vaccine yet. We must take every precaution to safeguard the lives of the children.
We need mask and vaccine mandates in all of our schools.
As Dr. Jonathan Reiner explained,
"The virus is raging in all these children who are unvaccinated, which is why in schools mask mandates are so important"…. "They have no other protection. They're literally sitting ducks."
To keep our children safe and to stop the Delta variant from spreading throughout our schools, let's examine why both mask and vaccine mandates would be better for our children than only one form of protection.
What happens when schools do have mask and vaccine mandates?
Let's first look at a school that did not have either mask or vaccine mandates.
- Atlanta: Fulton County schools reported 1,022 positive cases for just the first week of classes. They did not require masks at first but are now going to have universal masking throughout the school. So far, they still do not have a vaccine mandate.
Will masks alone be enough?
- In Louisville, Kentucky, Jefferson County schools had 485 students test positive for COVID-19 just a mere week and a half after opening, and they required everyone to wear a mask. Unfortunately, no, they did not require vaccinations, which meant that 2,282 students were sent home to quarantine.
What happens when schools require both mask and vaccine?
- Denver Public Schools decided they wanted to do something about COVID-19; therefore, they decided to start the school year in 2021 with a full vaccine mandate and having masks required for everyone. Yes, there have been some complaints, but so far, they seem to be winning the battle against COVID for the children. Out of about 90,000 students and 15,000 staff members COVID infections have remained relatively low for the first two weeks of school. As of September the 2nd, thirty-four staff and eighty-five students have tested positive and only 117 students have needed to be quarantined.
The 85 students in Denver is certainly much lower than 485 in Louisville with only masks or the 1,022 in Atlanta with no vaccine and no masks. No, not perfect, but better.
We still must control community spread. Even a fully vaccinated school with everyone wearing masks must contend with the community where the children live. If the community is not vaccinated and not wearing masks, then the children are still at risk. Vaccines and masks make a huge difference in controlling COVID-19. We must bring that degree of safety, not only to the schools, but also to the communities if we are to keep children in school classrooms.
I am sure some people are already yelling and screaming that you cannot mandate vaccines, but as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stated,
"This is not something new…. —we've done this for decades and decades requiring (vaccines for) polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis…. So this would not be something new, requiring vaccinations for children to come to school…. I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea…."
Mandated vaccinations could be started tomorrow. We have the vaccine. As Dr. Fauci says, it’s not something new. We mandate vaccines all the time. We have for years. So, why are we stalling? Each day that children go to school without mandated vaccines is one more opportunity for a child to get seriously sick from COVID-19. It is our responsibility as adults to do everything we can to protect children.
Yes, I know there are concerns, but ask yourself this question: Would you rather have your child cross a six-lane highway to get to school or would you prefer that your child cross a city street with a crossing guard? When you choose not to get vaccinated, you are forcing your child to cross that six-lane highway to try and get an education.
If we mandate COVID-19 vaccine, it will help protect the children. As Dr. Andi Shane, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and hospital epidemiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta explained,
“In Georgia, we’ve been back in school for at least three weeks now and in those counties and school districts where there’s masking and vaccination, we’re not seeing many cases…."
Yet, as shown earlier in Fulton County, Georgia, where neither masks nor vaccines were mandated, there were 1,022 positive cases of COVID-19 in just the first week of school.
Yes, we need to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for students, teachers, and all staff and personnel. In a recent poll, 59% of Americans supported mandated vaccinations for teachers and 55% supported mandated vaccinations for students age 12 and older.
Why do we also need to mandate masks?
We desperately need mask mandates in all schools as long as children younger than 12 are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. We may also need to continue masking in schools until we get control over the COVID spike that is raging through most school buildings right now. Masks give us a more immediate barrier to COVID. Vaccines provide a more effective barrier to COVID-19.
Yes, I know that when we talk about mask mandates, we have several governors who are adamantly fighting mask mandates. My response: we cannot allow politicians to risk children's lives in order for them to grandstand and win elections. When your child is sick, do you call the governor for medicine or treatment to make your child well? No, you call a doctor. The same is true when you want to know how to protect a child’s life from a deadly virus. You do not call the governor. Again, you call a doctor. Children must not ever become political pawns. Two of my favorite responses here in Texas are:
- The Paris Independent School District included masks in their dress code for 2021. The school board explained that they were “… concerned about the health and safety of its students and employees.”
- At last count, about 58 school districts in Texas are fighting the ban on mask mandates. Thank goodness someone is concerned about the children.
Four of the largest cities in Texas, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston have all declared mask mandates to protect the children.
David DeMatthews, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at The University of Texas at Austin, and David S. Knight at the University of Washington remind each of us that we must think of the needs of others.
“We need to keep in mind that superintendents are responsible for the health and safety of all employees and students, which means individual parental rights cannot override the rights of other parents, children and personnel whose lives may be at greater risk from COVID-19.”
We are not living in a bubble. What touches you, touches me. We cannot harp about choice and freedom while children are dying. We, as adults, should protect the children above our own personal interests. It is our responsibility to take care of all children.
If we want in-person education to work this year, we must enforce mask mandates.
Steven Federico, director of pediatrics at Denver Health, one of the main providers for community clinics in the Denver schools said that it is very important to
“… maximize the number of in-person learning days, to make up for last year and to support the kids…. The way you do that is vaccinate as many people as possible and mask.”
Across the nation this fall, there are thousands of children being sent home to quarantine because they have been exposed to COVID-19. For many, especially those who are struggling in school, quarantine can reduce their chances for catching up academically. Remote learning is often difficult or nonexistent. students, when placed in quarantine, fall further behind in school and some never catch up.
The school year has just begun and so far in August, during the past week, we have seen:
- 10,000 students and staff in Hillsborough County, Florida quarantined
- 1,000 students and staff in Nashville, Tennessee quarantined
- 3,000 students and staff in New Orleans quarantined
- 20,000 students quarantined in Mississippi
- Ware County, Georgia closed its public schools after a "sharp increase" in cases.
- At least four school districts in Texas have closed because of COVID.
Those who demand in-class education should also be demanding mask mandates so children have a chance to stay in the classroom. In Denver, both the teachers and students chose to wear masks.
Rob Gould, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association union, said with the rise in the Delta variant, “We have to do masks…. It was a no-brainer."
Amir Hall, a senior, said he’d much rather wear a mask and be able to come to school. The student said he wasn't a big fan of doing remote learning. The student said that last year some students only came to school a couple of days a week. Hall said for him, “…wearing masks in class isn't a big deal….I'd rather come…." he said.
Masks are not harmful.
Masks are not psychologically or medically harmful for children to wear all day at school. Again, do not listen to misinformation and lies. In my last blog, I presented both research and medical facts to explain why masks are perfectly safe for children to wear at school.
Earlier Post: Do Mask Mandates Cause Psychological or Medical Problems for Children?
Jetelina also clearly states that
"Your decision not to get a vaccine or implement public health measures in schools or the community is directly impacting the health of kids."
Is in-person classroom education worth the risk?
As more and more children get sick each day and people still refuse to get vaccinated or wear a mask, we must ask, Are you sure that in-person classroom education is worth the risk of so many children getting sick with coronavirus?
If we want in-class education, then we must also demand vaccine and mask mandates. You cannot have one without the other.
Author Karin Klein, who writes editorials about education, said:
“Think of it this way: At most schools, kids have to wear closed-toe shoes for safety. They might prefer flip-flops, feeling more comfortable with their toes wiggling in the open air, but that’s not the way it goes. Masks are just another part of the school dress code for now.”