Schools are Reopening, But How Do We Protect Our Children?

Updated: Mar 31

In the first week of September, over 100,000 schools across the country have reopened in various capacities for students, bringing back a warped sense of normalcy to society during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, parents are still worried about the safety of their children and families as people move outside of their homes on a regular basis, some for the first time in 6 months. Parents are all asking the same question: what are you doing to keep my children safe at school?

The summer months have been stressful for school administrators tasked with the creation of a plan to limit the spread of COVID-19, with little guidance or funds from state and federal government. With few available resources, school administrators turned to medical personnel and professional services to provide expertise on protocol implementation for the coming school year.

One such group of experts are our very own celebrated physicians, the heroes of the COVID-19 era. As the front-line in combating the influx of sick patients, physicians valiantly defend our society against illnesses, putting themselves at risk to care for their patients. In order to keep themselves knowledgeable of the newest developments in healthcare, physicians must do their homework every day to stay abreast of changing government guidelines. It makes perfect sense for school administrators to look to physicians for advice on the correct measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Last Friday on our sister company Bridge Point Clean’s weekly public Zoom cast, we were fortunate to have Dr. Ajay Mirani and Dr. Kellen Glinder, pediatricians at Private Medical, present on our Zoom cast regarding school reopenings and the existing data from around the world. According to Dr. Mirani, “we divide what happens into 3 main buckets, susceptibility of children to infection, what exactly happens when children are infected, and the transmissibility of infection from children.”

The United States is not the first country in the world to reopen schools in the COVID-19 era. Many countries in Europe and Asia have tested school reopenings and gathered data on spikes of COVID-19 after the start of class. The difficulty of analyzing the data is understanding the conditions which lead to increases or decreases in COVID-19 cases throughout the world, and that’s where experts are needed to provide reliable conclusions.

Research shows that children are less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults above the age of 18. As of August 20th, nationwide statistics show that severe or critical illness only occurs in 0-8% of children, many of whom have preexisting medical conditions. There have only been 92 reported COVID-19 deaths of children in the United States, representing 0.02% of the overall COVID-19 cases in children.

Furthermore, research in Europe shows that young children under the age of 10 are extremely unlikely to spread COVID-19 among peers in their age group. However, the biggest issue is when children leave and interact with society at large, taking COVID-19 home to adults.

Children are unlikely to show symptoms of COVID-19, and often come up negative during testing according to the RIVM of the Netherlands. Current studies are being done on spread of COVID from children to adults, and although the verdict is not yet published, schools must be careful of this possibility to keep teachers safe.

High school students wearing face masks prepare for classes, with plastic covers placed on desks to prevent infection, as schools reopen following the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Daejeon, South Korea, May 20, 2020. Yonhap/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS

The most important control of COVID spread has already been tested. Case studies show that countries which take more rigorous precautions against COVID-19 spread have lower spikes of new cases compared to countries which are more relaxed. A prime example is the difference between precautionary measures taken between the Netherlands and South Korea. The Netherlands went with a social distancing approach, where desks were moved further apart to decrease student-student contact, but this was the only precaution taken. On the other hand, South Korea took a more rigorous approach to COVID-19 protocols, including social distancing, compulsory face masks, plexiglass shields on each desk, strict hallway protocols, and increased airflow.

The difference in stringency lead to different post-reopening COVID spikes. The Netherlands quickly saw a spike in new COVID-19 cases as students flooded into schools almost as if pre-COVID, while South Korea did not a spike in new cases. The effect of precautionary measures taken can directly be seen in data from the two countries.

At Bridge Point Capital, we firmly believe that these cases should be a lesson for the United States. To decrease spread of COVID-19 throughout the yearly flu season, we should err on the side of caution and implement strong, uniform protocols across the United States to keep our children and families safe. Infectious disease specialists across the country believe that a second wave of COVID-19 infections will come in the Winter if we do not adopt strategies to limit spread. We must continue to look towards our medical professionals for their advice, and thank them for their service keeping our people safe.