Closing schools big mistake
In response to the recent recommendation of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District for schools to go all-remote until January, I wanted to bring to light a growing body of scientific evidence that supports retaining in-person learning even amid outbreaks of COVID-19.
First, Brown Professor Emily Oster and her team of researchers have compiled a database of COVID-19 rates of over 1.7 million in-person students and 560,000 staff across the country.
The two weeks ending Nov. 8 yielded a confirmed case rate of 0.14 percent among students and
0.24 percent for staff, an order of magnitude lower than the overall U.S. case rate. This data also shows an extremely low presence of larger outbreaks among schools, with
1.8 percent of schools nationwide experiencing an outbreak of five or more cases and 0.4 percent experiencing an outbreak of 10 or more cases.
Second, in Europe, even amid rising cases and nationwide lockdowns, schools are remaining open. The benefits of in-person learning for children’s mental health and development far outweigh the risks of opening schools as measured in increased cases, hospitalizations and fatalities.
Public officials are rightly nervous about rising infections in our community and correlated strain on our medical system. Vulnerable teachers and students should have the option of teaching and learning remotely, and social-distancing precautions should remain. But to close schools in an attempt to stem community transmission of COVID-19 is to deny the growing scientific evidence that in-person school is safe and is essential for children’s education, development and mental health.