As Kids Return to School, Chatter About COVID-19 School Shutdowns Should Worry Parents.

As Kids Return to School, Chatter About COVID-19 School Shutdowns Should Worry Parents. Guest Editorial By Matt Dean

Is the left building the case for another round of school shutdowns? As children throughout the country head back to classrooms, mothers and fathers are correct in worrying that they might again be forced to restructure their lives amid renewed talk of school shutdowns.

Most parents believe that we now have a generation of kids who are behind in learning and more depressed, anxious, addicted, and suicidal than any generation before them. Is the belief that that the youngest have carried the heaviest burden for a virus that posed almost no threat to them a tragic lesson, or rightwing disinformation?

Until very recently, the belief that children paid too high a price for the pandemic was something we all could agree on. But now the left is hellbent on convincing you that you are misremembering if you agree with Republicans who make the case that lockdowns unnecessarily hurt kids.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan said  pandemic “learning loss and mental health issues” are “dangerous myths, and so we need to reassert what the actual truth of the matter is for the next pandemic when it inevitably comes.”

Hasan launched into a 20-minute “deep dive,” wherein he showed charts and graphs across the past 36 months with increasing suicides and decreasing test scores for kids. Hasan contends that Republicans seizing on the correlation miss the point that things would have been even worse without the school shutdowns. Really?

Sweden, a country that never closed its schools, had the fewest number of excess deaths of any country in Europe during the pandemic and a coronavirus death rate of 2,322 per million compared with the U.S. death rate of 3,332 per million.

The World Health Organization found the “negative impacts on the mental health of children and adolescents, including increased anxiety and depression rates, are of particular concern” in its recommendation to put in-person learning as a higher priority in the future. The Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry  declared a national emergency concerning children’s mental health as a result of the pandemic in October 2021 as the COVID-19 response caused a mental health pandemic in children.

Mr. Hasan stresses young people did die from COVID-19, but leaves out that in 2020 alone 6,663 people under the age of 24-years-old killed themselves, while 550 died from COVID-19. Moreover, a CDC study the next year found that “the rate of suspected suicide attempts by self-poisoning among persons aged 10–19 years increased 30.0% in 2021 as compared with prepandemic rates (2019), with a 73.0% increase among children aged 10–12 years, 48.8% among adolescents aged 13–15 years, and 36.8% among females.”

Just a few days after Mr. Hasan’s segment, The New York Times ran an article by Apoorva Mandavilli titled, “Covid Closed the Nation’s Schools. Cleaner Air Can Keep Them Open.” Buried in that headline is a not-so-veiled threat to shut down the nation’s schools again. The “problem is bigger than the coronavirus,” Mandavilli writes. “Indoor air may be contaminated not just by pathogens, but also by a range of pollutants like carbon monoxide, radon and lead particles. Concentrations can be five times higher or more indoors than they are outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency,” she notes.

Are we supposed to forget that American Teachers Federation President Randi Weingarten got caught rewriting  the CDC’s guidance on schools shutdowns? The unnecessary shutdowns also allowed teachers to work from home, while redirecting billions of additional dollars to schools. Heavy handed lockdowns did not cost Democrats in 2022 and may have helped them. Will they try it again?

The threat of shutting schools down again is a high-risk gamble for Democrats. Few parents are ready to be reeducated into believing their kids are better off for having been masked and forced to live in isolation for more than two years. 

Matt Dean (mdean@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for health care policy outreach with The Heartland Institute.

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