By way of introduction:
As a pediatrician, I have the privilege of hearing from parents and the responsibility to help them. Lately, I have heard heart-wrenching stories of suffering: from the dad whose 14-year-old daughter is sobbing in her bathroom three times a week, depressed from being isolated, to the mom whose son is failing every subject in eighth grade online school, to the family whose daughter overdosed for the second time this pandemic due to thoughts of suicide.
The consequences of social isolation and school disruption for kids have been devastating. For kids, many mental health pressures are tied to online schooling. When we took kids out of classrooms, they lost not only a sense of structure but also a much-needed outlet for socialization — a place where they can play with and talk to their classmates and friends.
There are other important problems that are snowballing as well. Kids with special learning needs and disabilities have been at home without services. One in 4 kids who are food insecure aren’t getting the lunches that they would get at school. Many kids don’t have laptops or internet connections at home and may not be learning at all, which can result in years lost in development and education.
One significant, and understandable, worry has been the potential risk to teachers and school staff. Two large studies — one from North Carolina looking at more than 11 school districts and 90,000 students and one in Wisconsin that analyzed 17 schools — both showed low risk of spread when using masks and social distancing.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, reiterated at a White House COVID press briefing. Based on the data, vaccinating teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools, she said.
“It is urgent,” Sara Bode, MD, a pediatrician and chair-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health says, “for kids to return to physical school.”
— Hansa Bhargava, MD, is a Senior Medical Director at WebMD and Medscape. February 4, 2021
Now for today’s read from ProPublica:
The Lost Year: What the Pandemic Cost Teenagers
In Hobbs, New Mexico, the high school closed and football was cancelled, while just across the state line in Texas, students seemed to be living nearly normal lives. Here’s how pandemic school closures exact their emotional toll on young people.