Guest columnist, Dr. Shelly Berkowitz: We may be done with COVID, but COVID isn't done with us

Gregg Schwartz in his August 17 guest column ‘Northampton’s Endless Mask Mandate’, complains that forcing pupils to mask up during school...



Gregg Schwartz in his August 17 guest column‘Northampton’s Endless Mask Mandate’, complains that forcing pupils to mask up during school hours is their night, and the Northampton School Board’s continued caution is ‘shocking’ given the news CDC recommendations and the general trend toward easing COVID restrictions.

He goes on to conclude, “We owe it to our children, each of us, to see beyond our own emotions and fears, and to have the courage to follow the clear, indisputable science of our best doctors and researchers and the CDC. . This hard science absolutely says that masks, unless we are in “red”, are unjustified and harmful to our children.

However, the clear, indisputable, and hard science had absolutely nothing to do with the CDC’s decision to relax the guidelines, according to Katherine Wu in her recent piece in L’Atlantique, “The Soft Shutdown of the Pandemic.” Instead, Wu says the CDC simply bowed to public pressure and tailored its policy to political agendas.

Wu makes it clear that the CDC’s decision is not based on the status of COVID-19 “on the ground,” where omicron is spiraling out of control with new cases nationwide surging to 150,000 per day (since home testing rarely does “official” counts, the omicron infection numbers are clearly much higher than the CDC posts indicate). Daily death tolls are often (according to the Worldometers website) as high as 600 nationwide – higher than the COVID carnage of summer 2021 when a fall peak loomed as the death toll was exploding at over 3,000 a day.

There is no statistical argument to be made for lax vigilance, and RupaliLimaye, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins (quoted in Wu’s article) said, “It’s like throwing their hands up, people wouldn’t follow the advice, so let’s relax it.

Wu also quotes Ariana Marie Planey, a researcher at the University of North Carolina’s School of Global Public Health, as calling the CDC’s new guidelines a “total abandonment of a community-centric mindset.”

Many public health researchers have opposed the CDC’s new guidelines, and Schwartz is mistaken if he thinks the CDC’s current stance represents medical consensus. For instance, The Nation just published an article by medical anthropologist, Martha Lincoln, titled “Stop telling Americans they’re ‘Covid tired,'” which excoriated President Joe Biden for pushing a strategy of normalization and acceptance of terrible levels of disease and death.

As the midterm elections approach, it is hardly a stretch to assume that the fate of the Democratic Party is tied to the perception that the pandemic is under control and that we are “safely returning to normal.” Abducting the COVID narrative for political gain has not gone down well for Republicans who have lied and minimized while overseeing the worst pandemic bloodbath among any Western democracy. Now, with experts predicting a likely omicron spike this fall, Democrats are risking their own political disaster if the predictions come true.

Mr. Schwartz is also abandoning the trope that masks harm children — an assumption that is widely promoted in the propaganda of libertarian and other right-wing think tanks, but is it really true? Judith Danovitch, psychologist wrote in the New York Times last year: “Wearing masks during a pandemic is an opportunity for even young children to practice caring for their community.”

Danovitch also argues that wearing a mask increases self-control and encourages children to be more aware of the subtle aspects of communication. This is not to dismiss concerns about mask-wearing, but rather to point out that the general claim that masks hurt children is in no way taken as the “given” that Mr Schwartz seems to believe. that is the case.

There’s also the matter of the harm COVID is doing to children that may be far worse than we once imagined. The long COVID in children is a real thing, but research is still needed to understand the prevalence. COVID is likely causing long-term and permanent cognitive damage in some children, which can lead to devastating social and individual consequences.

According to a recent Time Magazine article, only 30% of children ages 5-11 are fully immunized, which means there is a huge pool of young people with potential COVID who are about to enter a new era on the timeline of the pandemic. Do we in Northampton want to take risks with the growing brains of children who face eroded protections against disease with significant risk of neuro-cognitive damage?

I recently read a quote (but can’t remember who said it) – it reads: “We may be done with COVID, but COVID isn’t done with us.”

Dr Shelly Berkowitz lives in Northampton.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest columnist, Dr. Shelly Berkowitz: We may be done with COVID, but COVID isn't done with us
Guest columnist, Dr. Shelly Berkowitz: We may be done with COVID, but COVID isn't done with us
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