Guest columnist Jeff Napolitano: Students deserve COVID-free schools

The nature of the return to fall school is one of hope – that it will be a better year than last, especially during the pandemic. But al...



The nature of the return to fall school is one of hope – that it will be a better year than last, especially during the pandemic. But all the recent crises we are going through have come with a number of “new normals”.

The most disturbing new normal, however, has been the abandonment of the most basic protections against COVID-19 that were on the mind just a few months ago. Historians have pointed out that during the 1919 flu pandemic, the deadliest time was after people let their guard down, after the first wave of illness, due to a desire to get back to normal. Needless to say, we are seeing history repeat itself in real time, and most disturbingly, in our children’s schools.

Although COVID-19 vaccines have greatly reduced the threat of death, they do not significantly reduce the risk of infection, as many vaccinated people who are on their second or third infections painfully know. Politicians and corporations have used the introduction of vaccines to downplay the risk of infection, which we are learning more and more about every week. While COVID-19 minimizers claimed that children were immune or free from infections, we now know that children can indeed contract, transmit and become very ill.

As flare-ups and variants continue to emerge, we are only beginning to understand the consequences of infections, even those considered mild or asymptomatic:

■Children’s increased risk of developing diabetes.

■Increase in heart failure, heart disease and other heart disorders.

■Vascular problems, to the point that some scientists have considered it to be primarily a vascular disease and not a respiratory one.

Damage to the physical structure of the brain, and the children specifically had “an increased risk of cognitive impairment, insomnia, intracranial hemorrhage, ischemic stroke, nerve, nerve root and plexus disorders, psychotic disorders and epilepsy or convulsions”.

These consequences of infection are so numerous and so significant that the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, recently tweeted: “We must be prepared for a sharp increase in cardiovascular disorders, neurological and mental health in countries affected by the disease. [COVID].”

The prevalence of long COVID outweighs the risks of death, especially for children, who presumably have a longer life ahead of them and a greater chance of developing it. Estimates vary, but between 8% and 24% of those infected develop long COVID. A week ago, the Brookings Institute estimated that 16 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 suffered from persistent symptoms and that up to 4 million of those workers reduced or could not work at all because of these symptoms. These figures indicate that one-third of unfilled jobs in the United States are due to COVID-19 infections. Adults in the workforce certainly need infection protection, but our children should be an even higher priority.

As of September 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own figures for community transmission of COVID-19 (which is surely a vast undercount, as uncounted rapid antigen tests have become the primary means of testing), lists 95 % of counties in the United States as having “high” or “substantial” transmission rates of the virus. This includes Hampshire County, with nearly 8,800 cases in the past seven days and a test positivity rate of 8-9.9%. Under guidelines from before last February, universal indoor masking in the community would have been recommended.

Moreover, last weekend we saw tens of thousands of students – from across the country and around the world – converge in the county of Hampshire. UMass Amherst has eliminated surveillance testing and mask mandates, only has rapid test kits “while supplies last,” and now charges $25 for the more reliable PCR test. Students return to campus without having to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and if you’re stupid enough to admit you have a positive infection, you must find your own accommodation for five days (or self-isolate with your roommate/suites). We probably won’t know how much disease comes from the removal of public health protections, because we’ve forgone regular testing, including in our children’s schools.

Two years ago we closed K-12 schools based on the precautionary principle – the idea that we shouldn’t expose our children, or at least minimize their exposure, because we weren’t sure of the consequences. of transmission. Now, as we are just beginning to understand the dangers of infection, and after almost 200,000 people have died of COVID-19 so far in 2022 alone, we are sending children back to school – without masks, without required vaccines, and we don’t even bother to regularly test for the presence of the virus. We have reversed the precautionary principle.

Opponents of common-sense precautions can cite “learning loss” and developmental effects, but the greatest irony in the removal of safeguards is that if we wanted children to reliably stay in school , we would provide them with breathing masks (KN94/N95). Dr. Ellie McMurray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, published a study that demonstrated that schools that removed mask mandates had significantly higher cases among staff and students (duh) than schools that didn’t. were not doing. The abandonment of common sense precautions means more students are missing school in the short term and facing potential health issues in the long term. It just doesn’t make sense!

Arguments against placing an ultra-thin breathable barrier over the mouth have put lives at risk. One particular lie I read in this article and heard on the radio is that masks inhibit learning development, although research psychologists, speech pathologists, and pediatricians have found no evidence for this. Finally, last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics was forced to push back against these damaging claims, pointing out that “even visually impaired children develop speech and language at the same rate as their peers.”

We need to return to common sense protections in our public schools, especially when our government is not seriously trying to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. These safeguards should strive to minimize, not facilitate, the number of infections over a child’s lifetime. If we can’t do this in all public indoor spaces, can’t we at least make an effort to protect our children, whose school attendance is compulsory? We owe them a chance to fight for a healthy future.

Jeff Napolitano is a Northampton resident, parent and community activist.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest columnist Jeff Napolitano: Students deserve COVID-free schools
Guest columnist Jeff Napolitano: Students deserve COVID-free schools
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