The CDC school return “decision tool” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/decision-tool.html was released this past week. This decision tool fails to provide an even-handed recommendation for online instruction. In our opinion the option of not being in the classroom is one that needs to be explicitly available because of the science and reality of too much disease in many school districts. The CDC position misses the mark as it fails to clearly designate a specific minimal positivity rate above which the well-established benefit of in classroom instruction is outweighed by the risk of increasing the spread of the virus. Not opening the school was a clear and unambiguous recommendation in the initial guideline that was suppressed by the White House a few weeks ago. In this new tool it is stated that “limited data about COVID-19 in children suggests that children are less likely to get COVID-19 than adults”. This ignores a study out of S. Korea of nearly 65,000 people which concludes that children under 10 have a lower risk of spreading this infection, albeit not zero risk. Children age 10-18 were shown to spread COVID-19 at rates like adults. Ironically, this study is to be published in a CDC journal in October 2020. For those who might question the S. Korea relevance, note that the US and S. Korea had the same number of fatalities in mid-March and they have less than 300 people now! Lastly, our children’s needs for school resources to allow facilities to reopen more safely are not being addressed. Congress and the President have left town without addressing the $200 billion price tag (American Academy of Pediatrics) needed to make our schools open more safely, once medically acceptable criteria for return is reached.
The medical science tells us that a treatment plan needs to be followed to completion. As a country, we did not accept the diagnosis and prognosis, WEAR masks, WASH hands, WATCH the distance between us, or have a coordinated unified message prescribed for effectively fighting this virus. This current resurgence is the unnecessary price that we are paying. We need to follow a science-based prescription for getting our kids back to school and not a revised version based on perceived political expediency, lest history repeats itself.
Clyde E. Henderson, MD
Cincinnati Medical Association