Horowitz: Study of 100 UK schools shows ‘very little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools’
Ayman Haykal | Getty Images
Imagine state governments announcing they plan to shut down schools until there is a cure for breast cancer. That is essentially the logic they are employing to shut schools because of a virus that does not affect children in any statistical or clinical way.
It has already been proven that children have a much higher risk of dying in a lightning strike or a car accident than from COVID-19. Also, almost all children who get the virus are either asymptomatic or are less sick then they are from the flu, and we never close school for the flu and cold season. The only defense left for the side that wants to continue the child abuse and close schools is that somehow opening schools will help them transmit the virus and kill Granny. Not so, according to a new study of 100 schools in the U.K., the largest one conducted to date.
The Public Health England research is slated to be published later this year, but researchers have already confirmed from monitoring 20,000 students and teachers in around 100 schools across England during the partially reopened summer term that there is very little evidence of school spread. The study will find there is “very little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools,” according to Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health and a member of the government emergency advisory group Sage.
“This is the some of the largest data you will find on schools anywhere,” added Professor Viner. “Britain has done very well in terms of thinking of collecting data in schools.”
Viner also told the media over the weekend that a separate review by the group of 35 studies across the globe will show schools play only a “minor role” in spreading the virus. That review is due out next month, after most schools typically start for the fall semester.
“It is absolutely essential for schools to reopen in September. The risks to children from Covid are very low and the risks of school closures we know are very serious,” he said. “Britain as a nation should stand up and say: our children are essential. Reopening schools is essential.”
A recent contact tracing analysis published by the Swiss office of public health showed that schools accounted for just 0.3% of the community transmission. Of course, the largest share came … from home! This is why a recent analysis in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases found, “School closure carried out in Japan did not show any mitigating effect on the transmission of novel coronavirus infection.”
It’s not that children can’t get the virus, it’s just that there is no evidence that they are major vectors of transmission to others, nor is there evidence they contract the virus more from attending school than from being home with their parents.
As a Johns Hopkins analysis of mass quarantine in 2006, which was co-authored by famed smallpox eradicator D.A. Henderson, noted, “When schools closed for a winter holiday during the 1918 pandemic in Chicago, ‘more influenza cases developed among pupils . . . than when schools were in session.’”
And remember, with pandemic flus, unlike with SARS-CoV-2, children are often the primary vector of transmission. Yet, still, as Henderson observed in another paper on the 1957 Asian flu, “the Nassau County Health Commissioner in New York stated that ‘public schools should stay open even in an epidemic’ and that ‘children would get sick just as easily out of school.’”
How much more so when it comes to this epidemic, where children have already proven to be very rare vectors of the virus to begin with. One has to assume that children who do wind up contracting COVID-19 most likely got it from adults, not the other way around. Studies from countries including the U.K., Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Taiwan, and Iceland have all failed to find child-to-adult transmission.
Sweden is the biggest test of the effectiveness of school closures, because unlike in most countries, Sweden never closed its primary schools from the beginning of the epidemic. Nonetheless, the Public Health Agency of Sweden found no measurable difference of outcomes in children between Sweden and Finland, even though Finland closed its schools. “Closure or not of schools had no measurable direct impact on the number of laboratory confirmed cases in school-aged children in Finland or Sweden,” concluded the report.
The head of Norway’s Institute of Public Health, rather than taking a swipe at her neighboring country for leaving schools opened, actually believes the neighbor country did it right and that Norway should never have shut down even the high schools.
There is no reason their absence of older teachers, pending the end of this epidemic, should impede the opening of schools. Likewise, given that almost all of the few children who did die from COVID-19 had serious underlying conditions, there is no reason why those children can’t be accommodated without shutting down the entire education of a generation of children.
Finally, let’s not forget that teen suicide is the second-leading cause of death of that age group. Has anyone studied the effects of social isolation on teens’ mental health compared to their extraordinary low risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19? A University of Wisconsin research survey found “significant mental health, anxiety, and depression issues in the high school-aged population” within the state, with 65% reporting anxiety symptoms. It’s hard to imagine more children won’t die from the lockdown than from the virus.
As for their physical health, given that they are likely partially immune to COVID-19 precisely because we have allowed them to share germs and contract coronavirus colds over the years, what does such social isolation do to weaken that immunological ecosystem that has protected them until now? How does the bubble effect fare in the long run?
Nobody in politics is interested in answering these questions. One thing is clear, though. There is not a shred of health or science involved in the decisions to close schools. It’s all about politics.
Author: Daniel Horowitz
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.