by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Anthony Fauci, Miguel Cardona, and National Review don’t agree on much. But we do agree on this: In-person K–12 instruction should not be canceled on account of Covid.
Not that long ago, “in-person K–12 instruction” would have been redundant. Everyone understood that going to school, sitting in classrooms, eating lunch with friends, and playing outside at recess were important parts of childhood development.
The pandemic intervened in March 2020, and many schools went online. At the very start, when we didn’t know what we were dealing with, that was perhaps a defensible position. In January 2022, it is not.
Even Anthony Fauci, with his low tolerance for Covid risk, has come around to that position. “If you look at the safety of children with regard to infection, we have most of the teachers, [an] overwhelming majority of them are vaccinated,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. He still wants masks in schools, but he’s clear on this: “It’s safe enough to get those kids back to school, balanced against the deleterious effects of keeping them out.”
That last part is key. Throughout this pandemic, there hasn’t been a whole lot of balancing going on in the pronouncements of public-health officials. Fauci should have been talking like this a while ago, but it’s nonetheless good to hear him say it. We don’t need to be convinced of the merits of this position, but perhaps the people who still hold him in high regard will be persuaded if advocacy for schools opening comes from him.
Children are at extremely low risk for Covid. In 2020–21, 678 people aged 0–17 died from Covid. To put that in perspective, 1,161 people in that age cohort died from influenza in 2012–13, and 803 died in 2014–15. Covid is more severe than the flu for adults, but it is not significantly different from the flu for children.