Back-to-school is here again. While we can expect the academic year to begin with schools opting for in-person learning, which will set the trend for the rest of the year, the presence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 Yes, everything makes is not completely certain.
Some parents have already decided to keep their children at home for online learning when schools open. Others may revisit these options as the downside unfolds. Yet many parents also need to go along with what their school system has to offer.
With more than a year of data on how SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease manifests in children and our experience of last year’s school closures, we can at least look at the risk of infection and missing children in unvaccinated children. Can answer some important questions about the risks of having In-person school.
What are the risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection in non-vaccinated children?
Children infected with SARS-CoV-2 may be asymptomatic. A review of several studies found that about half of infected children showed no symptoms. A study of children in Alberta found that a third of those infected were asymptomatic.
In general, children with COVID-19 symptoms have mild illness.
A large study in the United Kingdom, which included data up to February 2021, showed that when symptoms occur in children between the ages of five and 11, they last up to five days. Symptoms last more than 28 days in 3.1 percent of people in this age group. This period can be compared to adults and people aged 12 to 17: 5.1 percent previously had symptoms for more than 28 days; Symptoms appeared one month after infection in 13.3 percent of adults. Of the 445 young children (1.3 percent) included in the UK study, only six had symptoms that lasted more than 56 days.
Children have a lower risk of hospitalization, serious illness, and death than adults.
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In the United States, between 0.2 and 1.9 percent of detected COVID-19 cases in children resulted in hospitalization, including children infected with the now-circulating Delta variant.
In Belgium, the rate of hospitalization and admission to intensive care units for children with COVID-19 has been low, and has not changed while the new version is being circulated. A Belgian school study showed that in June 2021, 15.4 percent of Belgian primary school children had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, meaning they had been infected with the novel coronavirus shortly before during the pandemic. Had been.
Since July 5, 2021, Delta constitutes more than 75 percent of sequenced cases in Belgium, and almost all cases in the country as of August 16.
In Canada, 0.5 percent of cases found and reported in children under the age of 19 have led to hospitalization, and 0.06 percent have been admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit since the start of the pandemic.
Research shows that multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) in children, presenting two to six weeks after infection and mostly affecting children between the ages of six and nine, remains rare, with one per 10,000 SARS -CoV-2 consists of three MIS-C cases. Infection in people under 21 years of age. Peer-reviewed research from Canada and research from the US suggest that a child usually recovers rapidly from a MIS-C episode.
As the pandemic develops, combining multiple data sources will provide us with more valid and accurate calculations of children’s infection and disease-related risk.
Is it safe for unvaccinated children to go back to different types of school?
In the US, the number of pediatric cases of COVID-19 has increased in recent weeks.
Pediatric cases also increased as a proportion of the total number of all detected cases and accounted for 22.4 per cent of the total cumulative cases for the week ending August 19 (up from 14.6 per cent a week earlier). However, this is happening in the context of high community transmission and low vaccination coverage.
When more children are infected, with both acute infection and MIS-C, there are more opportunities for children to become ill and become more seriously ill, even though this absolute risk is small. The mortality rate for COVID-19 in children under 17 is less than three deaths per 10,000 cases.
Statistics from Public Health Canada show a mortality rate of one per 20,000 among children under the age of 19.
What’s the bigger risk: COVID-19 or school closures?
For children, the risks associated with school closures have exceeded the health risks associated with COVID-19.
Schools provide instruction that allows students to acquire academic skills, but they also help students socialize and teach behavioral skills. Schools provide social support and favor the acquisition of healthy habits. Schools can help immigrant children learn a new language and/or promote integration into their new communities.
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Research shows that prolonged school interruptions have both short- and long-term negative effects on the development of students’ academic skills and academic achievement, and on how they fare with employment into adulthood.
The negative effects of school closures can be transmitted to the next generation as well.
School closures during the pandemic in Belgium and the Netherlands had a negative impact on children’s learning, with children in vulnerable homes more severely affected.
How does school closure affect physical and mental health?
Last year’s experience of confinement and school closures provided data on its negative impact on children’s physical health. An increasing number of children developed eating disorders and weight problems.
Decreased physical activity among Canadian youth. Screen time was over. Excessive screen time is associated with a sedentary lifestyle and heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, insulin resistance and obesity. School meal programs that usually provide some protection against children’s hunger and malnutrition were not available during the pandemic.
The imprisonment also affected the mental health of young children.
A recently published review of several studies on children’s mental health estimated that anxiety affected a quarter of children and that one in five were depressed during the pandemic, which is twice the pre-pandemic rate.
Read more: Children and youth’s mental health problems have doubled during COVID-19
We also know that reporting of child abuse decreased during school closures, not because these incidents did not occur, but because teachers and school staff did not have the opportunity to detect and report abuse.
Can virtual schooling replace individualized learning?
There is limited research on children and complete virtual schooling, but neither preliminary nor peer-reviewed research suggests that virtual schooling can fully and adequately compensate for individualized schooling.
School closures endanger the physical, mental and academic development of children and displace many children from the optimal environment to develop social skills and receive support.
Individualized schooling is essential for schools to achieve their diverse objectives and for the well-being of children, especially vulnerable children.
This does not mean that we cannot accept the positive aspects of online learning, or design the education that we have today. However, including children in decision making and designing school environments and experiences that meet their needs – and taking into account equality – should be equally high on our agenda.