Negative impact of isolation may outweigh risks of return to school
A boy hugs his father as he waits to be called to enter the schoolyard the Marie-Derome School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. on Monday, May 11, 2020. Plans are being made across the country for how to safely send students back to school in the fall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
LONDON, ONT. -- As the provincial governments are busy announcing plans for schools to reopen in September, two experts from Western University point out that the long-term risks associated with being out of school outweigh the risks of COVID-19 among children.
Dr. Michal Silverman and Dr. Saverio Stranges, co-authors of 'Ethics of COVID-19 Related School Closures' suggest children who are younger than 10 years of age have milder symptoms compared to adults.
"At the moment we do not have consistent evidence to support the fact that young children are epidemiologically significant in community-wide viral spread," said Stranges, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
Stranges, who studies the epidemiology of chronic and infectious disease, added, "What has become more obvious is the potential negative implications of social isolation of children in terms of developmental and cognitive outcomes in this critical stage of their development."
Silverman, the city-wide chair and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and London’s academic teaching hospitals suggests children under the age of 10 have the most trouble when it comes to online learning.
"The stereotype that children are just germ-spreading machines goes back to influenza, but we know now that COVID-19 is very different than influenza when it comes to kids."
They suggest a rapid systematic review found little evidence that closing schools impact coronavirus outbreaks in other countries, but they did find that children kept at home had a higher risk of short-term complications of anxiety and depression, as well as a greater risk of physical abuse.