In an opinion piece for Fox News published Friday, medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier made a convincing case that children must be allowed to go back to their normal lives at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children have suffered tremendously from policies that have kept them out of in-person learning and physical activities during the pandemic — despite a lower risk to them from the disease than from other risk factors and ailments, Saphier pointed out.
According to Saphier, 16,013 children ages 0-19 were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 since counting began in March 2020, and a new study in the journal Hospital Pediatrics showed that 40% of those reported hospitalizations were children who came into the hospital for another condition and then tested positive for the virus. To date, only 308 of the 600,000 deaths reported from COVID-19 were children under age 20.
The doctor contrasted that number with the 58,000 children ages 5 and under who are hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) every year, as well as a higher number of deaths in children from causes like car accidents (600), accidental drownings (800-900), and cancer (1,700).
Even the much-hyped MIS-C, an inflammatory syndrome that was endlessly reported by the media as a scary aftereffect of kids getting COVID-19, has only caused 35 deaths so far.
“For kids, comparatively speaking, COVID-19 is not an emergency,” Saphier contended. “The true risk of danger is much less than many others people have accepted without severe restrictions placed on their livelihoods.”
Despite this minuscule risk to children from the virus, however, and despite the fact that kids are not generally driving transmission of the virus, children’s lives have been turned upside down with school closures, sports cancellations, and all-day mask-wearing when schools and sports did resume. Reports show that educational outcomes are now diminished, and pediatric mental health diagnoses are double what they were pre-pandemic.
Saphier called on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to be “transparent” about the low risk from the coronavirus to children and to change guidelines that still recommend mask-wearing in school and during sports.
“As the positivity rate of the nation trends to all-time lows and vaccinated adults are removing their masks, it is time to stop punishing the innocents,” she wrote. “Our fear-based restrictions have done enough harm.”
Even mask-wearing, as harmless as it seems, can have a negative impact. “Facial recognition skills in young children not only help them socially but [are] associated with better academic performance,” Saphier said.
She also said that waiting for an FDA-authorized vaccine for children to lift these restrictions does not make sense because of the already-minuscule risk, although a vaccine for children would help to drive numbers of cases and deaths even lower in the general population.
“It is time to allow children to return to normal life” instead of punishing them over the virus, Saphier concluded. She’s absolutely right — and it’s a travesty that these children were ever so restricted in the first place.