Coronavirus

Media Alarmism Is Making It Difficult To Assess School Reopening

Kids do not catch or spread or suffer from coronavirus at the same rate as adults, no matter what your newspaper is telling you this week.

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A headline Monday afternoon in The New York Times' "Coronavirus Briefing" email newsletter snapped my head to attention, and not just because of the old-timey classic rock pun: "The kids are not all right."

Like tens of millions of parents in this country, I have school-aged offspring and a non-insignificant amount of anxiety over just how they will be spending their time (and mine) a month from now. If, as the Times asserted in the first sentence of its write-up, "new research [is] reflecting just how vulnerable children can be to the coronavirus," that could significantly alter my family's decision-making process. I need to use this news.

Then I started clicking on the links. And lo! There was this troubling Wall Street Journal headline: "Latest Research Points to Children Carrying, Transmitting Coronavirus." Given that the preliminary research as of three weeks ago suggested that elementary school-aged children, such as my 5-year-old, rarely contract, get sick from, or transmit COVID-19—so rarely, in fact, that a leading British epidemiologist was quoted in the Times of London as saying there hadn't yet been a single case of a teacher catching the virus from a student anywhere in the world—then such a development would count as a major reversal.

"The latest research," the Journal went on, "indicates children may be carriers just as much as adults." Huge, if true.

Yet the only research presented in the article supporting the notion that children contract the virus "just as much" as adults came from a single overnight summer camp in Georgia, at which kids (though not staff) didn't wear masks, and participated in singing and shouting exercises in unventilated rooms. That is not a useful representative sample.

A more helpful survey of the available literature comes not from the world of journalism, but from a website called COVID Explained, run by Brown University economist Emily Oster, Harvard Medical School professor Galit Alter, and others. Their gloss, as of August 3:

There are a few [random sample] studies….An early one was conducted in Iceland. Researchers there tested about 13,000 random people, including 848 kids. Among the whole population, 0.8% of people (so, almost 1 percent) tested positive for COVID-19. Among children under 10, though, there were no positive cases. This difference was very unlikely to occur by chance.

Data from a single town in Italy which did very wide-spread screening leads us to the same conclusion: kids are much less likely than older people to be infected.

Another study uses mathematical models to estimate that people under age 20 are half as susceptible to infection as adults over 20….

Altogether this evidence suggests that kids are less likely to be infected with coronavirus than adults.

The Oster/Alter tentative interpretations may well be wrong, and the amount of random sampling is still maddeningly small, but their thoroughness of study-picking and cautiousness of conclusion inspire more confidence than 99 percent of the elite media I consume on this topic. There is an irritating tendency to elevate scary-sounding anecdotes over data, to collapse the definition of "children" into a single glob rather than as cohorts with importantly different characteristics, and to treat the science and the politics of this issue as national when it is actually a geographically variant and locally administered story.

Journalistic outlets have been pinning their school-reopening pessimism this week on a new American Academy of Pediatrics report that says the number of cumulative COVID-19 cases among children—the definition of which varies by state, from between 0 and 14 (Florida) to between 0 and 24 (Alabama)—grew by 97,000 in the last two weeks of July, from 242,000 to 339,000. That is an increase of 40 percent over a short period of time.

Since mid-April, the share of coronavirus cases accounted for by children has marched steadily higher in each two-week reporting period, from 2 percent to the current level of 8.8 percent. What explains the steady increase? Many suspect the recent re-opening of day care facilities and summer camps (on which more below). It is also true that as testing has become more widespread, it has detected more asymptomatic carriers (who previously would not have been tested), which is one reason why the case fatality rate has continued to fall.

Children's share of coronavirus-related hospitalizations has remained disproportionately low, going from 0.8 percent in late May to 1.4 percent now. (The overall hospitalization rate of kids who test positive has been cut nearly in half, from 3.8 percent to 2 percent.) Happiest of all, just 86 people classified as "children" by the states have died, which means kids account for just 0.06 percent of all coronavirus deaths, and their case fatality rate is just 0.03 percent.

Before your eyes glaze over at all those single-digit percentages, remember this: Children are 23.1 percent of the United States population. That means that they account for 1 out of every 4.3 people, 1 out of every 11.4 coronavirus cases, 1 out of every 50 hospitalizations, and 1 out of every 3,333 deaths.

So it is flatly untrue that "children may be carriers just as much as adults." What's more, treating children as an undifferentiated mass is particularly unhelpful when making parental decisions and public policy, particularly as it relates to the pressing question of whether and how to reopen schools.

The Centers for Disease Control breaks out national coronavirus statistics by several different age cohorts, producing this startling number: Only 20 kids between the ages of 5 and 14 (from kindergarten through middle school) have died from coronavirus since February 1. This group was two and a half times more likely to die from the flu, and four times more likely to die from pneumonia. Among the more droplet-swapping demo of 15-to-18-year-olds, only 31 have died. An additional 25 kids under 5 years old have also perished.

All of which means children so far have not been measurably "vulnerable" (to use the New York Times adjective) to coronavirus. But what about their ability to transmit the potentially deadly disease even when asymptomatic?

Here's how The New Yorker treated this urgent scientific question: "Some studies have found that young children are not as likely as adults to spread COVID-19. But summer camps on Long Island and in Georgia, and schools internationally, have had virus outbreaks." That's one way of assessing things, I suppose.

The Wall Street Journal, whose headline suggests that the "latest research points to children…transmitting coronavirus," cites just one study outside of the Georgia sleepaway camp example: a big contract tracing effort in South Korea, which found (in the WSJ's wording) that "children between 10 and 19 years old transmitted the virus within their own households at the same rate as adults of certain ages," but also that "children under the age of 10 didn't spread the virus as much."

Here's how COVID Explained parses that same study's data (the site also examines two smaller surveys):

It appears that outside of household contacts, transmission from kids is really low (note that in South Korea they wear masks and are socially distancing, which contributes to the low non-household contact transmissions. Wearing a mask is really important!). Among young children, transmission even within a household is low: if your little kid has COVID-19, there seems to be only about a 5% chance you'll get it. Older kids do seem to transmit the virus to household contacts as efficiently as adults yet are still less likely to have the virus and less likely to transmit to non-household contacts.

Sorting through the available (and rapidly growing, if still woefully insufficient) underlying science is the critical precursor to having a rational discussion about school reopenings. (Which as of this writing is already off the table in 17 of the country's 20 largest school districts.)

But we also have two other very relevant, if not always referenced, datasets: school reopenings worldwide, and day care reopenings at home. What do they tell us?

The University of Washington's Department of Global Health five weeks ago surveyed 15 countries that have reopened schools, and concluded: "So far, countries that reopened schools after reducing infection levels—and imposed requirements like physical distancing and limits on class sizes—have not seen a surge in coronavirus cases….There have not yet been rigorous scientific studies on the potential for school-based spread, but a smattering of case reports, most of them not yet peer-reviewed, bolster the notion that it is not inevitably a high risk."

The report does highlight a case that comes up frequently in these conversations: Israel. "But there have been school-based outbreaks in countries with higher community infection levels and countries that apparently eased safety guidelines too soon," the study cautioned. "In Israel, the virus infected more than 200 students and staff after schools reopened in early May and lifted limits on class size a few weeks later."

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has a more recent rundown of European Union (E.U.) school reopenings, concluding, among other things, that "If appropriate physical distancing and hygiene measures are applied, schools are unlikely to be more effective propagating environments than other occupational or leisure settings with similar densities of people."

Those in favor of reopening schools should not skim over the conditionality in both studies' conclusions. The "if"s are critical.

When it comes to day cares and summer camps, data are considerably harder to find, which increases journalistic reliance on negative anecdotes. "The media coverage," Emily Oster wrote on July 30, "can give one the impression that it is impossible to operate a child care setting without outbreaks. These data contradict this."

What data is that? Well, Oster and her team generated a voluntary, crowdsourced self-reporting database among child care centers, then also examined media reporting on cases, and sifted through state-reported surveys. The results are admittedly uneven and incomplete, and Oster herself warns that "we should all draw our own conclusions." Nevertheless, this is hers:

On the bad news side, the fact that we see some outbreaks here tells me that it is not realistic to expect no school outbreaks at all. In some cases, the large outbreaks cited above seem clearly linked to behaviors we'd hope schools would avoid, but it is simply not realistic to expect no clusters of cases to emerge. Some of these could be large.

But on the positive side: many child care centers and camps, even large ones and even in high prevalence areas, are operating without significant outbreaks. They are dealing with cases without having them turn into clusters….

It's easy to forget the denominator, but estimates suggest in the range of 5,000 summer camps are operating this summer, including perhaps 1,500 overnight camps. The number of child care centers in the U.S. is in the hundreds of thousands. Yes, it is concerning that there are 14 child care locations in North Carolina with clusters, but this is out of a total of about 6,500 locations.

I am grateful that Oster has gone to such lengths to provide at least the beginning of some context to the individual reports of kids contracting and spreading coronavirus. But I am irritated at how rare it is to see journalists treating this important question with similar care.

For what my opinions are worth, I remain in favor of at least re-opening elementary schools—fully, not part-time, as New York City is planning—in places where the positive-test rate has been consistently below 3 percent. (That's lower than New York state's threshold of 5 percent.) And while I'm worried about the higher transmission rates of teens (my eldest daughter is 12, and I've seen how these people act), I'm leaning toward being in favor of at least partial reopening of middle schools and high schools in lower-threshold places as well. Perhaps having a gradualist approach there will make it easier to process new information and adapt to unwelcome shocks.

But that's where both the discourse and the policy, I fear, are leaving us ill-prepared. Because of poor decision-making and management at all levels of government, coronavirus tests are taking more time, not less, to turn around. This is unacceptable and should have been the focus of federal policy in particular since before day one. Testing delays, more than any other factor, could grind school reopenings to a halt, just as soon as the first cluster appears.

Meanwhile, the way we talk about this stuff matters, too. It is literally impossible in this brain-damaged political moment to enter into a public conversation about possible school reopenings without people leaping into bad-faith accusations about wanting to kill children, or tip elections, or God knows what else. Journalism, particularly in places where science abuts policy, is difficult and prone to error (mine included) in the best of circumstances; a deadly pandemic during an unusually polarized presidential election is about the worst imaginable backdrop. But this is precisely where we need the best-faith attempts at acquiring and transmitting knowledge, including admitting where the available knowledge is inadequate, rather than chasing after cheap culture-war dopamine hits.

My plea, as a parent, to journalists more scientifically literate than I: Please do better.

NEXT: Noah Feldman and I on Free Speech, "Hate Speech," and More

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  1. Just… don’t say this on Youtube Matt. Don’t want to see you get demonetized or unpersoned.

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  2. The fallacy of the debate is that it seems to assume that kids have no risks of catching the virus if they don’t go to school. That is not true at all. The kids are at risk from catching the virus regardless of whether they are in school.

    The question is whether and how much does going to school raise that risk. It seems to me that because school would be a more structured and controlled environment, most kids would be better off in school than at home. This is especially true of kids who come from no or bad homes.

    The only kids who might have a lower risk are kids from stable homes with helicopter parents. And well off helicopter parents seem to be the only ones who are being given any kind of say in this debate. If we don’t open the schools, it will be because school officials vowed to the demands of well off risk adverse parents at the expense of kids who are less well off and do not have a stable home to go to.

    I am not angry at the well off parents for being selfish. They have a right to look out for their own interests. What makes me angry is that most of them are complete hypocrites who pretend that they want the schools closed for the good of all children rather than out of their own selfish concerns and willingness to sacrifice the interests of poor kids to address them.

    1. My daughter went back to school a month ago. Zero casualties so far.

      1. I think the total number of people under 18 who have died of COVID in this country is less than 10. It might be less than five. It is very unlikely there will be any casualties.

        And anyone who thinks small children can learn online is lying or delusional. I think for bright high school kids from good homes, online might be better in a lot of cases. But for kids under the age of 12 or certainly 10, there is no way they are going to learn online. It will either be their parents teaching them or no one teaching them at all.

        1. There is also social interaction with other kids their age. That is important.

          1. It totally is. And the structure of going to school. For kids from bad homes, going to school is sometimes the only structure or guidance they get. Closing the schools and going online totally screws those kids.

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          2. that was the only successful part of schooling this spring. The kids were learning nothing but they got to show off their pets and goof off on webcam with classmates. It was heartwarming at a time when we mostly cut off our social lives

        2. Listen to Welch, “do better”. It does not matter what you think. Look to the actual stats. Even in the article you just read Welch sites numbers higher than 10. If you think he is wrong please site your source.

            1. Also, those are provisional numbers, and tell us nothing about the underlying health status of those 56.

              More kids drown in bathtubs every year.

          1. The point is that it is statistically insignificant . Pay attention.

        3. ” I think the total number of people under 18 who have died of COVID in this country is less than 10. It might be less than five.”

          Between May 1 and August 6, 2020, there were 90 child deaths of a studied total of 139,685 covid-19 deaths in the U.S. There may have been more, but some states do not keep comparable statistics (eg one state considers “children” to be 0 to 24 years old, which would throw off the statistics here…)

          https://downloads.aap.org/AAP/PDF/AAP%20and%20CHA%20-%20Children%20and%20COVID-19%20State%20Data%20Report%208.6.20%20FINAL.pdf

        4. My wife taught online from April to June.

          It was frustrating and impractical.

          No question. Anyone who thinks this can work is delusional.

          Open the schools you pant shitting pansies.

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    2. And what harm is it doing to children? Learning to see everyone as a danger, and being trained that it’s normal to react this way to a new flu virus has got to be awful psychologically for children. And the lack of socialization. That may be the worst thing here. We are fucking up children’s minds and their future. I feel really bad for anyone just getting out of high school now.

      1. So do I Zeb. This is horrible.

      2. Absolutely. We taught kids a terrible lesson. And we made it worse with the masks. It infuriates me parents who put kids in masks pushing it as a faux-virtuous act.

        Adults deserve a smack across the face for projecting their fears onto kids. Public officials can rot in hell as far as I’m concern for what amounts to child abuse in my view.

        Despicable.

      3. Learning to see everyone as a danger, and being trained that it’s normal to react this way to a new flu virus has got to be awful psychologically for children.

        For the moment, but I predict this generation is going to turn out pretty skeptical ultimately. A lot of my daughter’s friends are really wound up about this, like they were about Climate Change nine months ago, but my daughter’s already caught on (with some encouragement from me) that authority figures habitually exaggerate dangers in order to get people to do what they want them to, even when well intentioned. My daughter will wear a mask when told, and do the social distancing thing, but she’s not up nights worrying about it.

        A few more years of a new monster under the bed every few months, and I think these kids are going to start waking up.

        1. I hope you are right. I have some hope. I’ve been hanging out with some people in their 20s lately and none of them buy the panic and doom. Nor do my friends’ teenage children. But that’s a select group and I have no idea how representative it is. These are people who tend to take an out-of-the-mainstream view of a lot of things.

        2. Same with my 15 year-old. They’re sharper than we think.

    3. This is par for the course for Karen. She talks a lot about how you are selfish, but beneath all the bluster she is demanding that you keep her safe. It’s all about her.

      1. Exactly. I’m selfish for wanting to let people go to work and earn a living, or go back to school and get on with their lives. She’s unselfish for wanting to lock everyone up indefinitely.

    4. “The kids are at risk from catching the virus regardless of whether they are in school.”

      I disagree. My kids have been sitting in the house for the entire year. They see friends briefly in passing, but are not allowed to do anything with other friends. They JUST started back to summer camp the last month or so. And their classes have had ZERO problems, by the way.

      Nevertheless, by and large the reason kids in the US have not been getting infected is that they haven’t been out in public nearly to the extent that parents are. Schooling WILL change that, and we will see these outbreaks constantly. (with very little risk to the actual kids, of course). The problem is that these outbreaks are blown out of proportion.

      Matt Welch hits the nail on the head. For every Georgia Camp that has an outbreak, there are 1500 other summer camps that had ZERO problem. For every school that has an outbreak run through the population there will be thousands of schools with no problem at all. For every 55 people dead of this disease, 999,945 people are fine.

      1. I disagree. My kids have been sitting in the house for the entire year. They see friends briefly in passing, but are not allowed to do anything with other friends. They JUST started back to summer camp the last month or so. And their classes have had ZERO problems, by the way.

        That is nice but it is not true for every or even most kids. Kids who don’t have parents or have parents who work a lot have not been sitting home. They have been going out doing what kids do. So, they are at risk.

        Also, this is a virus that spreads primarily indoors. So, you probably put your kids at more risk keeping them at home. Someone in the house went out. And if they had gotten it, your kids would have almost certainly have as well.

        1. It is indisputable that the vast majority of elementary school age kids are staying home. Everything in the population centers was closed. People were calling cops in my neighborhood on kids they saw outside without their parents, because this was in violation of Gov Newsance’s orders.

          While it is a virus likely to spread indoors, the part you don’t seem to understand is that there are differences among indoors venues. 15 – 20 daycare kids in a single classroom are vastly more likely to spread the disease than 2 kids and two parents even in a 2 bedroom apartment. So, sure, if parents contracted it and took it home, there was a likelihood the kids would get it. 2 of them.

          But this is beside the point. I’m just pointing out that it is highly likely that as grubby little elementary kids start hanging out together, the likelihood that there is an outbreak will go way up. That is what happened at the Georgia summer camp (and I have first hand knowledge of that specific outbreak from some friends in GA). And that camp did mostly the right thing: Once they knew someone was sick, they closed and sent the kids home.

          The Georgia summer camp, in the context of all summer camps this year, should be a model example of what is going on. People should expect that for the vast majority of kids, they will go to school without a problem. For a small set, their school will close for two weeks as soon as there is evidence that they have an outbreak.

          The security- er pandemic theatre with masks is just a bunch of fear that the virus can pop up in some random distribution. Because people have lost perspective on the virus.

      2. And let’s define what the fuck an outbreak actually is: it’s a bunch of people getting sick, not a bunch of people testing “positive”.

        This shit needs to be violently resisted at some point

        1. Nardz, I couldn’t agree more.

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      1. Ah yes, Mike Welch. My favorite.

    6. In our district it is those parents who pushed to the point that in class instruction is only going to be 2 days a week and school is completely closed on Wednesdays. They have continued to push to have all in person instruction canceled despite the fact that they have been given the option to do all online. It’s the biggest crock of authoritarian shit I’ve seen. They have gotten what they want for themselves but can’t allow others to have options different from what they want.
      This half measure really fucks us because my daughter is in middle school and we both have to work all day. That leaves 3 days a week where we have to figure out some way to get her supervision when the nearest familial options are an hour and a half away

    7. How the hell are kids more vulnerable at home than in a building with 1000 other people crammed into classrooms and hallways?

  3. Because of poor decision-making and management at all levels of government, coronavirus tests are taking more time

    No it’s because there are dem operatives stationed throughout all levels of the system who will slow things down no matter how much you pay them.

    Anyway, Americans know it’s nonsense so they’re getting immunity regardless of the hysteria. The virus just has to burn itself it. We don’t need herd immunity, just enough to slow the spread. So protect your elderly & obese, or stop pretending to care about them.

    1. Dem operatives. Sure.

      1. I think it’s actually the devil. I can’t really find any other explanation.

      2. Even if kids catch it they don’t die! Same goes for 80% of the teachers.
        Have the ages of the dead changed significantly?
        Quarantine the vulnerable. The number of cases is not the concern, it is who is dying you need to look at.

        1. It’s way more than 80% of teachers. There are very few teachers over 65. By then, they’ve retired with gold-plated benefits.

        2. More like 99.95% of the teachers.

  4. if you’re that hung up about it keep the kids out of school for a year. It’s not going to hurt them. Do some home schooling and distance learning.

    This should inform everyone why we don’t want government involved in our lives, education, and medical decisions. They freeze up whenever there is controversy – well today they do because they are on TV and the internet 24/7. Not so much in times past.

    1. Kids need time with other kids. For many, school is the only place where that happens.

  5. no matter what your newspaper is telling you

    What’s a newspaper?

  6. I always thought the teachers unions would be paranoid about not opening the schools. People will start to realize that teaching kids and getting an actual quality education is a lot easier than it seems, despite their screams of it being so difficult and noble. But then again it’s an entire profession currently based on knowing more than an 11 year old and indoctrination, so not the sharpest heads of lettus in the patch to begin with.

    1. For my entire life teachers have claimed to be essential public servants on the level of police and fireman and doctors and such. So, this year we have a pandemic and the doctors and the fireman and the police all show up to work. The teachers, however, claim the risk is too great and school must not reopen.

      Okay, if the risk of a pandemic that almost never kills the young and at most might cause some of them to get it and give it to their parents or teachers is greater than the value of having the schools open, then I never again want to hear that teachers and public schools are essential. Clearly they are not or they would be open. I also, want my money back for all of the brick and mortar schools we have built because teachers have now admitted we can do it just as well online.

      Perhaps I am being optimistic, but I think part of the fallout of all this is that the public schools’ blank check where they can get any tax increase or bond measure past the public as long as it is “for the schools” will finally bounce. I don’t think the public is ever going to look at public schools the same way again. And I do not think they will ever be as willing to just give them whatever they want as they have been in the past.

      I also think a lot of people will fall into two categories. This will cause some people to see the schools being open as essential and never look at teachers or their unions the same way again for walking away from keeping schools open during this. I think a second group of people will either home school or move to a private school because of this and never return to the public schools. How large each group will be, I do not know. But I think together they will be a large number of parents, like 25 or 30 percent or more. And that is very bad news for the teachers and the public schools.

      1. My reaction is to disagree about how many people will leave public schooling, because they don’t have the money for private schools and/or don’t have the means to do it at home. But there is a “work at home” revolution right now. I’m quite certain that many offices that let people work from home will not be reopening. But just because the parent is at home doesn’t mean they can be both teacher and worker. And private schooling is beyond the economic reach of most families.

        So I think your 25 to 30 percent estimate is very high, because people simply don’t have the means.

        1. It probably is. I wouldn’t even try to claim a good guess. But I think even if they can’t do it, a lot of parents who wouldn’t have before now would if they could. And that figure may be higher than even 30%. And those parents likely won’t be falling for the “but we must fund our failing schools” pitch like they have in the past.

          1. “But I think even if they can’t do it, a lot of parents who wouldn’t have before now would if they could.”

            totally

        2. “because they don’t have the money for private schools”

          I’ll quibble a bit over this. I’d say most people do actually have the money for private school; it’s simply not enough of a priority, especially when “free” public education is an option.

          My kids go to a private, parochial school. Tuition is $1000 a semester (tuition-free for church members, but we’re Baptists). They offer need-based scholarships for low-income, non-member children. $2000/yr is less than most families spend on cell-phone related expenses. It’s less than most families spend on financing nice cars. It’s less than most families spend on dining out…

          1. I don’t know where you live, but where I live the cheapest I could find (that wasn’t run by people who wouldn’t let women wear pants) was, well, add another zero to your number. Then multiply it by two.

            1. I’m in a fairly rural area of Kansas. There’s also a charter school (K-8th grade) close by that offers an alternative (agricultural focused) form of educations. And yeah, the more selective you start getting about what type of school you choose, the more expensive it’s going to be. Again, it’s all about priorities and trade-offs.

              1. I’m happy that people in your area have an economically realistic alternative to public schools that doesn’t include shunning makeup and women who wear pants. It isn’t available here.

                1. It’s not economics that are denying you alternatives. It is rent seeking and graft by the government-educational complex that is inflicting this upon you. The money exists, they are simply directing it at people who do not give a shit about you or yours.

                  The ” shunning makeup and women who wear pants” crowd at least get this, and are willing to put their money where they recognize it matters. And since they are the only “realistic alternative” that means they are extending that benefit to others beyond their own.

                  It is one thing if they are not your cup of tea, but your bigoted scorn is telling.

      2. “I think a second group of people will either home school or move to a private school because of this and never return to the public schools. ”

        There could also be some parents that will move their kids from private to public schools. Why pay all that money if the school cannot operate as usual. Kids staying apart from each other, wearing masks all day even at outside recess, and teachers giving instruction with masks on doesn’t seem worth the cost. For now the public and private schools don’t seem as different from each other as usual (at least locally).

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    3. Their members are paranoid. It is their leadership that is out to make political points by sensationalizing this. Look at the demands of the LA Teacher’s Union. My Nephew’s fiance is a teacher and she can’t believe what her Union is doing.

  7. Media doesn’t know how to distinguish ‘anecdote’ from ‘data’. This is no surprise – they routinely fail at doing this. And now they have a narrative they want to push that requires them to fail at that distinction, because make no mistake, the media has been pushing ‘panic’ since March, well beyond what the scientific evidence supports. (And not just for children, but for adults too).

    All media science journalism is bad. The only reasons covid-19 journalism has been exceptionally bad are that commitment to a narrative and the fact that this science matters a lot more for everyday life than the normal science journalism story.

    1. You are wrong. As I learned from the experts the plural of anecdote is data. Another thing I learned is that the more you get wrong about a topic the more of an expert you are! If I predict 10 million deaths and noby dies, that just means I know more than ther person that predictid 0 deaths

    2. All the media knows is narrative. And the truth almost never fits any particular narrative. Narratives are simple and clear. The truth is almost always grey and a little unclear. And that is true of science. The objective answer may be clear but it’s implications and meanings never are.

      The media covers this to push whatever narrative they like. And that means lying.

  8. Good article, Matt, thanks.

    Unfortunately, you’re too late with your rational thought-process. It’s no longer hospitalizations and deaths that we need to worry about. Apparently, it’s the terrible long-term effects of catching the virus. The veracity of these long lasting health problems is proven because everyone pushing it has an anecdote about their roommate’s cousin having heart palpitations, or their mother-in-law’s hair dresser having lingering chest pains.

    Now, you can’t disprove these anecdotal accounts, and, of course, you’ll have to wait for peer-reviewed scientific studies on long-term effects until, ya know, it’s been long-term.

    So basically it comes down to: we can’t know that people won’t suffer for years after contracting the virus, so we better keep things shut down… or do you want people to suffer for years?

    1. You have to also wait until we reach actual long-term. Even the very first cases of WuFlu in the U.S. were six months ago.

    2. Long term effects, certainly a concern. But they mostly apply to people who get bad cases AFAIK. Yeah, we’ll have to wait to find out (which should be expected for something new to us at least within our lifetimes). No surprise policy makers have made mistakes, but thank our founders for our republic allowing states to each make their own decisions, so we can find out what works rather than being stuck with one government “solution” enforced upon us.

      I’d like to thank Welch for an excellent article: one where he took sufficient care (unlike most MSM) to research more than one or two studies regarding school reopenings, shows some humility (we’ve all made mistakes), and provided the best article I’ve seen on the subject. It’s great for parents, and policy makers.

  9. Speaking of media alarmism: “But what about their ability to transmit the potentially deadly disease even when asymptomatic?”

    It would be just as accurate to write “what about their ability to transmit the mostly harmless disease.” Why not set an example for your colleagues by doing better yourself?

    1. The regular flu is a potentially deadly disease. And we never talk about it in those terms.

      1. Any infection is potentially deadly to some segment of the population.

      2. You don’t perhaps. Lots of others do.

        Streptococcus Pneumonia has a mortality rate 5-35% just because it does not make headlines does not mean nobody takes it seriously.

        This whole article is crap. Other then a PowerPoint set of data from the APA there is nothing scientific about it. Just another parent whining about the kids and school.

        Well buckle up. They are your kids. Get them an education because that 7 year old ain’t gonna do it himself. Isn’t this what libertarians have been saying about government schools for decades?

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  11. One of the negative nellies on Twatter is a Yale professor, and he is pimping out his book, Apollo’s Arrow: The Impact of COVID on How we Live. Now, I don’t know anything about the book, but I have watched this professor and the title is deeply ironic.

    Apollo’s Arrow (i assume) is an analogy to greek mythology when Apollo (and in some stories his sister, Artemis) gets pissed off and starts shooting people with his invisible arrows, causing them to drop dead. The classical interpretation is that the Greeks were using the arrows to explain disease, and its seeming (to them) random ability to kill people.

    This is what is so ironic. Here we are in a modern world, and people are treating COVID-19 precisely as if it is Apollo’s Arrow, ready to strike from above if we anger the gods. These people don’t understand that COVID is a pathogen that, erm, takes a path. It is spread from person to person. Kids going to school will not contract the bug if they fail to wear their mask correctly. They will contract the bug ONLY if someone first brings the infection. And in THOUSANDS of schools and summer camps around the country, kids are meeting and playing, and there is no outbreak because the infection isn’t there.

    The Mask Karens are like the Greek Karens, yelling at their neighbors to offer food at Apollo’s temple. They think mere mask wearing will protect them, and it won’t. The way to beat this virus is to stop assuming it is random and can strike at any time. You must relentlessly screen kids for symptoms, Partner with parents to self isolate if they are in contact with infected people, and to shut down the few schools where this outbreak happens.

    Until people realize- and demand- that this virus can be detected and isolated, we will continue to live in an age of Talismasks and prayers to St Fauci.

    1. That is exactly it. Test kids and screen them for symptoms. There is some question whether people without symptoms can spread the virus at all. But there is no question that those without symptoms are significantly less likely to spread the virus and spread it with a much lower viral load than those with symptoms.

      All you really have to do is test kids every chance you get and not let any kid with a fever or other symptoms in the school. Do that and the chances of there being an outbreak at all much less any individual kid getting it are pretty low.

      As you say, this is a pathogen not a magic arrow fired by the gods. We know how pathogens work and basic hygiene and common sense precautions will eliminate most of the risk. But, those things do not allow people to virtue signal and order others around and feel like they are making a sacrifice for the common good. And that is all that seems to matter to a large number of people these days. Rand didn’t mean for the “Return of the Primitive” to be a guide book for 21st Century life but I swear to God it is being used as one by a lot of people.

    2. Certain STEM people get off on displaying their familiarity with classical literature and other sorts of things (mostly) esoteric to their otherwise highly technical world. It is a method for drawing a distinction from many of their colleagues who got where they are by singleminded, and singlefocused determination.

      e.g. It’s a class thing.

      1. ie. not eg.

  12. Next you’ll be telling me that the entire DEATHPLAGUE2K19 was overblown.

    1. I think Italy was what enabled the freakout. People were willing to accept that what happened in China was unlikely here. Yet they foolishly though that Italy, and it’s health system, were ‘more like us.’ When they saw the catastrophe that hit there they went into full panic mode.

      Of course, given that New York, New Jersey and Massachussets have all given Italy a run for it’s money in the mismanagement-and-unnecessary-death sweepstakes, perhaps some concern was warranted

      1. Even back in March, anyone who peeled back the Italy statistics even the slightest amount wouldn’t find any cause for alarm. More than 99% of deaths in Italy were in people over the age of 65 with at least one morbidity. More than 50% had 3+ morbidities. The virus has always, from the very start, been deadly only to people who are already not long for this world. Italy racked up a high death rate because, surprise surprise, it’s population was skewed towards sick old people. Take the Diamond Princess cruise ship as well. Who do you think is the primary audience for cruise ships? OLD PEOPLE.

        The apocalyptic panic has always from the very start been entirely invented and it is quickly becoming something akin to a religion.

        1. With Lombardy representing 39% of all cases. 72% of all cases are in four regions: Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto – in addition to Lombardy. Don’t forget this is the industrial north and smog is a problem which was a contributing factor.

          So yes, there’s no question Italy distorted our perception but by the same token, Italy did an excellent job of reigning it in. They were the first to get hit hard and had it under control by May.

      2. Of course, given that New York, New Jersey and Massachussets have all given Italy a run for it’s money in the mismanagement-and-unnecessary-death sweepstakes, perhaps some concern was warranted

        The first round of modeling (based on Imperial College’s doomsday projections based on China’s woefully awful data) indicated that our hospital network (with roughly 20% of the state’s mkt share) would need, on its own, twice as many beds as are typically maintained in the entire state. These are the same faulty assumptions that drove the NY & NJ depts of health into panic mode, creating the conditions which created the very problem they sought to avoid.

        I guess I could brag that with every tweak I said to my bosses “the assumptions behind these model is crap: COVID is either less infectious, not as dangerous or both,” but what’s done is done.

        1. This will go down as the single great mishandling and over reaction to a pandemic in history.

          The suppression theory alone I don’t believe will see the light of day in the future. People will look back and go ‘wtf were those idiots thinking?’

  13. Bad news for the socialists; kids get sick, no matter what.
    The “science” is clear, open the damn schools.

  14. the school thing doesn’t affect me. I am enjoying the freak show.

    1. It does affect you.
      How many products will be out of stock because a worker had to stay home because the schools open or close daily at the whim of a petty tyrant?

      1. yeah I get the mini-connection slippery slopes I just don’t let that stuff get to me

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  16. Matt,

    Another thing I’d like to see added to the article is outcomes of these anecdotal outbreaks at summer camps or what have you. Assuming any such data is available (presumably it is not), it would be nice to know… say… of the XXX kids who tested positive, how many felt sick, how many had symptoms requiring a medical appointment (to be given hydroxychloroquine naturally), how many had to be admitted to the hospital, and how many died. That would lend even more perspective.

    Sincerely, your friend (if we ever meet)
    Bobby

    1. “(to be given hydroxychloroquine naturally),”

      Lol.

    2. It’s probably a good bet that if they don’t mention hospitalizations or deaths then there were few or none. But it would be great if that information was routinely included.

  17. This is the kind of writing that originally attracted me to Reason. Fact-based, measured, non-hyperventilating. More please.

    1. The only reason for this from Welch is that he is personally effected negatively by the people and ideas he typically sides with. He’s gotten more time with his kids than he can tolerate and it spurred him to do actual journalism and reasoning

      1. Credible.

  18. Public schools are not libertarian. It’s simply wrong to force Mr Jones to pay for Mr Smith’s children to attend school.
    Public school closures are one of covid’s silver linings.

    1. The only problem with that argument is that they are not closed. They are still operating, and still fully staffed (maybe they’ve laid off the kitchen help.) The problem is that they are operating in a manner that is even worse than before.

    2. They’re not closed, in the sense that they’ve been shuttered and sold off. Taxpayers are still footing the bills for operating them at reduced capacity, paying any teachers not laid off, etc. Taxes still gotta get paid.

    3. Not really a libertarian counterargument, but is it ok to force Mr. Smith’s children to pay for Mr. Jones’ Social Security benefits and Medicare?

    4. Would be if we weren’t still paying for them, full price.

  19. I have two stories from my recent family camping trip. I was doing a trail hike with my young adult daughter, and we came upon a mother and her around five-year-old son. Upon seeing us, the kid became incapacitated with fear and was shaking so violently he was unable to put on his stupid mask. That’s how worked up this mother had her poor kid. I wanted to say to her, “you know, the seasonal flu is a much bigger threat to your kid than the WuFlu,” but I thought better of it. Later in the trip, I was on the sparsely occupied beach, and this father made his obviously healthy and athletic teenagers put on their stupid masks, 15 feet away from anyone else and in direct afternoon sunlight.

    The pants-shitters are really doing a job on their kids.

    1. They’re going to “improve” on the millenials–instead of living in their parent’s basement when they’re 30, they’ll be too terrified to set foot outside their parent’s basement, ever.

    2. These kind of situations I find both amusing and annoying. “Oh no, another human being is coming! Put on our masks or we might die!”

      I remember a long time ago an anti-nuke protesting mom was quoted in the paper that her five year old son has nightmares about nuclear bombs. Thankfully she wasn’t my mom.

      1. I love when they jump out of your way as you pass as if the virus is gonna catch ’em.

        It’s one thing for adults to be retards but to pass that on to the kids is depraved.

        That poor kid mentioned above. He never had a chance. Hopefully he’ll do what we used to do when our mothers got a little to into the helicopter mode. Ignore them.

  20. As long as teachers are receiving full pay and not facing layoffs, most schools will not be starting up anytime soon.

    1. Incentives matter.
      We’re seeing just how selfless our public servants are.

  21. This pandemic is still raging around the world, let’s work together to win it. If you are cannot go out, play animal crossing for free

  22. Matt Welsh says, “it’s really important to wear masks”. Healthy people and children should NOT wear masks so that COVID can pass thru and be dealt with by our natural defenses as happens several times each year.

    1. That is driving me crazy. Because people are being told that asymptomatic spread is a significant risk (despite evidence) we are all presumed guilty…erm infected. When I mention that I haven’t had the disease in the 6+ months it’s been around and didn’t wear a mask until all businesses mandated it 2 months ago people don’t seem to grasp the point that all these measures have this far been pointless for me. Quarantine if you are sick, but healthy people shouldn’t be doing any of this stupid shit

    2. They are closing down college athletics in the fall. If there is one group that we want to get the WuFlu to get closer to herd immunity, it’s college-age athletes.

      1. But of course, you just want college athletes’ grandparents to die.

        1. Yes, you got me. Shut down the athletes lives as long as Gammy and Pop Pop can basically go about their lives as usual.

  23. “What’s more, treating children as an undifferentiated mass is particularly unhelpful when making parental decisions and public policy, particularly as it relates to the pressing question of whether and how to reopen schools.”

    No, no. You have to treat everyone exactly the same. The rules in place for a person living in Manhattan should also be applied to the people living in Mildred, Montana. That was Trump’s big failing, letting local authorities set different rules for different situations.

    1. Does anyone really ‘live’ in Manhattan?

      Exist, to be sure, but live?

  24. Question: If the CDC and FDA have a requirement of proving Efficacy for treatments and such.

    Why is there not a requirement to prove Efficacy for the lock downs? Why not a requirement to prove Efficacy for the cloth face masks? Why not a requirement to prove Efficacy for the social distancing mandates?

    Why is it acceptable for the CDC and FDA to force people to drastically alter their lives based on their whims, but treatment, drugs, procedures, testing kits… need to be proven for Efficacy?

    This issues with this pandemic are largely due to the failures of the various government bureaucracies and the medias narrative and outright misrepresentation of facts.

  25. My daycare has been open since June 1. So far no cases.

    It may change perhaps in the upcoming months but this is where we stand currently.

    In any event, the ‘suppression theory’ is the wrong approach for this virus. What are they planning to do? Open/close indefinitely until there’s a vaccine in an exercise in futility? It’s a form of arson to the economy.

    What they’re doing in NZ/AUS is appalling. The virus is here to stay idiots. Time to focus on treatments and learning to live with it.

    I don’t think the ‘mask wearing sheep’ have thought about this part. Living like this indefinitely while blindly permitting absurd social engineering schemes is NOT VIRTUOUS or a life.

    It’s cowering. Our mettle is weak.

    1. I’ve been saying this for a while. All of the arguments about lockdowns, masks, etc. proceed from the presumption that we do not want the WuFlu to spread. I refuse to accept that premise. I came up with a new way to look at this. Imagine that going about your life as normal is like playing Russian roulette, except that instead of six chambers, the cylinder of the revolver you’re using has 500 chambers, but still with only one bullet (.02 mortality rate under 60). Would you be willing to play the game if the end result was that if you merely hear a click, you can now go about your life as normal from now on? I would. Also add that the greater the number of people who play now, the fewer number of people need to play in the future. Once 200 million people play the game, we can throw the gun away. Don’t let the oldsters play, and yes, you’re looking at 400,000 deaths, but how many deaths will we have if we continue as the pants-shitters would have us live. I’m pretty damn sure it will be many more than 400,000. Oh, and by the way, over 50 million people have already played the game, so we’re more than a quarter the way to throwing the gun away right now.

      1. You’re talking about context and that’s been tossed. Notice how the media consistently brings up new ‘mysterious’ consequences of Covid-19 – think Kawasaki and now failing organs. They never put that into context or perspective and that’s done on purpose.

        I think in part by choice and journalists today are that ignorant and illiterate.

        Don’t you dare apply deductive reasoning and critical thinking either.

        Apparently, you’re not allowed. You must only listen to the credentialed classes.

        People don’t realize, than when a doctor says where a mask they assume the doctor is speaking with full knowledge and has read all the literature about masks. That’s simply not the case. Like doctors aren’t dieticians they know jack shit about masks.

        I read the studies the CDC links to about masks being good. Those aren’t good studies. There are FAR more empirical evidence base studies going back to the 1920s that simply determined masks are inconclusive.

        I’ve read almost 40 of them. I realized that after the Spanish flu officials and scientists wanted to learn more about masks as a possible effective measure. It never panned out. That’s why it was never advised during flu season. They wisely and astutely calculated it doesn’t work.

        Yet, starting in March of 2020 we got an influx of fresh studies saying masks ‘MAY’ work in ‘consult’ with other non-pharma measures.

        In short, these stupid diapers are rooted in the precautionary principle.

        Here we are social engineering habits for superstition.

  26. The fact that this doesn’t seem to affect children should really raise a lot of red flags regarding the origins of this virus. It definitely adds fuel to the fire about being a possible Chinese bioweapon.

    1. A bio-weapon which kills 1/3 of 1% of the infected and those being too old to serve in defense?

    2. I saw the RNA sequence. Sure looks bad.

      The following seems to repeat itself over and over.

      A
      U
      G
      C

      The code is not that difficult.

      Americans
      U
      Going
      China

  27. Thank you! What an excellent, well-reasoned piece, the best I’ve seen so far.

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