Restore Pre-Pandemic Freedom, For the Children

Deprived of social interaction for a period of time that constitutes a significant percentage of their short lives, kids are falling apart.


The year-plus of the pandemic has been an unpleasant experiment in just how far previously free-ish countries could be subjected to command-and-control systems without exciting rebellion and pushing them past the breaking point. The uncomfortable evidence is that many people willingly suffer massive impositions before resisting, though others chafe and are eager to resume some semblance of normal life. But how much damage has been done to children who have been at the mercy of officials who seized control and adults who failed to resist? In an era when every policy seems to be justified as "for the children," pandemic lockdown pain is definitely something done to them.

"The coronavirus pandemic has been hitting adolescents hard," science journalist Melinda Wenner Moyer noted last week in UnDark. "During the teen years, friendships matter more than almost everything else… But this year, teens have been forced to stay home and avoid real-world interactions with their friends. They have had to spend their days denied of their deepest needs while, in some cases, taking on more responsibilities — yet without many of the emotional supports they had in the past."

"Rarely have America's children suffered so many blows, and all at once, as during the pandemic's lost year, Andrea Petersen reported in a similar piece for the Wall Street Journal. "The crisis has hit children on multiple fronts. Many have experienced social isolation during lockdowns, family stress, a breakdown of routine and anxiety about the virus."

Both stories cite awful examples, and science supports the anecdotes.

"Posttraumatic, anxiety, and depression disorders are expected during and aftermath of the pandemic," cautioned a September 2020 article in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. "Some groups, like children, have more susceptibility to having long term consequences in mental health."

"[C]hildren's depression ratings significantly increased during the lockdown, relative to 18 months beforehand," found a November 2020 article on the results of lockdowns in the UK in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

From April through October of 2020, emergency room visits in the United States for mental health reasons increased by 24 percent for kids 5- to 11-years-old, and by 31 percent for 12- to 17-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anecdotally, my wife, a pediatrician, has seen a huge surge in depression, anxiety, and self-harm in the months of the pandemic. Deprived of social interaction with classmates, teammates, and friends for a period of time that constitutes a significant percentage of their short lives, kids are falling apart. Too many of them are having suicidal thoughts in a world distorted beyond recognition and acceptability. And there's no doubt as to the culprit.

"Pandemic life is not conducive to normal developmental events and this is having a significant impact," comments Mamilda Robinson, a specialty director and clinical instructor of psychiatric mental health at Rutgers School of Nursing.

It didn't have to be this way. During past pandemics, nobody ordered more-or less free societies to grind to a halt or tried to coerce their populations into isolation from one another. Weirdly, the public health professionals behind the lockdowns took their inspiration from totalitarian China, a country ruled by a government that espouses values entirely hostile to those of free societies.

"It's a communist one party state, we said," Professor Neil Ferguson, a prominent advisor to the British government on pandemic policy, told the Times of London in December. "We couldn't get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could." (UnHerd offers an unpaywalled summary.)

The result was that "[a]cross the world in 2020, citizens experienced the biggest rollback of individual freedoms ever undertaken by governments during peacetime (and perhaps even in wartime)," The Economist's Democracy Index 2020 observed of the world's pandemic response. "The willing surrender of fundamental freedoms by millions of people was perhaps one of the most remarkable occurrences in an extraordinary year."

"Willing" may be an overstatement about the reaction of those—in America and elsewhere—who protested and defied restrictions. It is certainly not an accurate characterization of the children who were dragged into an isolated and unnatural existence by adults.

And why were kids dragged into isolation that troubles even adults who have greater perspective and emotional resources when children are among those with the least vulnerability to COVID-19?

"Children, including very young children, can develop COVID-19," according to information posted by the Harvard Medical School. "Many of them have no symptoms. Those that do get sick tend to experience milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue, and cough."

Some children, especially those with underlying health conditions might get very sick. And there's potential for them to pass the illness to those who are more vulnerable. But, as we've seen over the past year, children are especially endangered by isolation, the disruption of normal routine, and lack of contact with friends. They're at much more risk from the lockdown policies implemented to fight the pandemic than they are from the virus itself.

A more rational response to the pandemic might have focused on offering protective measures to those at greatest risk from the disease, allowing adults to choose their own tradeoffs between risk and isolation. A rational approach would have certainly emphasized maintaining as much normality as possible for children and adolescents who need social contact with peers and friends in order to develop normally and happily.

The woefully regrettable authoritarian experiment of the past year will leave a mark on people's sanity, prosperity, and relations with one another for years to come. It's certainly going to leave an unpredictable, but probably unfortunate, legacy for the youngest among us for whom the pandemic will be a defining event in their lives. An apology isn't enough; we need to restore pre-pandemic freedom for the children.

NEXT: Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction

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  1. First!

    This is what happens when you take medical advice from someone who talks like a New York hotdog cart vendor.

    1. what’s with the stupid wet teddy bears?

      1. You don’t want to know where those teddy bears have been.

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  2. Yeah, it’s so *weird* that our government used Communist China as a model for rolling back civil liberties. Why would they do that? Does it fit into a larger pattern? Does it demonstrably and obviously advance a particular authoritarian agenda? Does our political elite have a well-known and loudly voiced hostility toward the rabble having freedoms that the pandemic response allowed them to package and sell as urgent critical need? Who knows? I guess I’ll go back to my plethora of streaming options to forget my cares, because Representation Matters.

    Yes, our government and media willingly and gleefully terrorized and violated our children for political gain. They continue to do so. The primary beneficiaries of that are the two grinning skulls occupying the White House. You supported them.

  3. So to saves one child, all emergency regulations must be immediately repealed.

    1. A power grab done in the name of emergency.

  4. Huh. Was expecting a Skenazy article from the title. It’s interesting to see the rest of the country still dealing with this: in NW Florida kids have been in school since August, a few covid quarantines (which turn out to be nothing) a bumbling cross-collection of rules about masks and spacing that were pretty much ignored after October, and … what? No uptick in cases, no wave of disease horror in the schools, pretty much no nothing at all. The day the vending machine got left unlocked, caused more disruption (and amusement) than all of the rest of the covid put together. [Well, except for the crazy flap-masks the band kids had to wear until New Years’].

    Did the rest of the country look around, see the schools that were open were not having problems with covid, and adjust accordingly? They did not … and that is pretty much on them. Looking right at CA, NY here.

  5. Didn’t you listen to the exchange between Dr. Fauci and Jim Jordan? The restrictions will be lifted – as soon as the numbers come down to an acceptably low level. Now as to what constitutes an acceptably low level, Fauci couldn’t or wouldn’t say but my guess is that it’s whenever a significant portion of public health experts within the government agree that restrictions should be lifted. God knows Fauci isn’t going to stick his neck out and give us a hard number, it’s not like it’s his job to take a leadership position on this, he’s just a follower repeating the government line of the moment whatever that line might be at the moment.

    1. St. Anthony of Fauci is never going to want to go back to being an anonymous bureaucrat, which is exactly what will happen if this thing is ever over. He will drag it out for as long as possible just to remain in the spotlight. He probably also has a pussy handshake, so I’m sure he doesn’t want to have to go back to shaking hands.

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  8. “The result was that “[a]cross the world in 2020, citizens experienced the biggest rollback of individual freedoms ever undertaken by governments during peacetime (and perhaps even in wartime),”

    Wearing a face mask when entering certain shops, sticking tape to the floor to facilitate social distance, otherwise my individual freedoms remain intact.

    1. What state do you live in? This is not the extent of the experience for most of us.

      1. The state of denial.

      2. “What state do you live in?”

        Mexico. You can emigrate. Migration is and always has been humanity’s solution to poverty and oppression.

        1. mtrueman: The first person in 350 years to emigrate to Mexico to escape poverty and oppression.

          1. He gets everything backwards.

          2. Black slaves from the southern states, Jews and Muslims from Spain. (‘Conversos’ accompanied Cortez) William S. Burroughs, Luis Bunuel, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo etc. I’m not quite the first.

            1. Touché. It’s just sad when U.S. citizens (other than Andy Dufresne) wind up escaping to Mexico for freedom.

            2. Not to mention black/Latino baseball players from the US during most of the 20th century because they couldn’t play here and MLB still tries to turn the Mexican League into its puppet farm.

              Mormons too – like Mitt Romney’s grandfather.

              There are close to 1 million Americans who live in Mexico now.

              1. Some of them, I’m sure, are good people.

    2. Ordering people to stay home? Closing businesses? Closing schools? Limiting gatherings outside and in our own homes? None of this rings a bell?

      1. “Closing schools? ”

        When I was a lad, snow days and better yet, freezing rain days were my first taste of what it meant to be free. Compulsory education was a soul crushing drudgery interspersed with horrific moments of jack booted thuggery.

        1. You thought public school was soul crushing but 9 months of house arrest is OK? You might want to consider the possibility that the problem is you.

      2. Seriously, listen to Sgt. Schultz over here.

  9. People are pretty much doing that anyway.

    With the kids they have already lost a year of school. That is unacceptable. First priority should be them.

    Vaccination is the key. Israel is down to near zero new cases per day with its program. The US is doing well now but we are a much larger country so it will take a bit longer.

    It looks like we will need boosters about once a year and they will need to adjust for new variants as they arise.

    1. Yes, vaccines are so important they took two of them off the market.

      1. We have plenty of Pfizer and Moderna. More than we can quickly distribute and get into arms. They are better anyway. We are giving about 3 million per day and ramping up.

        The J&J thing is way overblown but it won’t matter.

        1. J&J is going into panic mode for a decent-ish reason. They went from this brand that had a reputation for safe products (Johnson’s baby line) and now there are class-action suits regarding their talcum powder. Also, remember the Tylenol deal in the 1980’s? J&J owns them, one of the most-commonly used pain relievers in the world. They see this as their chance to bounce back from all that. I think it also could partially be a PR move on their part to show that they take things like this seriously.

          1. The decision was ridiculous and it does not help their image with rational people.

    2. C19 will fade into the Common Cold landscape. We will not need to get boosters year over year with this thing. Global IFR of ~0.15% just is not deadly enough – especially for a relatively novel virus – to justify these long term projections.

      Vaccination has nothing much at all to do with closing or opening schools. Repeatedly, all over the world, kids are protective of adults in a school environment such that those adults supervising kids in school have lower rates of disease than other professions.

      1. Kids can get it just as easily they just don’t get as sick. So school or not it spreads to other children and adults. It will not be a big problem if enough adults are vaccinated.

        1. It is not a big problem now nor has it ever been a big problem. Teachers in places where they have open schools are having lower rates than the general population. Which has to mean that kids are not transmitting it at near the rates as adults.

          Most of this hand wringing is attributable to the utter bullshit that asymptomatic spread is driving the pandemic. The latest paper I’ve seen put asymptomatic spread at around 0.7%. However, from a theoretical perspective, asymptomatic spread just doesn’t make any sense. Why would viruses go to the trouble to develop symptoms to escape the host when they can just do nothing, cause no illness in a majority of hosts but still spread? The very thought beggars belief.

          1. Kids do get symptomatic. That is how it gets detected. It has happened three times in the last month with the 2nd grader’s classmates and playmates.

            They get colds and flu also and bring it home. The route of transmission is the same.

            I agree that they need to open schools and should have never shut them down at least after the first few months. It is too important.

            1. Dollars to doughnuts, those kids had colds and also happened to test positive for Covid-19 on a PCR test. A positive result on a PCR test does not indicate a Covid-19 infection; that it not what it measures. The test merely indicates whether you have some RNA fragments in your nose that bear a passing resemblance to Covid-19 RNA.

              1. The PCR test has an 80% sensitivity and 98% specificity in clinical use according to the College of American Pathologists.

                Those are excellent numbers.

                1. At what Ct value?

          2. Influenza does the same thing. About 50% are asymptomatic. They can transmit just at a lower rate.

            Viruses do this all the time. Some people or animals become carriers. If they infect enough people some will become symptomatic and spread it even faster. Even if the rate is lower an asymptomatic carrier is not going to stay home in bed like most of us do when sick and will come into more contact. It is an evolutionary advantage.

            Typhoid Mary was apparently a real person.

        2. The viral load they carry is so low that they can’t transmit it.

    3. Israel is not letting in random infected people by the thousands

      This administration either doesn’t care about the pandemic or wants it to last as long as possible

      1. They need it to last as long as possible.

      2. It is for several reasons actually.

        Israel has a very organized health care system and database. They made a deal with Pfizer to share data with them and paid top dollar for the vaccine to get a large early supply.

        They are smaller in size and population so no logistical problem.

        The country is basically always on defensive alert. They took this on the way they would any threat.

        The US is doing well. Number four in percent population which is impressive for a country this size.

  10. The year-plus of the pandemic has been an unpleasant experiment in just how far previously free-ish countries could be subjected to command-and-control systems without exciting rebellion and pushing them past the breaking point.


  11. This is what you get when you back democrats. Libertarians can complain all they want but you pimped these guys last year.

  12. Welcome to the party, pal.

    Day late and dollar short, reason. This publication has largely supported the lockdowns, distancing, masking, and isolation. To the extent they quibble, it’s over whether we really need to stay six feet apart when The Science says three feet is enough.

    Usually you lose your freedoms in small increments. This time, we ceded so much control to the “experts” quickly enough to leave heads spinning. On the anniversary of “two weeks to flatten the curve,” someone at reason finally acknowledges that what we lost was freedom. FREEDOM. Isn’t that what libertarians should be ready to fight for? (And make no mistake – that is what we have lost).

    It is not fair to say that I have a responsibility to prevent others from getting sick. I cannot ever successfully meet that burden. This mask isn’t cutting it, but I can’t smile at anyone, and I am continually mystified by people who ignore the psychosocial damage that results from covering most of your face when a huge percentage of communication is nonverbal. Add to that the plexiglass and I can’t even verbally communicate. Everyone sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

    Finally, it isn’t just adolescents and children suffering (although the damage to their development will haunt them for the rest of their lives). Adults suffer too. Especially single adults. Or married adults in bad relationships.

    Now we’re talking about new lockdowns, booster shots, perpetual masking, and I doubt anyone is taking down that plexiglass. Not to mention that people have been bathing in hand sanitizer for a year, so the only bacteria left will be the bacteria that is resistant to all existing antibiotics. This pandemic is the best thing ever to happen to bacteria.

    Once you give up your freedom, though, it’s hard to get back. Any resistance has been painted as ignorant (and by some dark magic, racist), and this lack of free movement and choice has settled in. I have no idea how we will get it back. I’m not at all sure we can.

    Fuck you, reason, for not sounding alarm bells early on. None of this should surprise anyone. And we did it for a virus that the vast majority of us need not fear. It’s more deadly than your average seasonal flu, but it’s been dressed up as the second coming of the black death.

    1. “Adults suffer too. Especially single adults.”

      I want to smack anyone who says, “my wife/husband and I are doing just fine. What are you complaining about?”

    2. Thank you. +1000000

    3. The effectiveness of masks and other measures and degree of danger from the virus is certainly debatable.

      However from a libertarian perspective there is an obligation not to do something which may cause harm to others.

      Do you have an obligation not to drive drunk? I think most of us could agree on that.

      To put it into perspective around 10,000 people were killed by drunk drivers in the past ten years.

      Around a million DUIs per year are issued and the vast majority of people over the limit never get caught. So the odds are very small that you will actually kill someone.

      580,000 were killed by the virus in just one year.

      So it is not a minimal threat. I really don’t know if the masks are effective or not. I am as tired of this as anyone. But that is more a debate of utility of a certain measure vs the cost of inconvenience or worse in imposing it.

      1. “from a libertarian perspective there is an obligation not to do something which may cause harm to others.”

        Wrong. From a libertarian perspective there is an obligation not to do something which WILL cause harm to others. Imposing prior restraint on people to abstain from actions that simply MIGHT cause harm to others is totalitarianism. Freedom can’t exist if we are prohibited by government from putting others at ANY risk the government declares to be unacceptable.

        “Do you have an obligation not to drive drunk?”

        Do you have an obligation not to drive at all? Plenty of people are injured or killed by drivers who are NOT drunk. We accept that because prohibiting driving would be an egregious burden on our liberty. So is being forced to cover your face, being confined to your home, being kicked out of your school, being prohibited from visiting relatives in care homes and hospitals, having your business shuttered, etc., etc., etc.

        “Around a million DUIs per year are issued and the vast majority of people over the limit never get caught. So the odds are very small that you will actually kill someone.”

        So maybe we should back off on DUI enforcement. Innocent people who had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner are more likely to be busted at a DUI checkpoint than the problem drinkers who are the real danger.

        “580,000 were killed by the virus in just one year.”

        False. 580,000 who were declared by the medical/government complex to have died WITH COVID were killed. The number known to have died FROM COVID is much smaller.

        “So it is not a minimal threat.”

        Yes, it is, except to those with specific risk factors.

        “the cost of inconvenience”

        I’m not sure why you’re here if you consider the gross and wholesale violation of liberty to be a mere “inconvenience”.

        1. Every choice you make “may” cause harm to someone else. I might not hold the elevator door for someone who is then late for a client meeting and loses the account. Is that my fault?

          My right to swing my fist may end at your nose, but my right to breathe does not end at your right to inhale.

          I get in my car and drive defensively to reduce my risk of an accident. It does not eliminate the danger, but I do a cost-benefit analysis and keep driving. There is no risk-free existence, and we have to accept that the way we did before COVID. There is more to life than avoiding death.

          1. “the way we did before COVID”

            The epidemic of pathological fear and risk avoidance started decades before COVID. I’ve been writing for years that the greatest threat to our liberty is mindless, manipulated fear. I failed to predict that a “pandemic” would be the Final Solution to freedom, but I’m not surprised. Here on these pages, Lenore has been warning of the danger of mindless fear for as long as she’s been here.

  13. But what about grandma?!?!?!?!?!

    1. there there she’s a statistic now.

    2. We can’t afford Grandma’s Social Security checks so she has to go.

  14. Weirdly, the public health professionals behind the lockdowns took their inspiration from totalitarian China, a country ruled by a government that espouses values entirely hostile to those of free societies.

    They may have taken inspiration from that but it is obvious that they learned not one thing from the China lockdown beyond just locking everything down and then waiting and watching and doing nothing themselves. They went on a power trip themselves of ordering others to stop doing stuff. But they didn’t do one fucking thing themselves that might indicate that they knew what to do in a pandemic or even that they knew a purpose for lockdown. Very different in Wuhan.

    A lot of reasons why China was a can’t/shouldn’t model for the West. But the reality is that China eliminated the virus in China itself – from maybe early April on. Chinese data is only seriously inaccurate in Feb and the cases since April are mostly of imported virus. And it wasn’t just China. Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, even Australia – and others – all did a better job than the West. And in particular FAR FAR better than the US and UK.

    What is stupid is that with roughly 200+ real world models of how this particular pandemic was dealt with – well or poorly – a libertarian mag is still yapping about hypothetical means that fit a pre-existing ideology. Looks like they too are in the same boat as the public health folks. Refuse, as stubbornly as possible, to learn from experience.

    1. Oh – and let’s not pretend for one nanosecond that ‘libertarians’ give one steaming rat shit about freedoms taken away. I don’t remember the last article here about being strip-searched and probed for exploding underwear, shampoo and nail clippers – because of an absolutely nothing event 20 years ago involving box cutters.

    2. All the countries you cited are in the far east, and they had similar outcomes despite divergent policies. Isn’t it more than just possible that they had much greater T-Cell immunity because similar diseases have been floating around there for decades? Also, what kind of moron thinks numbers released by the CCP are credible?

      1. they had similar outcomes despite divergent policies.

        idk what you mean by ‘divergent policies’. They used different means – but ALL to get to the goal of actively containing the virus to keep it from spreading and/or persisting until it could mutate. And in all cases, the goal was important enough so that the different means to get there were held accountable to that goal. That is – like it or not – an indicator of competent public health bureaucrats.

        That is far different than the goal I think was held in the US (maybe UK too). To play hygiene theater – some of which was more effective than other stuff but the goal was theater – until such time as vaccines could be developed that would strengthen the human population against a completely unchanged virus. That is NOT a sign of competent public health professionals but is very good evidence that the public health bureaucracy is the lackey of pharma.

        Fuck off with your racist interpretation. It’s bullshit like all you R’s and you know it.

        what kind of moron thinks numbers released by the CCP are credible?

        It doesn’t matter what numbers are released. What matters is what numbers broadly jibe with the various realities outside those numbers. In late April and then again in August (after a June outbreak of imported virus), Beijing stop requiring masks. All the economic – and visual – indicators from China indicate normal and have for many months. There are no excess deaths in China. You can deduce ‘no pandemic here’ in china. Can’t do that in the US. If the US numbers were nonexistent, you could only deduce some massive unexplained ‘something happening’.

    3. But the reality is that China eliminated the virus in China itself
      Funniest thing ever. Are you competing with OBL?

    4. But the reality is that China eliminated the virus in China itself

      wut? The Rona is alive and well in China. The communist party says it’s gone because of course they do. According them Xi Jinping shits rainbows and bowls 400. They don’t even care about the bare appearance of truth. And that’s not just idle speculation either. Look at the idiotic and draconian policies they are still enforcing to contain a disease that, according to them, no longer is a problem.

    5. There is no way that different policies and NPIs made the difference between East Asia and the West (minus Africa, which is similar to Asia for whatever reason). There is a 30x difference in death rates. There has to be another factor. Pre-existing immunity seems most likely to me.
      Some studies in Japan showed high prevalence of antibodies for SARS-2, but very few people got seriously ill. They never had any strict measures in place internally.

      1. Yeesh. There is NOT a 30x difference in either case rate or imputed IFR. Maybe a 2x difference and that is entirely a consequence of policy stuff – tracking cases, isolating positives early, particular attention paid to vulnerable demographics, etc – and natural demographics in those countries that are younger.

        The difference you are talking about – the TOTAL fatality rate in the population – is an expression of the GOAL of those policies of trying to stomp out the virus. To keep it from spreading so that it doesn’t infect people widely. Those countries succeeded in achieving that goal. The downside of course is that those populations are still vulnerable and haven’t ever been exposed to the virus – so they are going to be far more dependent in future on vaccination to achieve an immunity.

        Africa is different. They are much much younger. But their data is crap. So no one will ever know what really happened there. Except to the degree that as they move forward and choose a public health system, they will choose Asia and reject everything Western/American. And correctly so.

  15. “…because of an absolutely nothing event 20 years ago involving box cutters.”

    Please keep talking.

    1. Some people did some things.

    2. 3000 dead is less than the daily dead of coronavirus for Dec – Jan – Feb. YOU are the ones who say that is all a nothing event. So YOU are the ones who are basically agreeing that anything less than 500,000 dead is – irrelevant and not worth bothering thinking about.

      1. Yeah, mostly old and sick people dying from a virus is just exactly the same as the premeditated murder of thousands of healthy people in the prime of their lives.
        I don’t think anyone is saying that this is a nothing event (OK, someone is, but you know what I mean). Just that is is not something we should give up essential freedoms or transform society over. Which is also what I said about 911.

        1. I never said it was the same. I never considered invading Afghanistan as a response to Covid19. You deal with the particulars of situations as they exist. At least I do.

          But pretending that 500,000 is ignorable and 3,000 isn’t because handwave handwave flimflam – well that’s BS.

          BTW – did you know that the deaths in 2020 in the 25-44 age group were about 25% higher than normal for that age group? The HIGHEST excess mortality rate of any age group. Yes old people died in larger numbers because old people always die at higher rates – and some of those deaths may indeed have simply been ‘a bit earlier’. But hey handwave handwave bullshit flimflam – let’s ignore all particulars and reality because handwave handwave narrative flimflam.

  16. Deprived of social interaction for a period of time that constitutes a significant percentage of their short lives, kids are falling apart.

    Lord Fauci considers these losses to be a noble sacrifice.

    1. Lord Fauci strikes me as someone who had minimal social interaction throughout his life. This is the first time people are actually talking to him.

      1. Some of the COVID Dicktator Governors strike me as the same type.

    2. dude looks like he considers them delicious.

  17. queue Helen Lovejoy

  18. Deprived of avoidance of their shitty parents for a period of time that constitutes a significant percentage of their short lives, kids are falling apart.

    1. Yes, being able to get out of the house is a vital coping strategy for many kids.

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