On July 29, 2020, TIME Magazine published an article titled “Here’s What the Science Actually Says About Kids and COVID-19” written by Tara Law (@taralaw27). With a headline like that, we certainly would expect to see some serious science information, even if from a magazine that is not a science journal. Tara herself of course has an MD in Pediatrics, a PhD in Epidemiology and has spent years traveling the world with teams of Doctors…..oh no wait, not! Tara actually has a fairly recently minted (2017) journalism degree and has spent time working with social justice and human rights causes in her hard-hitting internships. Still, it is more than possible that she found some reputable sources…
The article begins with a delightful tale about a single father who is tormented by the horrifying decision of whether or not to put his kids back in school. Interestingly, the article reports that our single father is “50-50” on whether or not to send his kids back to school, but a few short sentences later he is quoted as saying, “We’re just doing the online school.” We naturally feel badly for anyone who is having to deal with rough circumstances, so after being sucked in by the promise of ‘science’, the average reader starts by feeling bad if this guy has to send his kids back to school. TIME evidently couldn’t find anyone who was dealing with hardship in the other direction, let’s say with kids who are too young to stay home and how they are at significant financial risk if they have to stay home while their kids are schooled through a computer screen. Or parents who are simply broke after being out of work for 3-4 months and need to put food on the table. Wonder what they would say about whether or not to send kids back to school?
Then the article makes one more diversion before getting to the ‘science’ by slamming the Trump administration for opening the schools too soon for the sake of winning the November election and, just in case the political bashing wasn’t clear enough, says, “Democrats say it’s too early to go back to school, and we shouldn’t put the lives of children and teachers at risk before a vaccine is ready.” Political bias at its finest, no agenda here, and the respected voice of journalistic integrity. (Inserted right after that is a link to a video titled “Trump now says some schools may need to delay reopening as coronavirus surges continue.”)
The stage has been set:
The opening paragraph of the long awaited ‘science’ in the article starts with “Putting politics aside,…” Well, at least that’s honest acknowledgement of bias on the part of the author. But wait, there’s more.
In comes the creative styling of Law who says (in her most humble SJW voice) “young kids MAY be LESS likely to get sick” and “rarely get VERY ill.” TIME is in good company though. The Mayo Clinic website says “very few children have died”. They say that 1.7% of the worldwide cases are found in children but they never say how many children have died according to their expert intel. Better to let the reader assume the worst, right TIME?
According to the American Council on Science and Health, 8 children died from Covid-19 in the US prior to June 17. According to the CDC, through July 25, 42 children under 16 have died from coronavirus, 10 have died from coronavirus and pneumonia – a total of 352 have died from coronavirus, influenza/flu, and pneumonia combined which essentially means that children under age 16 have a nearly EIGHT times greater chance of DYING from pneumonia or flu than they do of dying from Covid-19. So, yes, please put politics aside and grab for dear life onto humanity and rational thinking. None of us wants any child to die for any reason, but putting children in individual bubbles is simply not a punishment that fits the crime. In 2018, 36,560 people died in automobile crashes and 1,208 of those were 14 years and younger (making a 6 month average of 604). So, in relation to child deaths, your child is 11.6 times more likely to die in a car accident on the way to school than he/she would from contracting the virus and dying from Covid-19.
No where in TIME’s ‘scientific’ article do we learn how many children’s lives we are saving by keeping schools closed – not that they couldn’t contract the virus through other means such as groceries, mail, going to a store, or that summer trip to Disney.
TIME suggests, based on the word of one doctor from the University of Vermont that children under 10 are spreading the virus at a lower rate than those aged 10-19, providing even more reason to send the youngest kids back to school so that the majority of parents could return to the workplace. It was not clear if the doctor who was quoted works directly with patients or does clinical care; there is a University of Vermont Medical Center but the article only credits him with being with the University. It may have been an oversight on the part of the editorial team, but in all likelihood the good doctor is a professor, presumably of medicine and not a practicing pediatrician. Again, number of deaths were not offered in the article.
Then the article discusses a number of theories about why children are not spreading the virus at nearly the rate that adults do. Included was the idea that the virus doesn’t replicate the same way in children as it does in adults or because they are asymptomatic, they are less likely to spread to others. That was helpful information, but it is followed very quickly with calculated fear mongering from TIME, reporting that it could mean “big trouble” because: “School-age children typically have more contact with other people …and they like touching everything in sight [and] crying.” And crying? See what they did there? They turned relatively optimistic news into peddling more panic and concern.
Next the article discusses that 25% of teachers may have susceptibility to the virus because of preexisting conditions such as being over 65, having COPD (most commonly the result of years of smoking) or “a body mass index over 40,” (otherwise defined by the CDC as “obese.” Again, none of us want anyone to die, but having teachers who are at higher risk of infection take a leave of absence would be the more logical and most cost effective solution to getting schools, the economy, and household income back on track. At this point, the article pauses to interject support for the actions by the American Federation of Teachers by quoting the union’s president as threatening to strike. “If authorities don’t protect the safety and health of [the teachers] nothing is off the table.” Good job TIME, you have shared with your reader the “OMG, the teachers are going to die,” panic with a big helping of “teachers are more noble than the rest of us,” served with a quick slice of “if the schools only had more resources” pity pie.
And in one penultimate, nonscientific, unsubstantiated paragraph, TIME says “blah blah blah, it may be wise to keep the school doors closed.” Signed sealed and delivered.
The reality is quite different: Johns Hopkins University recently completed a study about deaths related to lockdown circumstances (and reported by the Washington Examiner, Telegraph UK, and Dan Bongino, @danbongino) that estimates that 10,000 children will die each month and 550,000 will be at risk of malnutrition. The Washington Examiner interviewed Victor Aguayo, the head of UNICEF’s nutrition program, who attributed the deaths to the reduction in household income, nutrition, and protective services as the primary influencing factors. So when school starts again in September and if schools don’t open until the beginning of October, 10,000 children will be dead – but we will have saved the lives of the 52 children who would have died from Covid-19.
On July 31, 2020, CDC Director Robert Redfield said, “it’s in the public health best interest of K-12 students to get back in face-to-face learning.”
The choice is pretty clear. Send the kids back to school and don’t read TIME magazine – they don’t have our best interests at heart and cannot resist the urge to disagree in print with President Trump simply because they don’t like him.