Kids and COVID-19, to Reopen Schools Safe?

StethoscopeA voter asks, when will it be safe to send Beverly Hills children back to school?

BEVERLY HILLS, CA ( 2020/10/27 – Many parents are understandably anxious to get their children back into public school classrooms. For teachers and staff, being those most at risk of dying of COVID, they’re not so keen. Some politicians, who won’t be risking their lives in the experiment, are pushing to open schools regardless of what doctors say, to let see what happens.

With COVID reaching record levels in the U.S., it may not seem possible to reopen soon. However, science should be our guide. What is the state of COVID science? What can we do to be safe?

Putting aside the teachers vs. politicians conflict, what have doctors learned about COVID and children?  What do we know about COVID-19 and kids? Cases of COVID-19 in children on the rise. More than 61,000 children got COVID-19 last week.

A lot more kids have COVID than it seems because most are asymptomatic and therefore not being tested. That it develops into MIS-C is rare, but very bad news for the children that it does. Known as COVID long-haulers, for some victims the disease simply won’t go away.

Children can suffer psychologically. Many COVID patients who suffer though the life-at-stake experience of being in ICU have PTSD afterwards from the trauma. Asymptomatic children who bring home COVID, if it kills their parents or elderly relatives, will be traumatized. They will feel survivor’s remorse which may lead to lifelong PTSD. Worse if they become orphaned because their parents died.

Fatalities aren’t the only measure of COVID concern. Some outcomes seem worse than dying.

Even asymptomatic COVID can do long term damage to the lungs and other organs, skin problems, possibly brain damage.. It isn’t known how much or the long term consequences to children. Potentially, a seemingly minor COVID infection could result in asthma and other lung and heart problems later.

Over 120 children have died of COVID. That’s twice as many children who have died of vaping. If we should be concerned about kids vaping, then we should be more concerned about children getting COVID.

Unfortunately, there is no herd immunity for COVID-19. Some patients have caught COVID twice. COVID antibodies fall off rapidly.

Vaccines work based on acquired immunity. If acquired immunity in COVID victims is short-lived, then vaccines cannot be expected to be long-lasting either. Achieving COVID-19 herd immunity though vaccines does not seem possible by any science we know now. Not saying impossible. May take a long time to figure out. Some see hope in T-cell and even B-cell immunity, but this does not seem helpful for developing a vaccine.

Billions of dollars are being spent and over 100 different COVID vaccines are in development. There’s no precedent for this level of effort and operating in so much of a rush. A lot of this panic effort will inevitably be wasted.

While heroic effort to develop a vaccine may give unprecedented results, it is unreasonable to assume it must give quick results. Victims of the Common Cold don’t acquire immunity. The effort to create a vaccine for the Common Cold has been underway since the 1950s.

Successful vaccines typically take 10 to 15 years to develop, test and mass produce. Five years is the fastest it has ever been done. It takes six months just for the last step to grow the vaccine to mass production quantity after it has been deemed effective and safe. For those who choose to partake of experimental vaccines or drugs, the odds are not good. MIT found 86% fail clinical trials.

Pandemics routinely happen every 100 years and often last two years. Pandemic diseases can burn out from natural mutations. Diseases including COVID-19 can mutate and reinvent themselves to avoid herd immunity. The mutations are random and may make it worse or harmless.

There is no Spanish flu today because it mutated itself out of existence. Not all diseases mutate out of existence. Some become endemic like the Common Cold.

Because the last big American pandemic was the Spanish flu, the first reaction to COVID was to treat it like the Spanish flu, to do what we did last time. The Spanish flu, by the way, wasn’t Spanish. It originated in Kansas and was spread to Europe by deploying American troops. Pandemics throughout history have often been spread by troops. The Roman Empire repeatedly had pandemics as a result of their many wars.

American troops spread the Spanish flu. American troops have spread COVID as they deploy to bases around the world. The Defense Department removed an aircraft carrier captain after a letter he wrote begging for help to fight COVID on shipboard was leaked.

American troops returning from Wuhan in October 2019 may have propagated the initial spread of COVID worldwide. ICE has also spread COVID with crowded prisons and deportations. Stanford found COVID spreads faster in prisons than in cruise ships. The CDC has banned cruise ship service.

COVID isn’t a type of flu. COVID isn’t like the Spanish flu. COVID is more closely related genetically to the Common Cold, which is also a coronavirus.

In transmission, COVID is airborne. That is, it infects via the lungs like Legionnaire’s Disease.

Legionella bacteria are all around us, common in rivers and lakes. Yet, there is no pandemic of Legionnaire’s Disease. Why not? The reason is what triggers infection is breathing the Legionella spores into the lungs. When people have gotten Legionaire’s Disease after drinking contaminated water, it was by aspirating spores while drinking. The key is, don’t breathe this stuff.

All of the frantic cleaning we’re doing for COVID, may accomplish nothing but  a false sense of security. The many published studies of how long COVID can survive on surfaces will sell more cleaning supplies, but seem scientifically irrelevant. Like Legionaire’s Disease, COVID doesn’t spread by surface contact.

The best science we have on COVID transmission suggests we should be focusing on ventilation, not surface cleaning. We should also care more about COVID and air pollution.

Waldorf schools have reopened by moving to Outdoor Learning. This seems the safest way to reopen schools based upon the COVID science we know today. Will Waldorf continue to be listed as a Department of Education school reopening success story or will they encounter unanticipated problems and have to shut down?

We should be monitoring Waldorf to see if Outdoor Learning is as safe as  science expects it to be. Determine if this is a way forward for Beverly Hills public schools.

Obviously, given what we know about COVID today, what we should not be doing is putting staff or students back into Beverly Hills schools that have chronically broken and inadequate ventilation systems. Systems the incumbents have failed in a decade to fix.

That is asking for trouble, would spread COVID.

For a better general understanding of how contagious diseases work, a good place to start is, Understanding Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases from NIH. For a better understanding of how COVID-19 works, a good place to start is, COVID-19 is, in the End, an Endothelial Disease.

Robin S. Rowe is running for BHUSD School Board in the November 2020 election.