UNICEF Study: No Consistent Link Between School Reopenings and COVID Cases

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Posted: Nov 20, 2020 10:00 AM
UNICEF Study: No Consistent Link Between School Reopenings and COVID Cases

Source: AP Photo/LM Otero

It's World Children's Day, and UNICEF is calling for "averting a lost generation" of kids. That means letting them get up and go to school. Not on their computers. In the classroom. Teachers' unions have told us that reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic would be a danger to both students and educators. A few teachers in Wisconsin even took the dramatic route of displaying tombstone signs to demonstrate against in-person learning. In New York, citing a rise in COVID cases, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered all public schools across the state to close on Thursday, and it's the same in many regions across the country.

But new data from a UNICEF study doesn't back up their claims.

"Data from 191 countries shows no consistent link between reopening schools and increased rates of coronavirus infection," Politico reports on the study. In fact, the study concluded that "there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them."

UNICEF doesn't ignore the fact that children can get sick from COVID, but the UN agency argues it will only get worse if schools stay closed, for "children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings."

These pandemic shutdowns, the report adds, means the loss of some essential services.

Dropoff in services: From surveys across 140 countries, UNICEF estimates that 70 percent of mental health services for children and adolescents have been disrupted during the pandemic, with 65 percent of countries reporting a decrease in home visits by social workers in September compared to last year.

Nearly one-third of the countries saw a drop of at least 10 percent in coverage for health services. That includes routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases and maternal health services.

Across 135 countries, there has been a 40 percent decline in the coverage of nutrition services for women and children. The number of children hurt by multidimensional poverty — characterized by poor health, education and living standards, in addition to the traditional monetary standards — is estimated to have increased by 15 percent globally by mid-2020.

So what's with all the virtual learning? Well, as The Washington Post found in a study of why school districts decided on remote learning, a lot of it has to do with politics. I know, shocker.

But a new study we conducted, examining some 10,000 school districts across the country — some 75 percent of the total — remarkably finds essentially no connection between covid-19 case rates and decisions regarding schools. Rather, politics is shaping the decisions: The two main factors that determined whether a school district opened in-person were the level of support in the district for Donald Trump in 2016 and the strength of teachers’ unions. A third factor, with a much smaller impact, was the amount of competition a school district faces from private schools, in particular Catholic schools. (Washington Post)

Conservatives are now directing New York's leaders to read the report.