(FEE) Last week I received a letter from my children’s school district.
“We will start the school year this fall - in-person, five days a week - strongly recommending that all students and staff in our buildings, regardless of vaccination status, wear face coverings,” Lisa Sayles-Adams, superintendent of Eastern Carver County Schools in Minnesota, wrote. “At this time, we are not requiring face coverings.”
This was welcome news. My children—like most, I imagine—have expressed their dislike for wearing masks all day long, which was the practice last school year (when school was open). They struggled all year with COVID-19 protocols.
This summer, my son said he was enjoying school much more, and his enjoyment was visible. I asked him about it.
“We don’t have to wear masks now,” he told me.
NY Magazine: The Kids Are Safe
I understand masks are a sensitive issue, as are many topics surrounding COVID-19. Many people have died during the pandemic, and some continue to die today (though far fewer) despite the proliferation of vaccines and natural immunity.
But the reality is it’s an undisputed fact that children have the least to fear from the coronavirus, as a recent New York magazine article made clear. In fact, they are more likely to die from the flu.
Recommended for You
“The kids are safe. They always have been,” wrote journalist David Wallace-Wells. “It may sound strange, given a year of panic over school closures and reopenings, a year of masking toddlers and closing playgrounds and huddling in pandemic pods, that, according to the CDC, among children the mortality risk from COVID-19 is actually lower than from the flu.”
“The risk of severe disease or hospitalization is about the same. This is true for the much-worried-over Delta variant. It is also true for all the other variants, and for the original strain. Most remarkably, it has been known to be true since the very earliest days of the pandemic — indeed it was among the very first things we did know about the disease. The preliminary mortality data from China was very clear: To children, COVID-19 represented only a vanishingly tiny threat of death, hospitalization, or severe disease.”
As Wallace-Wells makes clear, these are the government’s own numbers, and the information isn’t new. Months earlier, the New York Times published a graph based on CDC data showing all the things children were more likely to die of than COVID-19.
Drowning, vehicle accidents, homicide, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and suffocation are all more likely to kill children under the age of 15 than COVID-19 (for children ages 5-14, suffocation is a tie). Meanwhile, suicide is far likelier to claim the life of a child over the age of four than COVID-19, according to the CDC.
A Moral Imperative
We live in a world with numerous threats. It’s easy to forget that COVID-19 is just one of them.
Americans are divided over the best way to combat the virus, and the disagreements dominate our discussions and news.
Many seem intent on trying to eradicate the virus. This is, to borrow the words of Stanford University professor of medicine Jay Bhattacharya and George Mason University economist Donald J. Boudreaux, a dangerous and costly fantasy.
Efforts to eradicate COVID-19 through coercive means have wrought great damage. The harms are so vast and so visible that it’s easy to overlook the harms these policies have inflicted on our children—scholastically, emotionally, and mentally—even though they have almost nothing to fear from it.
This must end.
My school’s superintendent made the right call. COVID-19 is a deadly virus, but it is just one of many threats humans face in a complicated and dangerous world.
Any parents seeking to protect their children from COVID-19 should of course be free to do so. But making vaccinations and masks optional mitigations isn’t just the proper policy; it’s the morally imperative one.
Voluntary action is always better than coercion, and it remains the best way to defeat COVID-19.