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Reopening schools will enhance K-college students’ wellbeing. So, readers should urge schools to reopen this fall.
Education is revered in our home. Top-tier universities educated my wife and me. The world’s best graduate schools awarded masters and PhD degrees to our well-rounded children. We want current Maine students to learn well math, science, history and the classics. They also need to develop critical thinking and communication skills.
Most K-college students fare better on campus than in other settings. In class instruction eliminates distractions common in a home environment. Teachers can readily answer questions. The best teachers inspire students. Extracurricular activities and socializing are additional benefits.
Furthermore, learning at home is ineffective for many students. The typical student lacks the motivation and self-discipline to study willingly. And, too many parents cannot supervise or home school children because work interferes.
So what about COVID-19 and other threats to student wellbeing?
COVID-19 poses a tiny risk to Maine’s 200,000 or so students. Only 88 confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases have occurred amongst Mainers younger than age 20. Only six of the 88 might have been infected at school. The other 82 cases occurred more than two weeks after schools closed, and new cases per week increased 10 times from mid-March to now. Homes, neighborhoods and stores are the most likely infection sites for the 82 cases.
The risk is tiny for reasons other than closing schools. It is tiny because the young cope well with COVID-19’s physical effects. Many infected are asymptomatic. Mild symptoms are typical for the rest.
Almost certainly, none of the 88 died. Multiple internet searches failed to find a single article about even one young Mainer dying with COVID-19. That was the expected result. The US wide death toll is 1 per million people ages 24 and younger. That works out to about 0.2 death amongst Maine’s 200,000 or so K-college students during the 10 weeks since the outbreak began.
In stark contrast, 15 to 20 Mainers aged 5 to 24 die in a typical 10-week span from suicides, overdoses, motor vehicle accidents, other accidents and other unnatural causes. Maine’s CDC is the data source.
One can expect more than the typical number of deaths from such causes while young Mainers remain out of school and their parents struggle with lost or smaller paychecks. Why? Motor vehicle deaths and injuries may increase because out-of-school students will spend more time driving — too fast and/or OUI. Other accidents may increase for similar reasons. Suicides and overdoses may increase because contributing factors — such as loneliness, anxiety, stress — will be intensified by social distancing, fear of coronavirus, financial hardship and other factors. Even one additional death is a senseless tragedy.
Readers should urge Maine to prepare to return all students to campus this fall. COVID-19 poses little risk to students. Reopening schools will enhance learning and student wellbeing. And, the adverse consequences of school closures will cease killing young Mainers.
David Moison of Lincoln is a retired economist.