Opinion: Alberta parents shouldn’t feel guilty about sending their kids back to school

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Parents should be reassured that unless their child has a severe chronic medical problem, it is very unlikely that the child will require hospitalization if infected. The concern is more that the child could infect vulnerable contacts. Assuming that household members do not have severe medical problems and that contact with the elderly is avoided, it should be safe for children to return to school. The social and educational benefits from return to school would be predicted to far outweigh the risk of COVID-19 for the vast majority of Albertan children.

Closing Albertan schools in March was a reasonable decision given the approximately 10-per-cent mortality rate reported in adults in Italy and the uncertainty about the severity of pediatric disease. However, now that we know that COVID-19 is primarily an adult disease, one can no longer justify keeping schools closed. Opening schools in Alberta will eventually lead to COVID-19 outbreaks.

However, school reopenings in other jurisdictions have generally been linked to only small outbreaks. The exception was in Israel where 153 students (13 per cent) and 25 school staff (17 per cent) tested positive about 10 days after a Grade 7-12 school reopened. However, reopening of schools coincided with relaxation of other public health measures so it is likely that not all cases were acquired in school. These 178 cases led to only one emergency room visit and no hospitalizations, supporting the notion that school outbreaks are unlikely to result in significant harm to most infected persons.

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