Going Back to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

What does going back to school during the CO pandemic look like?

For most parents, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has complicated their plans to send their kids back to school.

Going Back to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We can likely all agree that if it could be made safe for kids, teachers, and other support staff in schools, then kids should go back to school.

So what’s the problem?

Depending on where you live, the size of your school, and the number of cases, etc., it may not be possible to make schools that safe. After all, how much social distancing can you do in a classroom full of kids? And will kids, especially younger kids, really wear a face covering all day?

Sending Your Kids Back to School

On the other hand, if your community is doing a good job of keeping COVID-19 case counts down, then maybe it is safe, or at least, safe enough, to send most kids back to school.

Online or virtual schooling will be a safer option for higher risk kids.
Online or virtual schooling will be a safer option for higher risk kids. Fill out and review the CDC’s Back to School Decision Making Tool with your pediatrician if you aren’t sure what to do about school.

Going back to school might be a good option for:

  • kids who are healthy, without any high risk medical conditions, like diabetes or poorly controlled asthma
  • kids who have no high risk contacts at home, keeping in mind that in addition to having a chronic medical problem, the risk increases with age, especially once you reach age 65 years.
  • kids who have an IEP or get any kind of services or therapy at school that you can’t get at home
  • kids who did poorly with online school last spring
  • kids who are eager to go back to school

Most importantly, going back to school might be a good option for your kids if you are confident that your school has a good plan to keep your child and everyone else in the school safe.

Do they have a plan to cohort kids together, so that every kid in the school isn’t mixing with each other? What is their plan if someone gets sick? What is their plan if a lot of kids get sick?

It is also important to remember that virtual school isn’t a good option for everyone. Having a safe school to go to will be important for those kids who don’t have a parent or caregiver at home to help them with school or because they don’t have a reliable internet connection, etc.

Going to the School Nurse During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If your kids do go back to in-person school, what happens if they get sick?

“Immediately separate staff and children with COVID-19 symptoms (such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath) at school. Individuals who are sick should go home or to a healthcare facility depending on how severe their symptoms are, and follow CDC guidance for caring for oneself and others who are sick.”

Operating Schools During COVID-19

Should they go see the school nurse, if your school is fortunate enough to have one?

“School nurses are essential healthcare providers in the community working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in schools.”

Considerations for School Nurses Regarding Care of Students and Staff that Become Ill at School or Arrive Sick

In addition to the problem with a bunch of contagious kids in the school nurse’s office, it is easy to see that it will difficult, if not impossible, for health care professionals at school to easily know if a sick child has COVID-19, strep throat, a cold, or the flu, etc.

“The overlap between COVID-19 symptoms with other common illnesses means that many people with symptoms of COVID-19 may actually be ill with something else. This is even more likely in young children, who typically have multiple viral illnesses each year.”

Screening K-12 Students for Symptoms of COVID-19: Limitations and Considerations

There is also the fact that a child who goes to the nurse’s office with a cough, runny nose, or headache, etc., might not have a contagious disease at all, as these symptoms can also be caused by asthma, allergies, and migraines.

“Remember that schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. If a school has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps.”

Considerations for School Nurses Regarding Care of Students and Staff that Become Ill at School or Arrive Sick

Fortunately, there are plans in place to deal with all of these scenarios.

Still, everyone should understand that most “sick kids,” whatever they have, will likely be sent home from school, just in case they have COVID-19. While that might sound drastic, the risk of getting others sick if they did have COVID-19 is too great.

“Actively encourage employees and students who are sick or who have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home.”

Operating Schools During COVID-19

So how do these plans work?

Back to School COVID-19 Sick Policies

While each state and school district seems to have their own back to school sick policy, in general, what to do should likely depend on the child’s symptoms, the possibility of an alternative diagnosis for the symptoms, potential for exposure to someone with COVID-19, the amount of community spread in the area, and COVID-19 test results, etc.

The Minnesota COVID-19 decision tree is for people in schools, youth, and child care programs who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
The Minnesota COVID-19 decision tree is for people in schools, youth, and child care programs who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

If one thing isn’t clear in all of these guidelines, it is to your pediatrician – we typically won’t be able to simply say that your sick child doesn’t have COVID-19 and can go back to school.

“A doctor’s note or negative test should not be required to return to school. Some tests can yield false negatives if taken too soon, and individuals with confirmed COVID-19 can continue to test positive after the infectious period has passed. Antigen tests currently are not as reliable in determining a true negative.”

Decision Tree Tool for School Nurses

Fortunately, many of the guidelines seem to understand this and don’t require a doctor’s note when kids have very mild symptoms.

“If the person is sent home, they can return to the school or program 24 hours after the symptom has improved.”

COVID-19 Decision Tree for People in Schools, Youth, and Child Care Programs

They aren’t perfect, but hopefully we can use these guidelines to help balance keeping those kids who might have COVID-19 out of school, perhaps learning virtually, while those kids who don’t remain at their desks.

More on Back to School

Misinformation about COVID-19 Deaths

All of the misinformation about COVID-19 deaths from folks pushing propaganda is easily debunked if you do even a little bit of research.

We are over six months into the pandemic and if there is one thing folks should understand, it is that there have been a lot of deaths from COVID-19.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the US literally doubled in just a few months this summer, but that's hard to see on this chart because of the scale she used. #propaganda
The number of COVID-19 deaths in the US literally doubled in just a few months this summer, but that’s hard to see on this chart because of the scale she used. #propaganda

Unfortunately, propaganda and misinformation about COVID-19 deaths makes that hard to see for some folks.

Misinformation about COVID-19 Deaths

Fortunately, you can keep from being fooled if you check the data on COVID-19 yourself.

Remember, data doesn’t usually lie.

Melissa Floyd's graph on daily new COVID-19 deaths actually doesn't paint the rosy picture she wants. While daily deaths have been down from the start of the pandemic, they then rose again and are just recently declined from those peaks in the past few weeks.
Melissa Floyd’s graph on daily new COVID-19 deaths actually doesn’t paint the rosy picture she wants. While daily deaths have been down from the start of the pandemic, they then rose again and have just recently declined from those peaks in the past few weeks.

But it can certainly be manipulated or misrepresented though.

See how the type of graph representation makes all the difference?
See how the type of graph representation makes all the difference?

That’s why some folks don’t realize that even if COVID-19 deaths have decreased a bit in the last few weeks, there are still over 1,200 deaths a day in the United States!

What other misinformation might you hear about COVID-19 deaths?

This should be big news, as these folks are fact checking their own propaganda! They even highlight the explanation from the CDC that "For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned."
This should be big news, as these folks are fact checking their own propaganda! They even highlight the explanation from the CDC that “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”

Have you heard that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths are actually caused by COVID-19???

“For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”

Weekly Updates by Select Demographic and Geographic Characteristics

It’s not true.

The CDC was just saying that people who die with COVID-19 often have other comorbid conditions, such as cancer, obesity, and diabetes, etc. But these aren’t just high risk conditions that they had before they got COVID-19.

They include all of the “conditions contributing to deaths where COVID-19 was listed on the death certificate,” including things like respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, and sepsis, etc. It’s the why you died with COVID-19…

Other propaganda and misinformation about COVID-19 deaths include that:

  • COVID-19 death rates have been inflated and hospitals are reporting all deaths as COVID-19 related to make more money
  • routine use of hydroxychloroquine would reduce COVID-19 deaths
  • the United States has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 deaths in the world
  • the CDC used flu and pneumonia deaths to inflate the COVID-19 death count
  • in the middle of the pandemic, the CDC reduced the COVID-19 death toll
  • the flu is killing more people than COVID-19
  • all non-COVID-19 deaths have increased during the pandemic because of lockdowns
  • kids aren’t dying from COVID-19
  • the strategy in Sweden proves that we could have done much less and had the same number of deaths

Don’t believe any of it (see below – all of the claims have been debunked over and over again) or the folks that are steering you away from the truth – that COVID-19 is a serious, life-threatening disease, especially for those who are high risk.

Just look at Sweden…

“More than 5,500 people have died with Covid-19 in this country of just 10 million. It is one of the highest death rates relative to population size in Europe, and by far the worst among the Nordic nations. Unlike Sweden, the rest all chose to lock down early in the pandemic.”

Did Sweden’s coronavirus strategy succeed or fail?

They did much less and have far more deaths than their neighboring countries.

And remember that the high number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States could have been even higher, in the millions, if we had done less.

Do more. Don’t listen to or share misinformation from folks pushing propaganda about COVID-19.

More on COVID-19 Deaths

Why There is Still So Much COVID-19 Confusion

Cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies are likely affecting how you are viewing information and advice about COVID-19.

Early on, it was easy to understand why there was so much confusion about COVID-19, after all, it took some time before we even got a real name for the new or novel virus that is causing this pandemic.

And now?

While there is still a lot more research to do, we have already learned a lot about the best ways to help prevent and treat COVID-19 infections.

Do you know who to turn to for trusted information and advice about COVID-19?

Too many people don’t seem to understand that though…

Why There is Still So Much COVID-19 Confusion

Many people also don’t understand that advice and recommendations often shift and change as we get new information.

“It is irrational to hold any view so tightly that you aren’t willing to admit the possibility that you might be wrong.”

What would it take to convince you that you were wrong?

And of course, you have to expect that to happen when you are dealing with a brand new disease!

So what are people confused about?

Everything from the effectiveness of face masks to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (they do) to whether our COVID-19 death counts have been inflated (we are probably seeing under-counts).

Surprisingly, some people are still confused about just how deadly COVID-19 infections really are.

If you think made-up news and information is true, you might want to rethink where you regularly get your news and information from...
If you think made-up news and information is true, you might want to rethink where you regularly get your news and information from

Why are so many people still confused?

“Compared with other Americans, adults who “often” use social media to get news about COVID-19 report higher levels of exposure to the conspiracy theory that the pandemic was intentionally planned.”

Three Months In, Many Americans See Exaggeration, Conspiracy Theories and Partisanship in COVID-19 News

Where are they getting their information???

Who do you trust for information and advice about COVID-19?

I’m guessing it isn’t from experts…

Who to Trust About COVID-19

Adding to a lot of the confusion we are dealing with are folks pushing misinformation.

As you learn who to trust for information about COVID-19, you will hopefully develop the skills you need to be more skeptical about all of the things you see and read.

“Although my main message is that awareness of cognitive biases can lead to more effective messages and measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, where cognitive bias is regarded as harmful, it may be helpful to take steps to reduce such bias. Education and awareness of cognitive biases are key, so that individuals and organisations question flawed or traditional thinking habits and try to promote evidence based thinking. At an individual level, the additional advice is to slow down in your thinking, pause and reflect, and seek external views.”

Covid-19 and cognitive bias

And you will hopefully turn to sources that many of us use, including:

Still confused?

Check your biases.

Don’t let them get in your way of following the advice from the experts that could protect you and your family from getting and spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

What does that mean?

Well, if you don’t think anyone should tell you to wear a mask, then you will likely look for information and advice that says masks don’t work and aren’t necessary (confirmation bias).

You will also likely not believe any information and advice that says COVID-19 is deadly.

Why?

Well, if you believed it was deadly, then you would work to avoid it and try to keep those around you safe, including doing things like wearing a mask. Instead, cognitive dissonance, the anxiety you get from believing in two things that contradict each other, will push you towards believing things that reinforce your idea that you don’t have to wear a mask.

What to Know About COVID-19 Confusion

Tired of being confused about COVID-19 and other things?

“It’s sobering to note all the ways in which human brains distort decision processes; perhaps it’s a wonder that any good decision is ever made.”

How to Make Better Decisions About Coronavirus

Be more skeptical and look for new sources of information and advice and understand how cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies affect our decision making.

More on COVID-19 Confusion

Are One in a Billion Children Dying of COVID-19?

Paul Thomas doesn’t think parents should be concerned because he thinks only one in a billion children are dying of COVID-19.

Why do some people think that only one in a billion children are dying of COVID-19?

There were 7 deaths among the 7,780 children with COVID-19 in the study and Paul Thomas somehow translated that into a rate of one in a billion.
There were 7 deaths among the 7,780 children with COVID-19 in the study and Paul Thomas somehow translated that into a rate of one in a billion.

The usual suspects…

Are One in a Billion Children Dying of COVID-19?

In his video about face masks and face shields, Paul Thomas describes a study about pediatric patients with COVID-19.

“We identified 131 studies across 26 countries comprising 7780 pediatric patients.”

Hoang et al on COVID-19 in 7780 pediatric patients: A systematic review

What did they find?

They found that most of the kids in the study with COVID-19 recovered and had “overall excellent prognosis.”

“Seven deaths were reported (0·09%) and 11 children (0·14%) met inclusion for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.”

Hoang et al on COVID-19 in 7780 pediatric patients: A systematic review

Most, but not all…

“They looked at 131 studies that included over 7000 children from 26 different countries. There were only seven deaths out of the 6.4 million cases of COVID-19. Understand, that’s about one in a billion if you look at the world population. One in a billion children dying of COVID. Oh my gosh! No! You don’t need to be afraid for your child.”

Paul Thomas on FACE MASKS & FACE SHIELDS: Should We Wear Them?

One in a billion?

Even if you don’t know anything about statistics or epidemiology and haven’t looked at the study, you can guess that it wasn’t saying that only one in a billion children are dying of COVID-19!

Instead, most people will quickly see that there were seven deaths among 7,780 pediatric patients.

So among the children who got COVID-19, a relatively high percentage, at nearly 0.1%, died.

If only one in a billion children were truly dying of COVID-19, then only one child would have died! While the world population has indeed reached nearly eight billion people, keep in mind that they aren’t all children!

This North American Pediatric ICU database has recorded at least 39 pediatric COVID-19 deaths.

Anyway, so far, there have been over 70 pediatric COVID-19 deaths in the United States alone. So much for one in a billion children dying of COVID…

Should you be afraid for your child?

Are you getting advice about COVID-19 from Paul Thomas???

More on Kids Dying with COVID-19

Follow These Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation

Folks wouldn’t fall for non-evidence based treatments so easily if more folks followed and read more of the the doctors who are alread on social media fighting medical misinformation.

I often hear that we need more doctors on social media fighting medical misinformation.

You know what the real problem is?

There aren’t enough folks following the doctors who are on social media fighting medical misinformation…

Where Are the Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation?

Sure, more would likely be better, but you can’t get past the simple fact that those pushing quackery and medical misinformation can easily attract huge followings on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Your friendly pediatrician (tweetiatrician) combating that medical misinformation?

Not so much…

Is that because most of us like writing more than fighting for likes?

Probably.

It’s also likely a function of the simple fact that fake facts are more interesting than real facts.

Follow These Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation

So now that you know that they exist, where are these people promoting science based medicine and fighting medical misinformation and which ones should you follow?

Here are some to get you started.

David Gorski is one of the social media doctors who is fighting medical misinformation who is active on Twitter.

Gorski has been writing about medical misinformation on the Internet since before there was an Internet.

If you aren’t reading his blog Respectful Insolence, then you likely don’t know why quackademic medicine is such a problem, you may not have been aware of all of the players who have been scamming pushing complementary and alternative medicine over the years, and you might have never heard of misinformed consent. He is also active on Science Based Medicine, where he is a managing editor.

Like David Gorski, Steven Novella has been writing about pseudoscience for a long time, first at the NESS (the New England Skeptical Society) and then at The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Neurologica, and Science-Based Medicine.

Are you following them?

Jennifer Gunter is one of the more popular social media doctors fighting medical misinformation.

Jennifer Gunter may be best known for calling out Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and her jade vaginal eggs, vaginal steaming, and other quackery. Active on Twitter, she also has a column in the New York Times, has a new book coming out, The Vagina Bible (pre-order it now!), and she is getting her own TV show!!!

She is another doctor you should be following, as she is doing a great job of calling out non-evidence based treatments.

And then there are these folks you should be reading and following (no, they are not all doctors…):

That they all don’t have millions of followers is one of the reasons that folks fall for medical misinformation so easily.

It’s the reason that you might go to a chiropractor when you are having problems breastfeeding, even though you don’t really understand how chiropractic works.

And why you buy homeopathic “medicines” when your kids have colic or a runny nose, not understanding that you don’t get any active medicine when you buy something with homeopathy on the label.

From misinformation about vaccines to every type of alternative medicine scam out there, these folks have been writing and warning us about them for a long time.

Surprised when someone “breaks a story” about celebrity anti-vaxxers or the “latest” alternative medicine fad that is hurting folks? You wouldn’t be if you were following these folks fighting medical misinformation.

More on Social Media Doctors Fighting Medical Misinformation