Dr. Scott Atlas said it “feel(s) like I’m living in a Kafka novel” when watching politicians’ “hysteria” against school reopening, in an TV interview Monday with Martha MacCallum. According to the renowned doctor, school closings severely damage children’s’ development and generate next to no gains for public health.
“I’m not sure how many times it has to be said, but the risk to children for this disease, for fatalities, is nearly zero. I mean, this is totally antithetical to the data,” he said. Atlas is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a health-care expert, and former professor and chief of neuroradiology at the Stanford University Medical Center.
The statements come as a rebuke to recent claims from Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about restarting the country’s education system. “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of coronavirus,” Pelosi stated in a recent interview on CNN. “They (Republicans) ignore science and they ignore governance in order to make this happen.”
The speaker couldn’t be further from the mark on the science, Atlas said. “That’s just completely wrong and contrary to all the science,” he began. “And when I say all ‘the science,’ I mean science from all over the world… The risk to children for significant illness is ‘far less than from seasonal flu,’ according to JAMA Pediatrics.”
Recent research using contact tracing has confirmed that children rarely transmit to each other or to adults, making classroom settings a safer environment than similarly sized groups of adults. Those advocating for keeping schools closed or only partially reopening “are people who either don’t know the data or are refractory to learning themselves because the facts say otherwise,” Atlas said.
Pelosi has not issued any corrections on her false statements regarding school reopening.
For Atlas, the most important part of the debate is the potential damage to children’s development without in-person learning.
“Anyone who prioritizes children would open the schools,” he said. “That’s just counterfactual to say that the children are not the risk or we’re at risk here. When we see the harm to children, most children learn most of what they learn in school from social engagement, from learning how to resolve conflicts, from dealing with others. This is obvious.”
He also noted the critical role schools play in identifying hundreds of thousands of child abuse cases.
Preliminary research suggests students lost as much as 50 percent of their learning in mathematics and 30 percent in reading relative to a normal year when in-person learning was canceled by governors across the nation. This high cost for closing schools is born disproportionately by low-income and minority children. There’s little research yet predicting the extent of the damage to children if schools remain remote for the upcoming semester.
You can watch the full interview here.