Keep schools open, even in the event of re-containment. This is what learned pediatric societies are asking for in a plea published January 25.
At the origin of their appeal, a dramatic observation: while at this time of year, pediatric emergency consultations and services are usually “overloaded with children with infectious pathologies“, they are overloaded this year”abused children“. Anxious children, with black ideas and / or gestures even suicidal,”from the age of eight or ten“, warns Professor Robert Cohen, pediatric infectious disease specialist, president of the Pediatric Infectious Pathology Group (GPIP) within the French Society of Pediatrics.
A consequence of confinement
“A year after the start of the pandemic, a paradox must arise: while children do not die from covid, a large number are in great psychological suffering and say they want to die“the specialists are alarmed.
This is, for these doctors, one of the consequences of the first confinement during which the schools were closed, and of the isolation which has persisted since. “indirect deleterious effects of the pandemic on mental and social health“which could get even worse if schools were closed again.
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Little or no transmission in schools
However, scientific studies confirm it: schools that respect reinforced health measures are not places of rapid spread of the coronavirus.
A meta-analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) published Jan. 26 in the JAMA concludes for example that there is “little evidence that schools have contributed significantly to an increase in transmissionsLikewise, a study also published on January 26 in the review MMWR CDC, shows that when health measures are respected, the risk of transmission between children or between children and adults is lower in schools than outside schools.
Reinforce hygiene, test and alert
Conclusion, “the risk-benefit balance appears to date very much in favor of maintaining the openness of schools and communities“write the signatories of the plea.
On condition that strict health rules are applied. Reinforce hygiene, on the one hand, by ensuring that masks are worn correctly and hands properly washed.
Avoid mixing classes, then, especially in the canteen or during recess.
Testing more and smarter, finally, “with an alert system that would notify the school in the event of a positive test“Professor Cohen says.”This system would allow the other children in the class to be tested, just like contact cases for an adult.“he specifies.
“Extended vacation” means “school deprivation”
The pediatric infectious disease specialist, however, sweeps away the proposal to extend the school holidays, considered by the government. “The idea is attractive, but there is no longer any vacation in the true sense of the word. No more rest or opportunity to meet since everything is closed“He specifies.” It would therefore not be a question of extended holidays but of deprivation of school. “
“Variants change the game”
But will we still be able to keep the schools open when the British or South African variant, which is more transmissible, gains ground? “These variants undoubtedly change the game“, admits Professor Cohen. But the age gradient remains the same:”if children are half as contagious, they remain half as contagious with the new variants“explains the pediatrician infectious disease specialist.
More suicides than covid among teens?
This is potentially not the case with adolescents in middle and high school, who are more contagious and more susceptible to the virus from the age of 11. “This is also why hybrid education (alternating face-to-face and distance learning courses, editor’s note) is already in place in high school“, recalls the pediatrician.
A form of compromise, because “between no face-to-face teaching at all and face-to-face teaching every other day, psychologically, this has nothing to do with“explains Robert Cohen.
If pediatricians recognize that health measures will have to remain stronger in high school than in primary school, they also remain opposed to a total closure of these establishments. Because for Professor Cohen, the risk of such a decision would be “have more adolescent deaths by suicide than by covid, which is not acceptable “.