Sending children back to schools and day care centers in Denmark, the first country in Europe to do so, did not lead to an increase in coronavirus infections, according to official data, confirming similar findings from Finland on Thursday.
As nations around the world seek to end the restrictive lockdowns designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, many expressed worry that reopening schools could result in a surge of coronavirus cases. That did not happen in Denmark.
Similar findings were reported out of Finland.
The results would seem to support emerging evidence that suggests closing schools is an ineffective way to tame the spread of COVID-19, and may actually increase deaths.
As was pointed out last week, the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones came to the defense of Sen. Rand Paul, who came under fire for questioning Dr. Anthony Fauci over the national policy of encouraging schools to close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Writer Kevin Drum pointed out that an abundance of research supports Paul’s assertion position that closing schools is a poor way to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“[The] best evidence we have seems to suggest that school closures have a fairly minimal effect taken on their own, and a zero or maybe even negative effect when you net out the increase in COVID-19 deaths that they cause indirectly,” wrote Drum, a longtime blogger at The Washington Monthly, who cited five academic studies.
The findings, which emerged as new evidence suggests the coronavirus may be weakening, dovetails with what other world-leading epidemiologists have observed.
“We feel more and more confident about [not] closing schools,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert, told TV host Trevor Noah in May. “It’s not something that really is going to be effective for this kind of disease. Schools don’t seem to be very much of a motor of this epidemic.”
To be clear, schools have many problems. During this pandemic, many parents have discovered a newfound appreciation of homeschooling and other schooling alternatives. Tens of millions of children who had never experienced homeschooling before are now doing so for the first time, and quite possibly learning more as a result.
The broader implication of the research is not that compulsory schooling is good, truancy laws are just, or even that public schools should reopen, but that children should be allowed to gather—whether in schools, homeschooling groups, summer camps, parks, libraries, or museums.
Whatever the pros and cons of the schooling model of education, healthy child development requires social learning, which is much harder under social distancing.