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5,000 COVID cases shouldn’t stop Israel’s kids from returning to school

CM 10/08/2021

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The 2020 school year was the shortest and most incomplete in Israel’s history, but the lessons it taught were among the most important in the history of the state: Keeping schools open is not only safe, but also essential, for Israel’s children.

This is despite the latest prediction by the Education Ministry that as many as 5,000 students could be diagnosed with coronavirus every day from the start of the school year on September 1.
The Education Ministry based its daily figure on the growing number of daily Delta variant cases, of which around 50% are students under 18.  
But parents and teachers do not need to raise a red flag of fear about opening day. 

For starters, children who contract coronavirus have milder cases, and the mortality rate of children under the age of 10 is almost zero. 
Moreover, multiple studies have shown in the past year that there is a direct link between the age of the child and the chance of infection. 
According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) by Israeli researchers in April, children between the ages of 0-9 have little to do with the spread of the virus. 
Looking at data from more than 47,000 children in this age group, the researchers found that they “do not have substantial rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection during school attendance.”
A separate study, published a few months prior by another team of Israeli researchers, looked at the role of children in the spread of coronavirus in households in Bnei Brak compared to adults. Examining 637 households with an average size of 5.3 people, the team discovered that children are less likely to test positive compared to adults – 25% of children over all households caught coronavirus versus 44% of adults. 
“We estimate that the susceptibility of children under 20 years old is 43% of the susceptibility of adults,” the researchers wrote in their report that was published by the peer-reviewed PLOS Computational Biology journal. “The infectivity of children was estimated to be 63% relative to that of adults.”
Other studies found that there were very few cases of infection from children to teachers in educational settings, and usually it was the other way around.
While it is true that the same was not found for older students, who had a three-fold higher risk of contracting COVID after returning to school than when they were still at home, according to the JAMA study – that was before rapid testing existed and before vaccination. 
The Education and Health ministries are hoping to stop COVID from entering schools. 
A few days before the end of summer vacation, the parents of some 2.7 million students will be asked to pick up a home testing kit from their children’s’ school and test them. If they are negative, the kids can go to school. If they are positive, they will be asked to take a standard PCR test and isolate – missing opening day.
The Education Ministry estimates that at least 70% of all parents will participate in the program as a show of solidarity and out of concern for the health and wellbeing of their children and their classmates. 
Once in school, the ministry will roll out a “coronavirus lifestyle” program that will help schools to teach alongside the virus. This will involve staggered recesses, snacks and meals – the latter, which schools will be asked to hold outside.
There is also a “Green Classroom” pilot program that has kicked off in a small number of haredi schools, will soon enter the Arab school system, and by the end of September is supposed to hit mainstream Israeli schools. 
Under that program, if a student is found to have the virus, he or she will enter isolation. However, his classmates will be tested on day one with a standard PCR test. Negative students can return to their classrooms. Then, each day, on days two through six, the students will be required to take a rapid antigen test in school. As long as the results remain negative, the kids can keep learning. On day seven, the children will once again take a PCR test to confirm their negative results. 
Moreover, the Education Ministry estimates that large percentages of students have already had the virus or are vaccinated and therefore are already immune from corona – meaning they are unlikely to catch the virus and unlikely to spread it.
The Health Ministry launched a serological testing program on Monday and is hoping to screen some 1.6 million Israeli students under 12 by the end of September to determine how many of them have already had COVID – even if they did not know. 
A first day of testing in three haredi cities showed that around 18% of students had antibodies against the virus. A doctor from Shaare Zedek Medical Center told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that a soon-to-be published study shows that 30% of Jerusalem youth had coronavirus. 
Moreover, the Education Ministry says that some 70% of seventh through 12th graders are either vaccinated or recovered, as well as close to 50% of seventh to ninth graders. These students would anyway get a Green Pass and be exempt from isolation.
Most importantly, staying home – even if one could argue that it stops the spread of the virus – has a tremendous negative impact on students’ educational, medical, social and emotional wellbeing, according to multiple reports. 
Data released by the Education Ministry in April found that after nearly a year of distance learning, there had been a 30% decrease in basic skills among first- through third graders, and a gap of about 30% had developed in the core subjects, such as math and English, among students in grades 7-10.
Students had decreased motor and physical skills, and school counselors reported that one in three students was suffering from emotional distress and that there was a 25% increase in risk assessments for suicide by educational psychologists.
NGOs offered an equally disheartening picture, noting in various releases the visible increase in reports of youth on the streets and an increase in inquiries to NGOs and school psychologists regarding loneliness and distress. 
There was also a reported increased sense of isolation among children and known increases in risky behavior among youth, such as alcohol and substance abuse.
“We strongly believe that children are the victims of COVID management and not of COVID disease,” Ora Paltiel, a professor of epidemiology at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health told the Post last year. She said that education is a big determiner of long-term health.
“An educational framework is critical for learning, for acquiring social tools, skills and values, for exercising and for promoting social equality,” a report that Paltiel helped publish said.
Therefore, not only will sending the smallest Israelis to school not be the catalyst behind enlarging the country’s COVID-19 crisis, but it is also likely key to ensuring their future. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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