COVID-19 Will Harm Students | Kingston right-wing standard

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Another two-part series.

As the school year begins, it’s time to talk about the threat that SARS-CoV-2, the highly contagious airborne virus that causes COVID-19, poses to students’ health.

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Not only can the disease cause severe illness in young people, but it can also lead to long-term, debilitating symptoms, known as “long Covid”.

In some US states, schools have been sitting for several weeks, and SARS-CoV-2 is spreading. The COVID Data Tracker on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website reveals that the percentage of emergency department visits for children ages 12-15 diagnosed with COVID-19 has been steadily rising for the past month. August. For example, the seven-day moving average published on August 9 revealed that children ages 12-15 accounted for 0.83 percent of emergency department visits diagnosed with COVID-19. By August 21, the seven-day moving average for this age group had risen to 2.43 percent.

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Meanwhile, on August 25, ABC News reported: “Just weeks into the new school year, districts in multiple states have canceled in-person classes for several weeks due to respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.” Ontario schools may suffer the same fate.

“We’re seeing a really rapid and sharp increase,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Dick Zoutman said of the rise in COVID-19 cases across Canada. “And there is every reason, based on everything we’ve seen in the last year, that when children go back to school, it will happen again.”

Zottman is Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University in the departments of Pathology, Molecular Medicine (medical microbiology), Medicine (infectious diseases), Public Health Sciences, and Biomedical and Molecular Sciences.

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mortality rates

In the first part of this series, Zottmann states that before vaccines became available, the death rate for COVID-19 was “close to 10%”. This statement sparked some critical response on the social networking site X, formerly known as Twitter. For example, Tara Moriarty, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, posted on the social media site on August 25 that, “Case fatality rates were around 10%, but no cases detected.” “The actual mortality rate for non-vaccine infections was about 1% for a pop like CAN…”

In response, Zottman contacted Whig-Standard, citing its source — the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiological surveillance team. According to the “Quick Dial” document, “Of the 106,804 cases of COVID-19 reported in Canada as of July 9, 2020, 8,749 cases resulted in death, which represents a fatality rate of 23.3 per 100,000 population, and a case fatality rate (CFR). ) by 8.2 percent. The document is titled “Descriptive Epidemiology of COVID-19 Deaths Reported During the Initial Wave of the Pandemic in Canada, January 15 to July 9, 2020.”

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“Wherever the death rate is discussed in the article, it is the death rate that is being referred to,” Zoutman explained. “The case fatality rate is not the same as the infection fatality rate, which is calculated very differently. As mentioned in the article, since the arrival and widespread use of COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to the effect of immunity after infection, the overall case fatality rate has decreased significantly, which is It is currently closer to one percent.

According to a summary posted on the WHO website on August 4, 2020, “Case fatality rates tend to be much higher than infection fatality rates, because so-called mild cases tend to be underreported.”

Children and adolescents

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Can COVID-19 harm children?

“Yes, unequivocally,” Zottmann replied. “But the death rate from severe coronavirus is much lower in young people, and certainly among children. But children with lung disease, heart disease, cancer, and weakened immunity — are more at risk.”

He added that children spread the virus “very easily”. “If you look at home outbreaks of coronavirus – which is one of the most common ways to catch COVID-19, 70 percent of the time it’s caused by children bringing it home from school.”

Zottmann’s statement is supported by a study published by Jama Network Open on June 1, 2023. The authors – Yi Guo-Tseng, Karen L. Olson, Daniel Bloch et al. – that “Children were important viral vectors in families during the epidemic period.” Pandemic, especially when school is in session. The study – “Participatory Monitoring Based on Smart Thermometer to Distinguish Children’s Role in Household Transmission of the Virus During the COVID-19 Pandemic” – revealed that 70.4 percent of households with COVID-19 “had an index case for children.” Moreover, “rates fell during school breaks.”

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In addition, children may develop long-term COVID-19. “It’s so common that it’s a very serious concern,” Zoutman said. He also noted that “the rate of type 1 diabetes in children after contracting Covid has doubled.” Moreover, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) arising from coronavirus infection can lead to inflammation of many parts of a child’s body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.

School safety

How can we make the air in Ontario schools safer?

“It’s actually fairly straightforward,” Zottmann replied. For example, schools need proper ventilation and HEPA filtration. Improving air quality would also help protect students from influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and air pollution.

Is it okay for students to wear masks at school?

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Zottmann replied, “Yes.” “The evidence is clear that it reduces transmission.”

In November 2022, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study on the effectiveness of wearing masks in two school districts in Massachusetts – Boston and neighboring Chelsea counties. The peer-reviewed study — “Unmasking the Universal Mask in Schools” — showed a significantly higher rate of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in school districts that eliminated mask requirements compared to those that kept a mask policy in place. “In the 15 weeks after repealing the statewide mask policy, raising mask requirements was associated with 44.9 additional cases per 1,000 students and staff, which corresponds to an estimated 11,901 cases,” the authors – Torey L. Cowger, Eleanor J Murray, Gaylen Clark, and others.

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Zoutman stressed the importance of providing students with high-quality N95 respirators. “These are the kind of masks that will actually prevent the spread of the virus.”

Challenge to the Minister of Education

“I would like the Government of Ontario and the Department of Education to create a website that lists each school by name and what they have done in terms of protection,” Zottman declared. “Minister Lecce, tell us frankly what’s going on in each of our schools,” Zoutman said, referring to Education Secretary Stephen Lecce.

The Whig-Standard contacted Lecce’s office and asked the following questions: Do Ontario schools meet the latest standards for infectious aerosol control set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)? Have the ventilation and air purification systems been updated during the summer? Will the minister adhere to full transparency?

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In response, a spokesperson for Lecce provided a written statement. According to Justin Saunders, the government has allocated “more than $665 million in funding to enhance ventilation and filtration in all schools, improving existing ventilation systems, using high-quality filters, and deploying 100,000 stand-alone HEPA filter units.”

In addition, Saunders said the government has set aside “additional funding of about $30 million for the next academic year to support the increased costs related to improving ventilation in schools, which includes installing high-quality filters where possible and replacing filters more frequently.”

Finally, Saunders asserted, Ontario is the only province “that requires all school boards to publish a report on school ventilation improvements.”

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“This is preventable,” Zoutman said of the impending spike in COVID-19 cases in the fall. “It will cause harm.”

Follow Jeffrey PJohnston at Mastodon

revision: In an email dated August 27, Zottman acknowledged an error in the first part regarding the long-term COVID probability calculation. “In the first part of this article, under the heading ‘It’s not the flu,’ the last paragraph contains an error regarding the risk of long-term Covid after two or more bouts of Covid,” Zottmann wrote. “With repeated bouts of COVID infection, the risk of developing long-term COVID symptoms has been shown to increase. However, it is incorrect to say that the risk is additional as stated in this paragraph. I apologize for this error.”

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