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EDITORIAL: Spare kids from renewed COVID-19 hysteria

It’s depressing to see how ignorant some education officials remain about COVID-19.

You probably haven’t noticed, but a number of public health officials are concerned about an uptick in coronavirus cases. That sounds like news from three years ago, but it’s not.

“School districts in Kentucky, Texas cancel classes amid ‘surge’ of illnesses including COVID,” ABC News reported in late August.

“Schools grapple with COVID safety amid late summer surge,” Axios reported Wednesday.

An elementary school in Maryland recently imposed a mask mandate. In late August, an Alabama junior high asked all students, teachers and visitors to wear masks.

“A few schools mandated masks. Conservatives hit back hard,” The Washington Post reported.

It shouldn’t just be conservatives. This isn’t spring 2020. Caution was understandable when little was known about the coronavirus. But it’s now fall 2023.

Closing schools did little, if anything, to slow the spread of the virus. As NPR reported in October 2020, three studies, two internationally and one among U.S. childcare workers, found little connection between in-person classes and spreading COVID-19.

Or you could look at states that reopened schools in the fall of 2020, like Florida under Gov. Ron DeSantis. His state went through peaks and valleys of coronavirus infections. So did Nevada, which kept most schools closed for months. According to The New York Times coronavirus tracker, Florida has a lower death rate than Nevada. Not what you’d expect if keeping schools open had the deadly consequences some fear.

Earlier this year, Cochrane Library published a study of 78 randomized controlled trials on physical interventions to slow the spread of viral diseases. Its review “did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks.”

What isn’t in doubt is how devastating school closures and mask mandates have been on children. The Nation’s Report Card said its 2022 results showed “the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.” Even the World Health Organization has warned against mask mandates for children ages 6 to 11. It’s concerned about the “potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development.”

The good news is that Gov. Joe Lombardo has made it clear he doesn’t support new mask mandates.

School closures devastated children in Nevada and around the nation. Education officials should focus on fixing that, not repeating past mistakes.

This commentary initially appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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