Kelli Caseman, Executive Director

Years ago, I worked as the Director for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation in North Carolina. One day, a man came out of the woods and tried to pull an elementary school girl out of the line of students while they were outside changing classrooms and drag her back into the woods with him. He didn’t succeed– the little girl smacked her hand against the classroom window, alerting a teacher who chased him off– but I’ll never forget what transpired after the event. It set off a chain of phone calls with those elementary school moms. They descended on my office. We used walkie talkies during our annual walk-a-thon, right? We did. They wanted those walkie talkies. They wore matching, bright shirts, found a map of the woods behind the school, and invited the local police to join them in the search– police who tried unsuccessfully to tell them that they should leave the searching to the authorities.  

They found the man; he was apprehended before the end of the day. It was impressive work.

Moms have skills. I think we all know this. They try to get to the bottom of things. Figure things out. And above all, protect their kids. In this moment, it’s very apparent. Moms (and dads, grandparents, etc.) are trying to figure out what information to trust to best inform them how and when to send their kids back to school. This blog post is meant to, in a small way, offer some trusted news sources and ideas on how to investigate and inform yourself as the weeks (and maybe months) progress.

1. Look at the research. I’ve seen both of these assertions spread on social media this week: kids are immune to COVID-19, and kids are super-spreaders of the virus. Neither assertion is grounded in research. Go to this page on the World Health Organization’s website. Type “pediatric” or “children” in the search box. Sort by descending, so you read the newest research articles first. The CDC has a library, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics stays abreast on emerging data as well.

These articles can be tough, confusing reads. So Google them. See what reporters and experts are saying about this research. Each morning when I get up, I check Google News. It’s interesting to get some context around articles from other countries, or even other states. Here are a few news articles I’ve read this week that I’ve found helpful in expanding my knowledge of how the virus affects kids: What Scientists Know About How Children Spread COVID-19, Hispanic children eight times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19, study says, and 97,000 children reportedly test positive for coronavirus in two weeks as schools gear up for instruction.

On Thursday, I heard someone on our local news here in Charleston say that the COVID-19 virus has a 10% mortality rate. This is absolutely untrue. The mortality rate is 3.3% in the United States, and lower for children. That’s why it’s vital to stick to the facts and do the research. Don’t let the misinformation scare you.

2. Follow the state data. Here’s a link to the West Virginia’s COVID-19 dashboard. When I want to compare states, I use this website. There are a lot of great websites out there. Before you trust one, see who is running it.

3. Not all school re-openings are created equal. If you’re wondering if what’s happening in other states, as they open their schools, could perhaps happen here, look at two things– the state’s current COVID-19 numbers, and their policies for opening schools.

This weekend, I’ve seen a picture repeatedly on social media of a crowded school hallway in Georgia. Very few teens are wearing masks, and I’ve heard folks say that if kids aren’t wearing masks in Georgia, they won’t wear them here in West Virginia. But it’s important to note that in Georgia, their school policy doesn’t make mask-wearing mandatory. It’s optional. Not only will different states have different policies, but like here in West Virginia, different counties will have different policies. Some will be excellent. Some will be…bad. 

If you’d like to learn more about other state school policies, visit FutureEd’s Roadmap to Reopening. Since some state schools are opening in August, we’ll have the opportunity to keep an eye on how things unfold for them.

4. If you have questions, share them with Think Kids. We certainly don’t have all of the answers, but we’ll help you find them. We like the idea of further empowering West Virginia’s moms (and dads, grandparents, etc.) with useful information as the pandemic continues to progress. We know it’s a frightening time, but perhaps good data will help you navigate through it. We’re always here to help


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