Ethics of COVID-19-related school closures

Michael Silverman*, Robert Sibbald, Saverio Stranges

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

COVID-19 mitigation strategies have led to widespread school closures around the world. Initially, these were undertaken based on data from influenza outbreaks in which children were highly susceptible and important in community-wide transmission. An argument was made that school closures were necessary to prevent harm to vulnerable adults, especially the elderly. Although data are still accumulating, the recently described complication, pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, is extremely rare and children remain remarkably unaffected by COVID-19. We also do not have evidence that children are epidemiologically important in community-wide viral spread. Previous studies have shown long-term educational, social, and medical harms from school exclusion, with very young children and those from marginalized groups such as immigrants and racialized minorities most affected. The policy and ethical implications of ongoing mandatory school closures, in order to protect others, need urgent reassessment in light of the very limited data of public health benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-465
Number of pages4
JournalCanadian Journal of Public Health
Volume111
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Ethics
  • School closure

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