U.S. Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) introduced a new bill Wednesday aimed at helping schools to reopen safely in the fall by providing much needed research on the role children play in transmitting the COVID-19 virus. While it has been well established that children are less likely than adults to develop severe illness from COVID-19, it is not currently clear what role they play in transmitting the virus to other children, teachers, school staff, and family members. Critical research is needed to fill in the blanks of our knowledge and allow school systems and states across the country to make educated decisions about how to safely reopen their doors this fall.
“Children and families across the country are facing significant challenges and disadvantages because of school closures, many of which have the potential to cause profound and lasting impacts on an entire generation of Americans,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “Reopening our schools this fall should be a top priority as we move forward in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, and the information gathered from this study will allow us to do so in the safest manner possible.”
“While school closures are necessary to address the current public health crisis, many students are at risk of falling through the cracks after losing access to in-person learning and other critical services like school meals,” said Rep. Fudge. “Getting students back to the classroom is critical to making up for lost time, but it must be done in a way that protects the safety of students and teachers alike. By requiring research into how children contract and transmit COVID-19, this bill will help school districts make informed decisions on how to safely reopen.”
School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic are having a growing negative impact on America’s families. Along with the emotional and social challenges caused by isolation, children are facing increased risks of unreported child abuse, hunger, and growing inequalities from the “homework gap” as low-income families struggle with the lack of wifi and computers necessary to keep up with online schoolwork. Additionally, parents are facing significant increases in hours spent on household chores and childcare, affecting both their mental wellbeing and their ability to perform at work.
The Protect our Children from COVID-19 Act requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study and report to Congress quarterly on the transmissibility of COVID-19 in children, particularly from child to child, child to adult, and adult to child. It further requires the department to report to Congress on a quarterly basis and to develop and disseminate best practices to states and school systems to inform decisions on how best to reopen and operate schools in the coming year to protect children and adults in educational settings, eliminate guess work, and set clear expectations for parents, teachers, and families.
Read the full text of the bill here.