Editor, Townsman:

Our medical staff at Andover Pediatrics has witnessed the serious challenges that our young patients and their families have faced throughout this coronavirus pandemic.

In an effort to reduce the rate of spread of COVID-19 within our community, our children have been deprived of essential social interaction. This, in turn, has damaged them emotionally, physically, socially and academically.

We have witnessed a dramatic rise in anxiety and depression, and subsequent rises in psychotherapy referrals, anti-anxiety and antidepressant prescriptions, and psychiatric hospitalizations. Obesity rates are skyrocketing due to sedentary lifestyle and overeating at home.

Students lament the lack of social interactions with their classmates, friends and teachers that they once enjoyed in school. Many introverted, shy children are developing social anxiety when they do not practice simple social interaction.

While some schools have done a fantastic job planning remote learning strategies, studies have shown that the quality of in-class learning is superior to remote learning.

Despite the daunting challenges that we face as health care providers, we have seen a very encouraging trend. The schools in our community have created a safe place for our children. The risk of transmission of COVID-19 has been shown to be very low in schools.

Out of the many children and parents in our practice who have contracted COVID-19, none have been traced to school transmission. Our pediatric colleagues at other practices, local public health officials, school health staff and infectious disease experts agree that risk of student-to-student, teacher-to-student, and student-to teacher transmission is much lower than outside of the school.

Even with some families who have chosen all-remote learning to reduce exposure, we have seen many cases of COVID-19 infection and transmission.

In schools that have accommodated full in-class learning, we have seen their students fare much more favorably, with far less detrimental effects and very low rates of transmission.

We are asking our superintendents, principals, school committee members and teachers to have full confidence in their ability to provide a safe, nurturing environment for our children.

We appreciate the complex issues involved when decisions must be made about opening and closing schools. However, they should not allow fear of in-school transmission to be a major consideration in their decision making.

We ask that they consider school to be a safe haven for all who attend, for both children and adults who work there.

School attendance is crucial to our children’s recovery from this pandemic.

Dr. Elizabeth Lentini

Dr. Nancy Hurley

Dr. Jennifer Hensley

Dr. Kenneth Chan

Dr. Robert Nelken

Andover Pediatrics

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