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Families First: Supporting Kid-Friendly Policies During the Next Pandemic

Previous entry in Families First: Good public policy prioritizes children over adults

Most everyone agrees on a personal level that the interests of adults should not be put ahead of the interests of children — but are our public policies consistent with that standard?

Consider pandemic policy in Ventura County. Schools were locked down hard, then reopened after a period of time, but only with calls for mask and vaccine requirements for children. By the fall of 2021, two months into the reopening of schools, California Department of Public Health stats showed children made up about 0.0 percent of the statewide COVID‐19 deaths despite being 22.5 percent of the population. In other words, putting extremely rare circumstances aside, children were virtually immune to the COVID‐19 virus itself.

But no child was immune to the effects of the lockdown.

The FDA even admitted in its August 2021 COVID vaccine approval announcement, “Information is not yet available about potential long-term health outcomes.” Yet, fearful adults wanted to mask and inject even the youngest of children with new vaccination technology without consideration for the long‐term effects of either. “If little Timmy isn’t masked and vaccinated,” they said, “Grandpa might die.” I haven’t yet been blessed with grandchildren, but I can’t imagine a scenario where I would so readily sacrifice their critical development years, especially with so little statistical and empirical support.

But the mandates did just that. These novelties were clearly not intended to be in the child’s best interest. Some huge percentage of children probably already had natural immunity by the fall of 2021, fully 18 months into the pandemic. Children were barely becoming ill, let alone seriously or fatally ill. But it was becoming clear that missing school and being masked was adversely affecting them.

No, the mandates weren’t to protect children. They were an attempt by adults to protect adults; they placed the well-being of children far behind.

What would a child‐first COVID policy have looked like if we truly put their interests ahead of adults? The elderly would have been free to protect themselves individually, whether by wearing masks, getting COVID shots or staying home, and not requiring children to do that for them. Kids’ schooling would have been uninterrupted, and parks and playgrounds would have stayed open instead of being wrapped in police tape. Businesses would have remained open, and the economy would not have been brought to a crashing halt, leaving the next generation with an uphill economic climb. Ironically, older adults would have benefited from herd immunity as most people went about their daily lives.

Instead, two years of children’s schoolwork was essentially tossed in the trash. Worse yet, reports of vaccine injuries started to surface (to the extent that they avoided being censored). Some young kids developed speech impediments, unable to see mouths moving behind masks. Youth sports were canceled. With nothing to do, some older kids got into drugs or took their own lives. Three years later, they face the prospect of striking out on their own, poorly educated in an inflationary economy amid increased crime and political and global instability.

On October 21, 2022, the AP reported in an online article by Bianca Vazquez Toness and Jocelyn Gecker entitled “Online school put US kids behind. Some adults have regrets” that “clear evidence emerged that schools weren’t COVID‐19 super‐spreaders.”

“There are fears for the futures of students who don’t catch up,” the article stated. “They run the risk of never learning to read, long a precursor for dropping out of school. They might never master simple algebra, putting science and tech fields out of reach. The pandemic decline in college attendance could continue to accelerate, crippling the U.S. economy.”

That outcome should have been obvious from the start. Yet now, those same state and local officials and community leaders whose policies greatly harmed our kids are collecting the same salaries and somehow avoiding public scrutiny. Did they, and all those who blindly followed them and publicly shamed those who resisted such foolish mandates, learn from their mistakes? Or will they double down on them next time there is a similar pandemic?

For the moment, they act like they weren’t brazenly confronting those who opposed the lockdowns, calling them plague rats and super-spreaders and censoring, canceling or firing non-compliant people. Some are trying to salvage their moral superiority by emphasizing their compassion for Grandpa and minimizing the harm done to Timmy.

The appropriate response, and thus the least likely, is to recognize the fallibility of the powerful people in charge and their allies. In other words, we can be skeptical of Big Government, Big Pharma, Big Business, Big Media, Big Education and Big Tech. We should put more trust in our reason and common sense and be discerning of the information we consume.

Terrified adults who fell for the hyped reports of danger pushed children aside and headed for the lifeboats first. They failed children by a) not discerning high-quality information from propaganda, leading to an exaggeration of risk, and b) allowing their resulting fear to overcome reason and abandoning their duty to protect children. Ironically, by abandoning their posts as guardians of the young, they have put society on course toward a bigger iceberg, placing young and old alike at greater risk of a variety of harms.

There is still time for a course correction, but it requires adults to support policies only after a conscious consideration of whether they put children’s interests ahead of adults’. It’s obviously the right thing to do, but it’s common for well‐intentioned people to prefer compassion for one group without considering the harm it does to another.

Let’s scrutinize those public servants and leaders who placed kids at the end of the line, and let’s all commit to doing better next time.

Eric Ingemunson is the author of hundreds of articles on Ventura County public policy, and his work has appeared in the Ventura County Star, CNN, and Fox News. He earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, and served as a board member for youth sports and Boy Scouts. He resides in Moorpark with his wife and four children and are active in the homeschooling community.

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