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  • Writer's pictureLisa Bonnano

I'm Not a Doctor, I Just Play One in Congress

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Jeff Van Drew, a dentist, signed a Feb. 9 letter to President Biden from the House GOP Doctors Caucus. It pressured President Biden to prioritize school reopening despite a slow vaccine rollout for adults and no vaccine for children.

The letter pointed out the appropriation for $82 billion for “education stabilization”, urging the President to reopen school

This decision is handled by local school districts, based on conditions in their area.

The GOP Doctors Caucus does feature a few MD’s, at least one pharmacist and a representative with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, a couple of foot doctors, and several dentists.

They say that the science indicates that it’s safe to reopen schools but do not state why besides a paraphrase of Dr. Fauci and a single sentence from the new director of the CDC.

They give essentially no scientific rationale to support their position on school attendance in their letter. They do claim an increased rate of teen suicide during school closure. However, correlation is certainly not causation.

In fact, the study’s authors note a higher proportion of mental health-related ER visits but a decrease in visits for asthma and broken bones, and an overall decrease in ER visits for all reasons. They recommend greater availability of pediatric mental health services, but never do they propose sending all students back to school.

There’s no question that the global pandemic creates hardship for every age group in every nation in the entire world.

Yes, it’s hard for students not to socialize at school. Everyone’s life has dramatically shifted. There are multiple stressors. It will take time and skill to sort it all out. Yet, in the first quarter of 2021, the data isn’t even complete for 2020. Imagine the hardship resulting from the death of a parent, teacher, grandparent, or friend from COVID-19, for example.

Too many of us don’t have to imagine it. For over 500,000 American families, it’s a raw and recent wound. But the Congressional doctors caucus doesn’t mention that one obvious cause of student stress.

For too many schools, proper ventilation and distancing is a formidable task. This is particularly the case in older buildings, underfunded districts, and overcrowded schools. Then there are kids (and parents!) with behavioral issues that don’t follow protocols. Some schools are better prepared to handle the costs. The decision to reopen will vary based on the amount and type of modifications needed for safety,

Given the variability in conditions, in geographic areas, in adherence to best practices, there is not one best time for the whole country to “reopen”. Dr. Fauci is now saying that the goal of reopening schools during the first 100 days of the Biden administration may not happen.

The more often this virus reproduces itself inside a host, the more chances it has to mutate into a more cunning version. The more immunizations we administer, the safer we are not only from the virus, but also its future versions

The House GOP Doctors Caucus (and dentists, pharmacists, and podiatrists calling themselves doctors) is putting out talking points without regard to the actual science. They’re beating on the President and twisting the truth.

We have a complex, costly problem. There are many threads to untangle before we can function normally again. A GOP letter that oversimplifies the issues, draws false conclusions, and conceals the truth will not address this pandemic.

Oh, one thing that got better in 2020?

Gunfire incidents in schools numbered 67 with 15 deaths and 30 injuries.

Everytown Research School Shooting Map 2020
Gunfire on School Grounds in the United States- Image Via Everytown for Gun Safety

In 2019, there were 130, with 32 deaths and 77 injuries.

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