Touchdown! That wail may go unheard this fall as youth sports are among the latest activities to face the chopping block because of COVID-19. As a practicing physician and mother of five, I urge community leaders to rethink their strategy. Students need to return to their classrooms and athletic fields. The scholastic, social and physical well-being of the younger generation depends on it.
The consequences of keeping children cooped-up at home far outweighs the risk of the virus. While the chance of a school-age child dying of COVID-19 is less likely than being struck by lightning, isolation is eating away at the mental health of our youth and even pushing some to do the unthinkable. Last month, an El Paso teen tragically took her own life; her mother noted pandemic-induced isolation was partly to blame.
It’s not a standalone event. CDC Director Robert Redfield commented in July, “there has been another [lockdown] cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools. We’re seeing … far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID.” Suicides in Chicago are up 13 percent compared to this time last year, while cities like Fresno, California, have experienced a 70 percent jump.
It’s obvious the consequences of at-home learning and skipping out on extra curricular activities are not limited to failing to grasp long division or missing out on kicking the winning field goal. Given the stakes, even Dr. Anthony Fauci recognizes getting kids back in the school setting should be the default position for community leaders. The stance is also supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Academy of Science and CDC.
But keeping classrooms on lockdown and suspending youth athletics is only the tip of the iceberg. COVID-19 has been used as a tool by governors and local leaders to trample basic liberties. If left unaddressed, the continuing breaches of individual rights will further sabotage our children’s future.
Examples are chronicled in the news on a daily basis.
A gym owner in New Jersey was recently arrested because he dared to open his business. A Kentucky couple was put under house arrest and forced to wear ankle monitors because they refused to sign self-quarantine documents. In Nevada, up to 500 people can gamble in a casino, but church congregations are limited to 50 via government edict. And most recently, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti authorized the city to shut off the water and power to homes hosting large gatherings.
These events remind me of my challenging childhood in Yugoslavia – which was characterized by government control and the suppression of individual freedoms. Sadly, the U.S. is inching in that direction with every additional pandemic rule and restriction. I wake up every morning wondering how many rights we will lose today in the name of fighting COVID-19.
Benjamin Franklin famously commented, “those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Perhaps state and community leaders should revisit that thought and begin to reverse course. The future of the country, and our children, depend on it.
Dr. Katarina Lindley, D.O. FACOFP, is a physician in Texas and a partner of the Job Creators Network Foundation.