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Lockdown imprisons our youth

The current lockdown, social isolation and cancellations of all extracurricular activities for our youth is an irresponsible and detrimental health policy for our nation’s young people. Without a doubt, it is a gross violation of medical ethics and public policy to mandate that youth be sequestered indoors and have their physical activities curtailed or eliminated.

Any and all public officials who have constructed and executed these policies have shown an inexcusable lack of understanding and foresight as to how these policies will negatively impact young people in the immediate and for years to come. These policies will continue to have devastating psychological, emotional and physical consequences. In some cases they will last for years and in many cases will be permanent — particularly for at-risk youth whose lives are in precarious situations in the best of times.

It is now known, and well documented, that COVID impacts predominantly the elderly (with a high percentage residing in unhealthy nursing facilities) with already serious health conditions, and on a planet of 7.7 billion people, there are very few cases of any healthy young person severely (or even mildly) impacted by this virus. From the outset, one of COVID-19’s distinct characteristics is its unusually small impact on the vast majority of children.

That all young people need to be involved in daily physical activities outdoors to boost their immune systems is a medical truism. That sequestering them indoors does the exact opposite is also a known medical fact. Staying at home in isolation decreases the normal flora that young people need to maintain a healthy immune system. Have you thought about the impact these policies will have on youth, especially those already disenfranchised? On what basis are you making these decisions that will impair the health of our children?

Young people (and everyone) also need to be involved in daily social activities with their peers to develop and maintain their psychological and emotional well-being — this, too, is well documented. Medical studies show conclusively that isolation indoors exacerbates depression and anxiety — which further weakens the immune system. Have you considered the children who are in unstable and often abusive homes and have no way out? What about children who have no yard to play in? How are you using data to guide your decisions?

Have you considered the damage that will be done to our youth as their basketball leagues are canceled, music camps canceled, Little League baseball seasons stolen, summer vacations ruined, summer job opportunities vanished and all of their recreational programs eliminated? Tell me how do you see children spending their time in the summer when there is literally nothing for them to do?

For all involved in these decisions, let it be known that you will be directly responsible for damaging the health and well-being of youth across our country. Will you be accepting liability for child outcomes during this time? Will you be looking at and assessing these outcomes?

For those who are unable to see the extraordinary damage and long-lasting impact on our youth by this dangerous precedent, it has become increasingly obvious that your ability to make clear, sound medical decisions on this matter is no longer possible. It is time for those who insist on making these decisions that are damaging our young people, especially those in the medical profession, to recant or acknowledge that they aren’t qualified caretakers of our nation’s youth, and to immediately step down from their positions.

It is long past time that all public officials take a stand FOR the health and well-being of youth and make decisions based on the science and the data, not the politics.

Michael Bryant lives in Spencer, Tioga County.

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