Where Are We Now? An Expert Shares His Insights on the Pandemic and Kids One Year Later

Where Are We Now? An Expert Shares His Insights on the Pandemic and Kids One Year Later

A child health expert discusses how the pandemic is still affecting kids' education and mental health, and what comes next.

Last year, during the height of the pandemic, Children’s Hospitals Today interviewed David Rubin, M.D., MSCE, director of PolicyLab and of Population Health Innovation at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, about the pandemic’s effect on kids. One year later we checked back in to see where things stand.

When we spoke a little over a year ago for a Children’s Hospitals Today story about the effects of COVID-19 on children, you said you were seeing a widening disparity of educational attainment, because districts couldn’t be in school. Now that children around the country are back in the classroom, are they caught up?

I think those assessments are ongoing. I don’t want it to seem like this is over. There’s still a lot of disruption. I think largely our suburban school districts have gotten back to a routine, but there are many schools still struggling with functional closures and lots of kids being out. We’re still very much in the thick of it right now.

Let’s talk about functional closures and the effect they’re having.

We’re not doing virtual school anymore, but a lot of kids are missing extended periods of time. Kids who may have been exposed to COVID are still asked to quarantine in many locations. So, people are coming in and out of the classroom. There’s also a lot of absenteeism on the staff. You might have kids sitting in a classroom, but if substitute teachers aren’t teaching them, that’s a problem. There’s still a lot of disruption

What should children’s hospitals be doing now?

We’re in a different phase of this pandemic. The epidemic we’re dealing with now is around children’s well-being and behavioral health. That starts with getting kids back to their routine and accepting the risk that COVID-19 introduces in the classroom. It brings a significant challenge in terms of building community and school-based resources, taking advantage of the relationships between public health and school districts, and trying to build a system that grants kids access to different levels of services based on their needs.

Read the full story about how children are doing since the height of the pandemic from the latest issue of Children's Hospitals Today.

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