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The Surgeon General fights Loneliness & Social Media Use in Kids: Harms fueled by his own Administration's failed COVID policy
The irony escapes the media
In Jan 2021, when this administration came into office, it sought to expedite reopening on schools. They had a 100 day plan for elementary and middle school (K-8), but high schools were notoriously not on their priority list (sad). Yet, despite pushing teachers (who are 100 to 1000 times less likely to die than older people) to the front of the line for vaccines, they failed to achieve even this modest goal. Schools remained closed in many (predominately blue cities) till the fall, when they would at last reopen with mandatory cloth masks for kids (genius idea).
Why? The simple explanation is that this administration worked too closely with teachers unions, who worked to sabotage reopening since the spring of 2020, and was wedded to impossible mitigation standards which were ultimately never put into place (HVAC upgrades), and never used or needed in other countries (e.g. Sweden).
School closure served no purpose. A number of studies reveal massive drops in educational attainment. Meanwhile, school closure did not slow the spread of the virus, according to multiple papers, including this Scandinavian report. Nor did it help children avoid COVID. Nearly all US children got COVID prior to vaccines. (PS: Covid vaccines in kids have no good data they reduce severe disease or hospitalization/ case control studies fundamentally sample different populations). School closure did not have trade-offs, it was only self inflicted harm.
Now the Surgeon General is on two campaigns. First, he is warning that social media is harmful to kids— a widely held view, but one that still lacks very high quality causal data.
Next, he is on a campaign against loneliness. But does he not see the irony?
School closures and preventing teens from interacting— increased online social media use, particularly in lieu of in person interactions. Given the IFR of COVID at these ages, and given that all kids would eventually get COVID anyway (pre-vax), this was disastrous public policy. Those who argued kids lives should not be disrupted have been vindicated.
Lockdowns and social distance cost people time with loved ones, fueling loneliness. The surgeon general’s priorities are consequence of (or at least worsened by) the policies he supported when he advised candidate Biden, and the policies his administration enacted. They failed to open all schools in 100 days, costing kids massive educational attainment, which will lead to massive years of life lost.
Many in public health argue that prevention is better than treatment. By this metric, the Surgeon General’s policies are a catastrophic failure— trying to clean up his own medical malpractice and iatrogenic injury.
A balanced media would at least press him on this issue— and make this argument— and yet I have seen no such coverage. This is deeply concerning to have journalism have two standards, based solely on partisan politics, for asking tough questions.