On this episode of the podcast, Terry and Bob discuss adapting to a Covid-19 world. Unfortunately, Covid-19 will be with us for some time, and Americans will need to learn to calibrate risk and reward in this new environment — as disheartening as that reality may be. 

One of the most specific fault lines of the debate over the new normal under Covid-19 is school reopenings. Across the country, school districts have said they won’t reopen — or will only reopen partially — to classroom instruction this fall due to Covid-19. Terry highlights how the Fairfax County School District in Virginia is not resuming classroom instruction and is even telling parents not to form learning pods with other parents to educate their children because of the risks of exacerbating educational inequities. As Terry points out, perhaps the school district should have thought of this inevitable parent response before they closed its doors. 

In contrast to widespread school closures, the scientific community is almost united in its position that schools can safely reopen. The Centers for Disease Control, the American Association of Pediatrics, and the National Academy of Sciences have all gone on record in support of classroom reopenings. They point to the severe consequences of closures to student learning and development and the relatively low risks of Covid-19 transmission and death.  

Numerous reports highlight how classroom closures have disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable people in our communities, including those with disabilities, at-risk kids, and minorities. Yet far more children have died from the flu this year than Covid-19. (Of course, Covid-19 is far more serious than the flu, but not for kids.) Given the significant pain for little-to-no safety gain of classroom closures, policymakers across the country should reevaluate their closure decisions. 

Bob interviews Dr. Paul Offit, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Infectious Diseases at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit discusses the latest developments in a Covid-19 vaccine. The good news: The Covid-19 vaccine will be the fastest vaccine ever developed in history beating the mumps vaccine timeline of four years by a country mile. The bad news: The Covid-19 vaccine probably will not protect against mild and asymptomatic cases meaning that there will still be disease spread. Multiple vaccines will likely be necessary. 

Patient correspondent Kate Pecora interviews Michael Smith, who is a chronic disease patient with digestive tract paralysis, which affects roughly five million Americans. He discusses his work with the FDA to expand treatment options for gastroparesis. He highlights the difficulty patients with his condition have had in receiving new medications. And he argues that every patient deserves — if not the “right to try” experimental medications — choices to live functional lives. No patient should fall through the cracks.

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