Over the past 10 months, debates have raged over how to keep the coronavirus in check. What to open? What to close? Where does the virus spread, and where are we relatively safe? Through it all, one kind of space in particular has been the subject of vigorous debate — and, starting a few months into the virus, a kind of unexpected conventional wisdom emerged: that schools were relatively safe. In the midst of the darkness, it brought some welcome light: kids are safe! They can go to school! While other institutions closed, countries around the world — particularly in Europe and the UK — kept their schools open.
And yet, in response to rising rates and a new, more contagious variant, many of those same countries have since closed their school doors. It turns out that, if you believe the epidemiologists, schools do, in fact, bring risk of transmission. How could we ever have thought otherwise? Rachel Cohen has been covering the debates around school closings and openings, most recently at The Intercept. In this week's podcast extra, she tells Brooke about how the school transmission narrative has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic, and how our understanding of the issue came to be so muddled.