Coronavirus Decision Making

Posted on Posted in Coronavirus, DrDownload

I just finished reading an excellent blog post by Emily Oster written to help parents make decisions in CoronaVirus times.  She blogs at

I’ve grown fond of saying that we are living through history, and in some ways, it softens the daily blows that come with actually having to do that.  This Coronavirus has changed much about how we’re living our lives.  As the summer of 2020 winds down and we look to a new school year, many parents are asking for advice on making the best choices for their children’s pandemic safety and health.

“You know I can’t make decisions for you about sending your child to in-person school, right?” I say again and again as these conversations begin.  I can help you think about HOW to make a good decision, though.”  And we start always with:

What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

If you’re trying to decide whether or not to send your child to in-person, face to face with friends and a teacher, school … then it’s important to understand your alternatives.  Write them down.  Emily Oster, gives this example:  If you’re trying to decide whether the family should meet up with your elderly parents this week, your alternatives likely include next week, next month and when there’s a vaccine?

Data is always a good thing to consider.  Dr. Oster has put a variety of resources at

Being able to frame the question is often all it takes to see the best choice answer.  But this isn’t always the case, and then it’s time to look at:

Risk – Benefits Analysis of Coronavirus Decisions

Take in person school attendance.  Every school program is committed to minimizing risk for children and educators that they will contract AND become seriously ill.  The true worry is that someone will die of COVID19 so don’t lose sight of the real problem.  (It’s not that a child would contract COVID19 and be a little sick.  It’s that there would be serious illness or death from the virus.)

As you make a decision for your child, you should understand HOW the school will work to minimize the spread of infection.  The data we have as I write this article in the summer of 2020 suggests that children are NOT likely to become seriously ill or die, and it also appears that they are not “super-spreaders” of the virus either.  I find this amazing because they’re so good at spreading every other germ I can think of!

I’m taking the path of gratitude and humility.  I don’t understand the science behind why COVID-19 is going easy on my patients, but I can be humble in not knowing.  And I can be grateful.  I am focusing on all the ways we’re working together to minimize the risk of dying of COVID-19 for everybody in our community, and I’m trying to be patient as I wait for a vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus for good.

Gayle Schrier Smith, MD

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