As the United States slowly recovers from the worst of the COVID pandemic, a new illness has emerged.

As jolting as the pandemic and the accompanying measures were, the medical community is now warning of a wave of issues amounting to what the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, called “a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.” Not only that, but experts believe time away from teachers and peers during the pandemic may have given abused children fewer chances to speak out and get help.

Earlier this month, a CDC (Centers for Disease Control) report warned, “Adolescents are facing a mental health crisis.”

Dr. Aruna Aurora, former President of the Medical Association for the State of Alabama, which is also the Alabama Board of Health, concurred in an April 13 op-ed

“Our country faces an unprecedented mental health crisis,” wrote Aurora.

In a 2020 survey of 1,000 parents around the country, facilitated by the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 71% of parents said the pandemic had taken a toll on their child’s mental health, and 69% said the pandemic was the worst thing to happen to their child. A national survey of 3,300 high schoolers conducted in the spring of 2020 found close to a third of students felt unhappy and depressed much more than usual.

As of Jan. 13, 2021, approximately 50% of all students in the United States were receiving online-only instruction. The CDC report said, “research has shown that online-only instruction has had a negative effect on the mental health of adolescents.”

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Education announced a resolution finding the Los Angeles Unified School District failed to adequately address the education needs of students with disabilities as required by law during the pandemic. There are 66,000 students with disabilities in the district. 

Here are some of the more alarming findings from the CDC report:

- More than half of students experienced emotional abuse in the home and more than 10% reported physical abuse in the home.

- Nearly half of students felt persistently sad or hopeless.

- Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits in 2020 increased by approximately 31% among youths aged 12–17 years.

- Two out of five adults report suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression. More than half of those aged 18-24 report these same symptoms and roughly one out of five say they have suicidal thoughts.

1819 News asked the CDC what metrics were used when making the decision to enforce school lockdowns. Jade Fulce, Public Relations Specialist with the CDC, provided the following statement:

 “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC's guidance for K-12 schools has been focused on recommending prevention strategies to keep students and staff safe and in school for in-person learning.

SEE ALSO: 2 new mental health crisis centers coming to Alabama

“CDC has encouraged schools to work with their state, local, tribal, or territorial Public Health Departments to decide whether school closures were necessary to keep schools safe. For more information about your specific community, contact the Alabama Board of Health.”

In response to a request for comment on that statement, Ryan Easterling, Director, Health Media & Communications Division, Alabama Department of Public Health, referred back to a statement provided to 1819 News in March:

“The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) follows the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ADPH provides evidence-based information, based on current science, regarding public health issues, including response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The CDC also warned that while these studies provide data on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health among youths, “little is known about other experiences such as economic and food insecurity, abuse by a parent, and other risk behaviors youths might have engaged in during this time, such as alcohol and drug use.”

According to a 2021 report published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG) on 2019 statistics, there were 4.4 million referrals made to CPS across the country involving 7.9 million children. Roughly a third of child abuse cases were referred to CPS by professionals in educational environments, defined as having contact with the alleged child victim as part of his or her job. Teachers refer 21% of all cases.

Recall that as of January of 2021, approximately half of all school-age children in the United States were receiving online-only education throughout the ten months since March of 2020.

Based on the figures from the CWIG report, that means an estimated 1.6 million cases of child abuse not only went unreported but that most of those victims were often locked down with their abusers.

1819 News inquired with the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) to see how these issues played out locally. According to Dominic Binkley, Director of Communications, their findings were consistent with those from the CWIG report.

“Alabama, as many other states, observed a decrease in overall child abuse reports received in FY 2020,” Binkley said. “DHR received 36,248 reports in FY 2020, compared to 39,085 reports in FY 2019. The decrease coincided with reduced levels of in-person contact between children and mandated reporters, such as teachers, counselors, child care workers and medical professionals.”

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University was one of the three authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which was released in October 2020 and argued for a strategy of focused protection and stressed the need to avoid lockdowns and school closures.

“The harms to the health of the population from the lockdown-focused strategies, which have really relied on fear and induced panic, caused catastrophic harm that we're going to be paying for, for decades to come,” said Bhattacharya in a roundtable discussion with Gov. DeSantis (R-Florida).

In December, author Phil Magness obtained emails (via FOIA) between Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) to his subordinates, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, in response to the Great Barrington Declaration. In one email to Fauci, Collins said “we need a devastating public takedown” of the “fringe” authors and their premise.

As a result of that public takedown, the authors were censored by YouTube.

There is still the possibility that these measures were necessary, even the “public takedown” from the top scientist in government. But if it was necessary, what statistics or metrics guided that decision at the time? How did the CDC balance the harms to children of lockdowns with the harms from the virus?

In response to 1819 News’ request for answers to those questions, the CDC referred to NIH/NIAID.

After repeated requests for specifics as to the numbers behind these generational policy decisions from the CDC, the Alabama Board of Health and the Medical Association of Alabama, 1819 News received none.

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