Students’ brains might be a new casualty of the pandemic


Brennan Mumper

As masks are discarded, new consequences of the pandemic begin to show.

Brennan Mumper, Staff Writer

Returning to school and work in the wake of the lockdown has been tough for most people, students included, and teachers have noticed.
“I would say the base impact is just remembering how to be human,” English teacher Kelsey Wright said.
Wright said that the social and academic growth of her students seems to have been stunted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When we all shut down, it was like all learning stopped in that moment,” Wright said. “It was kind of like a year and a half of learning next to nothing.”
Students across Ohio have been struggling with academics since the lockdown. Science teacher Tracey Codding said she has also noticed changes in the behavior of her students.
“I think it has affected how well students can pay attention in class, because when you’re at home working on school, there are more distractions available,” Codding said. “When you’re in school, it’s kind of hard to focus in on one thing, and a lot of students want to revert back to being distracted.”
Both Wright and Codding cited the lockdown as the cause for their students’ altered behavior. However, it’s possible that there is another source.
A study by the University of Oxford found that Covid-19 infections— even in mild cases— are linked to brain damage and a decline in cognitive function.
The study focused on older participants, with ages ranging from 51 to 81 years of age. It has not been determined whether or not this brain damage is reversible.
However, Covid-19 isn’t always mild. Sometimes, the infection lingers for months, causing fatigue, respiratory issues, brain fog, which refers to when a person has difficulty thinking and concentrating, headaches, dizziness, digestive issues, and other symptoms. This phenomenon is sometimes called “Long Covid.”
Long Covid damages organs, which can also cause people to develop permanent health conditions, like diabetes or neurological conditions.
Long Covid isn’t rare, either. Almost 1 in 5 adults who get infected with the coronavirus end up developing long-term symptoms.
There have not been studies that investigate how common or severe Covid-related brain damage is among young people. Covid-19 has been around for less than three years, and data takes a long time to gather. However, if brain damage is as common among children as it is among adults, it is possible that it could be part of the cause behind the widespread decline in students’ academic and social performance.
It is also possible that Covid-19 could have long-term effects that have not been observed yet. Some viruses, like polio, cause damage to the body years or even decades post-infection.
At Hayes, mask mandates and social distancing requirements have been dropped. The school said they have improved ventilation and continue to use contact tracing when symptoms of Covid-19 are reported. Superintendent Heidi Kegley explained the reasoning behind these actions.
“We’ve just continued to work with the Delaware Public Health District to consider their recommendations, and then implement those within the school throughout the past few years,” Kegley said. “We also continue as always to provide the hand sanitizer.”
Jennifer Ruhe, the Delaware City Schools Director of Communications, also shared her thoughts.
“Our school nurses are such a valuable asset to our district,” Ruhe said. “Most of our nurses are open to working with families to understand their specific needs, because they do know the students in those buildings, they know who is the most vulnerable, those that may have bigger concerns or different concerns, and can really help us as a district learn how to make sure that we’re being responsive to every family.”
Codding said that she remains optimistic about the future.
“I think that the pandemic overall— it made us a little bit more vulnerable emotionally,” Codding said. “I think that as long as we come together as a whole, we will be able to heal from the entire thing.”