Kids miss their friends, and kids are supposed to be interacting with other kids—that’s actually really important for development. I think part of what happened over the last year was that we prioritized preventing the virus from spreading over everything else, which makes sense. But there has probably not been enough attention given to some of the downsides for kids when it comes to isolation and remote school—not just the learning losses, which are easy to quantify and easy to talk about, but some of these more socioemotional issues. So I’m hoping that we will start to see some recovery of that over the next year as kids go back to school. Even with the current variant, the risk of serious illness to kids remains very low; the vast majority of kids who get Covid will have mild or asymptomatic infections or are not made seriously ill. And so I think for vaccinated parents, if you don’t live in a household with an immunocompromised person, if it’s basically healthy kids and vaccinated, healthy parents, there is a pretty strong case toward more social engagement, particularly because it’s valuable for kids.
My books are about choices that are basically private choices where externalities are very limited. Like, when does my kid go to sleep? That’s a fairly private choice. And if you don’t want your kid to sleep a lot of hours, that’s probably not great for your kid, but it’s also not so terrible for everybody else. In contrast, the pandemic is a space where there is a real interaction between private choices and public consequences. Particularly, choosing not to get vaccinated when vaccinations are available is a private choice that has tremendously bad public consequences for other people. I think this is an unfortunate policy space where [vaccine] mandates are the only option. Even if you personally don’t get sick, there are many reasons to get vaccinated.