Dr. Gale R. Burstein
Commissioner of Health
Erie County Department of Health
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
As the Commissioner of Health, your job is to “promote and protect the health, safety, and
well-being of Erie County residents through active prevention, education, enforcement,
advocacy and partnerships.” This includes protecting the well-being of our youngest
Public health, as it relates to children, is not simply the absence of disease or infirmity, it is
the state of physical, mental, intellectual, social, and emotional well-being that affords
children the opportunity to reach their fullest developmental potential.
Covid-19 represents just one of many potential health problems. Unfortunately, the severity
of the pandemic has taken the attention away from other serious health issues, particularly
for younger people. While Covid-19 represents a meaningful health risk for older people,
the reality is that for the vast majority of children, the loss of full in-person schooling
represents a much greater health issue than Covid-19.
Gone unnoticed is the fact that remote/hybrid “learning” is having a devastating impact on
the physical, social, and emotional health of children of all ages. Isolation, depression, and
malnutrition have reached crisis levels during the pandemic. The academic toll will take
years to overcome for those students that do not drop out of school altogether. Yet, there
are few statistics to measure the very real damage being done to our younger generations.
Pediatricians across the country have been trying to sound the alarm on the negative health
consequences related to the loss of in-person schooling, but our public health officials, even
those with a background in pediatric medicine, seem more concerned about public
perception than the actual well-being of our children. After all, it is easier to track the tragic
effects of Covid-19 than the collateral damage being done to our children.
On this shipwreck, everyone receives a lifeboat except for the kids. Sadly, political science
appears to be trumping actual science.
Download the doc above to read the full letter from WNY Students First to Dr. Burstein.