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Study finds drastic drop in cognitive abilities of children born during COVID, masks possibly to blame


An August 2021 study out of Rhode Island found that children born during the COVID-19 pandemic have markedly lower cognitive ability compared to their pre-pandemic counterparts.

Children born and raised during COVID-19 suffered significant cognitive developmental delays in both verbal and non-verbal cognitive assessments, when compared to kids born before the pandemic, the study found.

While the study has not yet been peer-reviewed, the researchers intimated that the pandemic measures and their subsequent effects are likely the culprit behind the devastating decline.

“Across all measures, we found cognitive scores were significantly reduced during the pandemic by 27 to 37 points (or almost two full standard deviations),” wrote the researchers.

“We did not find significant differences in birth weight or gestation duration overall in the pre vs during pandemic children,” they added, suggesting the problem is not a result of physical ailment or malnutrition, but rather a result of environmental conditions.

According to the study, the median scores for the three metrics being tested – early learning composite, verbal development quotient, and non-verbal development quotient, is 100. A figure that displays the findings shows that between 2011 and 2019, the scores were closely concentrated around the expected average of 100.

However, when looking at the scores for 2020 and 2021, there was a massive downward trend for all three categories. The ELC category shows a drop of over 20 points by 2021, while the VDQ category has a catastrophic drop of well over 30 points.

Explaining the data in plain language, and suggesting a cause for the decline, the scientists posited:

Children are inherently shaped by their environment. Across the fetal, infant, and early childhood lifestages, a child’s brain undergoes immense structural and functional growth that is driven by an integrative mixture of genetic and environmental factors. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated economic shut-down, school disruptions, and social distancing, stay-at-home, and mask policies have fundamentally altered the environment in which children and pregnant individuals have lived, over the past 18 months.

Leveraging data collected continuously over the past decade in Providence, RI and surrounding areas, we sought to investigate how the pandemic has impacted cognitive development and function in newborns and young children. Included pregnant individuals and children reported no symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection or had evidence of positive antibody or RT-PCR testing. Families also reported having adhered to stay-at-home and on-going mask and social distancing policies, suggesting observed effects are environmentally driven rather than due to potential direct effects of infection.

Overall, we find that measured verbal, non-verbal, and overall cognitive scores are significantly lower since the beginning of the pandemic. Looking further, we find that children born before the pandemic and followed through the initial stages do not show a reduction in skills or performance, but rather that young infants born since the beginning of the pandemic show significantly lower performance than infants born before January 2019. Thus, our results seem to suggest that early development is impaired by the environmental conditions brought on by the pandemic.

Governments have largely been dismissive of the impact the so-called pandemic measures are having on children. The U.S. leads the world in forcibly masking toddlers, a policy supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP even removed from its website a document affirming the importance of babies seeing human faces and communicating with parents via their own facial expressions.

In August, observers began noticing that the brochure no longer appeared on the AAP’s website, prompting speculation that it may have been intentionally scrubbed so as not to undermine the organization’s support of mandatory masking for children as young as two. Many two-year-olds are still in diapers.

Attacking measures that impact childhood development, University of California-San Francisco epidemiologist Professor Vinay Prasad stated, “The potential educational harms of mandatory-masking policies are much more firmly established, at least at this point, than their possible benefits in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools.”

“Early childhood is a crucial period when humans develop cultural, language, and social skills, including the ability to detect emotion on other people’s faces. Social interactions with friends, parents, and caregivers are integral to fostering children’s growth and well-being.”