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An empty classroom in Maryland. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The long-term economic cost of school closures could reach into the trillions, according to a paper released this week.

Why it matters: Beyond the direct health damage caused by COVID-19, no other area will have as far-reaching impact as pandemic-driven school closures.

By the numbers: Researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania calculated that learning loss from school closures will reduce U.S. GDP by 3.6% and hourly wages by 3.5% by 2050.

  • That's a result of lowered labor productivity in the workers of tomorrow due both to disrupted education and the generally inferior substitution of remote learning, especially as it was practiced during the pandemic.

Between the lines: There's no easy way to get back the lost time for America's students, but the authors recommend extending the 2021–22 school year by an additional month.

  • They estimate that would cost about $75 billion, but would cut the GDP reduction to 3.1%.
  • That would provide a net gain of $1.2 trillion, about a $16 gain for every $1 invested in extending the school year.

Even with vaccine rates rising and businesses reopening around the country, more than 30% of America's K-12 students still aren't attending in-person school every day, according to the Burbio School Opening Tracker.

Go deeper

13 hours ago - Axios Twin Cities

Minnesota schools "all over the board" with mask-wearing guidance

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesota and federal health officials are urging universal masking in schools this fall, but not all local districts are following suit so far.

Driving the news: The Minnesota Department of Health issued new back-to-school guidance Wednesday, encouraging mask use indoors for students and teachers regardless of vaccination status.

  • Unlike last year, the state won't mandate mask use. Decisions will be up to local districts and school boards.
15 hours ago - Health

The billion-dollar COVID booster discussion

A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could add billions of dollars in extra revenue for Pfizer. Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pfizer said yesterday that it expects to sell nearly $34 billion worth of coronavirus vaccines this year — and there could be billions more behind that, if people who have gotten the shot ultimately need boosters.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether, when and for whom a coronavirus vaccine booster will be necessary. Pfizer has a lot of money riding on those answers, and executives are already making the case that many Americans will need a third dose.

12 hours ago - Health

European Union surpasses the U.S. in COVID-19 vaccinations

A line of people wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències de Valencia, on July 28, 2021. Photo: Rober Solsona/Europa Press via Getty Images

The member states of the European Union together have administered more coronavirus vaccine doses per 100 people than the United States, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The new figures highlight the pace at which the 27 member states of the E.U. are vaccinating their citizens, and stand in stark contrast to the speed of vaccinations in the U.S., which has stagnated.