It has become a cruel joke. Shut everything down! Stay home! Cancel the holidays! Close everything! But open schools!
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, told Americans to stay home throughout the holiday season, avoid groups, wash hands, wear masks, and stay socially distanced. There’s a horrific death count in case you harbor doubts.
But there’s a gap between what Dr. Fauci and the medical community recommend to the public and what he and they think is A-O.K. for America’s schoolchildren and teachers. Remember back in July when Dr. Fauci told teachers they would be a part of a learning curve experiment.
Dr. Leana Wen, M.D., seems to understand that schools are no match for Covid-19 and should be closed throughout the winter. Why are other doctors, including Dr. Fauci ignoring that advice?
Here’s today’s report from Boston: Coronavirus Is Surging: How Severe Is Your State’s Outbreak?
For a while, Americans were told that schools wouldn’t open if Covid-19 cases were high in the community. But now public schools are opening, there seems to be a heavy push, even though there’s a rise in Covid-19 cases. This is after hundreds of school employees, including teachers, have died. Children have died too. See below.
Many criticized Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos for pushing schools to open. Why does opening schools seem better with Democrats taking charge, especially when the country is in the midst of the pandemic?
It starts at the top. Dr. Fauci warned America not to gather before Thanksgiving, but his tone was surprisingly glib about schools.
From CNN on November 17, 2020.
I don’t want to dictate that from here to the school, because I’m not there, but, do what you can to keep the children and the teachers safe, but try as best as possible to keep the schools open.
On December 29, CNN reported that Dr. Fauci is concerned about the new Covid-19 mutation in the U.K.
…Americans should take the new coronavirus strain “very seriously” as the country prepares for a potential new surge of cases.
Reports out of the U.K. show concern that the new variant of Covid-19 could more easily affect children. See the Independent on December 21. Mutant coronavirus strain could more easily infect children, scientists fear.
On December 31, the Los Angeles Times reports on a conversation Dr. Fauci has with Gov. Gavin Newsom about the difficulty of controlling the pandemic there and across the country.
California can’t find enough hospital beds for their patients, but schools?
Dr. Fauci says:
What we should do is to do everything to support the maintenance of the children in school. … If you really want to get society back to some form of normality, one of the first things we have to do is get the children back in school.
He also states:
With the coronavirus, children seem to have lower levels of infection than the broader community.
In LA county, at least, they seem to be taking a cautious route. Schools are to remain closed in January.
But what about the lower levels of infection in children?
As of September, 121 children had died of Covid-19 in the country. Most children who have succumbed to the disease are children of color.
NPR reports on the racial disparity:
Of the children who died, 78% were children of color: 45% were Hispanic, 29% were Black and 4% were non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
In November, the AAP reported:
More than 1 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a figure the AAP president called “staggering and tragic.”
By December, the previous AAP figures changed over to 2 million children testing positive for Covid-19, and 172 children have died.
But despite these figures, like Dr. Fauci, the AAP are cheerleaders for school openings.
In Chicago, eight pediatricians demanded that schools open in a December 29, Chicago Sun-Times opinion piece.
They stated, As medical doctors, we believe reopening Chicago’s schools is essential and safe.
While many parents follow these recommendations and want schools to open, not all Chicago parents agreed with the physicians’ recommendations. See the Chicago Sun-Times Letter to the Editor, and Parents can’t trust CPS to open schools safely.
But more schools opened in Chicago, and some teachers held their classes outside bundled up in 30-degree weather because they believed that it was safer than being inside the building.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
On November 17, The Hill reported that the CDC had quietly changed school guidelines to be stricter than when President Trump and Betsy DeVos used them to push for school openings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has quietly removed controversial guidance from its website that pushed for schools to reopen in the fall and downplayed the transmission risks of COVID-19 to children and others.
The documents, one of which was reportedly written by political appointees outside of the CDC, stated that children appear to be at lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than adults. Children are unlikely to be major spreaders of the virus.
But Dr. Robert Redfield, who leads the CDC, tells WUSA9 Washington on November 20:
The truth is, for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be from our perspective is to remain in school.
In addition to the fears of children catching Covid-19, there’s also grave concern that children spread the disease. Repeatedly the American people are told that children aren’t Covid-19 spreaders, but some studies tell a different story. Why isn’t there a better acknowledgment of the Princeton study claiming students are superspreaders?
With a vaccine within reach, it seems irresponsible to continue to send children, teachers, and staff back indoors at this time, likely leading to more Covid-19 cases and even deaths.
There’s great respect for Dr. Fauci, the CDC, and the AAP, and their words matter. But it’s difficult to understand their stance on what appears to be life-threatening recommendations concerning schools.
Do doctors not understand the realities of public education, the poor ventilation systems, the grouping of children, and the inability to separate students from each other and crowded conditions that educators struggle to manage?
No one can argue that there aren’t problems with children staying home and missing school; this is a tragedy of huge proportions. But Covid-19 will hopefully be less of a problem one day soon, and this country will need its teachers and public schools back along with healthy students, our future.
In the meantime, teachers have been holding down the fort. Many have risen to the occasion and are remotely reaching out to students. It will never be as good as in-person schooling, but public schools should not be used as Covid-19 Petri dishes to get the economy rolling. Our children and their teachers and school staff need protection now more than ever.
Additional Reading About this Issue
Milwaukee Educator Terrence Falk wrote The race to reopen schools. The Wisconsin Examiner, January 4, 2021.
Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig wrote COVID AND SCHOOLS: THE DATA AND SCIENCE THEN AND NOW, Cloaking Inequity, January 3, 2021.
Doris Barton says
And according to the latest information in our state, school employees and pre school workers will not receive the vaccine till February/March! This is a disgrace!
Nancy Bailey says
Yep! That seems to be happening in several states, Doris. Thanks for pointing that monkey-business out.
Donna Jones says
I’m sad to say it but it seems that we’re being used more as babysitters than teachers. Unfortunately the people who make these decisions never set foot in a typical public school and have absolutely no idea what we face! Obviously they pick and choose sources for these decisions, some of which are based on opinion and not fact, to use for their decisions instead of looking at a cross section of solid research from experts. This is just shameful!
J.D. Newman says
I am an educator who does not qualify for a vaccine yet. My district just told me that if I do not go back to on campus teaching in two weeks, I will be fired. My county in WA state is still in in the danger zone for high outbreaks. How do governors justify this?
Nancy Bailey says
How horrible! This seems to be happening around the country and it is unjustified. Thank you for sharing. I’m working on a new post about this and hope you will read it and add additional comments. Stay well.