Archives for category: Health

Tulsa experienced a surge in new infections, and Tulsa health officials say that the Trump rally on June 20 was a likely cause.

Keep watch on the numbers in Arizona and South Dakota, where Trump held rallies, also Trump’s next stop, New Hampshire.

He is a Super Spreader. He is a one-man catastrophe.

In six weeks, the Republican National Convention will be held in Jacksonville, Florida. No social distancing. No requirement to wear masks. Lots of cheering and droplets in the air. Then delegates will fan out across the country, some bringing the disease home.

This is no way to fight a pandemic.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has canceled the State GOP Convention, which was scheduled for next week.

In light of the dangerous health situation in Houston, the mayor said it was unsafe.

Good to know that local elected officials take the pandemic seriously, even though the president does not.

Most nations in Europe imposed strict quarantines, masking, and social distancing. They eventually got the virus under control.

Not Sweden. It took a different route, relying on the good sense of individuals and the hope of “herd immunity.” It didn’t work, according to this story in the New York Times.

LONDON — Ever since the coronavirus emerged in Europe, Sweden has captured international attention by conducting an unorthodox, open-air experiment. It has allowed the world to examine what happens in a pandemic when a government allows life to carry on largely unhindered.

This is what has happened: Not only have thousands more people died than in neighboring countries that imposed lockdowns, but Sweden’s economy has fared little better.

“They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.”

The results of Sweden’s experience are relevant well beyond Scandinavian shores. In the United States, where the virus is spreading with alarming speed, many states have — at President Trump’s urging — avoided lockdowns or lifted them prematurely on the assumption that this would foster economic revival, allowing people to return to workplaces, shops and restaurants.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson — previously hospitalized with Covid-19 — reopened pubs and restaurants last weekend in a bid to restore normal economic life.

Implicit in these approaches is the assumption that governments must balance saving lives against the imperative to spare jobs, with the extra health risks of rolling back social distancing potentially justified by a resulting boost to prosperity. But Sweden’s grim result — more death, and nearly equal economic damage — suggests that the supposed choice between lives and paychecks is a false one: A failure to impose social distancing can cost lives and jobs at the same time.

Sweden put stock in the sensibility of its people as it largely avoided imposing government prohibitions. The government allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, playgrounds and most schools to remain open. By contrast, Denmark and Norway opted for strict quarantines, banning large groups and locking down shops and restaurants.

More than three months later, the coronavirus is blamed for 5,420 deaths in Sweden, according to the World Health Organization. That might not sound especially horrendous compared with the more than 129,000 Americans who have died. But Sweden is a country of only 10 million people. Per million people, Sweden has suffered 40 percent more deaths than the United States, 12 times more than Norway, seven times more than Finland and six times more than Denmark.

The moral of the story: Social discipline and leadership are necessary to get the disease under control. In the absence of both, the virus will continue to spread and destroy lives.

Trump demanded that schools reopen for in-person instruction in a few weeks, as the pandemic surges in more than half the states. He and his party have refused to pass the HEROES act to provide additional resources for schools.

DeVos blasted school districts that hesitate to open, fearing risk to students and staff. She said, patronizingly, that life has many risks: get over it.

THE ANSWER IS NO! TRUMP AND DEVOS ARE WILLING TO SACRIFICE LIVES TO RESTART THE ECONOMY! NO!

Trump doesn’t care about the lives of students and staff. He cares only about his poll numbers. DeVos is arrogant and doesn’t care what might happen to students and teachers and other staff in public schools. She never has.

Opening schools without elaborate and carefully planned protocols for testing, daily screenings, masks, small classes, and social distancing is insane.

Opening schools in the middle of a raging and uncontrolled pandemic is irresponsible. Whose loves will be sacrificed?

What example has Trump set by refusing to wear a mask? Didn’t he just falsely claim that 99% of COVID infections are “totally harmless”?

DO NOT OPEN—DO NOT EVEN THINK OF OPENING—UNLESS EVERYONE IS SAFE, STAFF AND STUDENTS ALIKE.

CORONAVIRUS IS DANGEROUS. IT IS NOT LIKE THE COMMON COLD.

President Trump on Tuesday dialed up pressure on state and local authorities to reopen schools, even as coronavirus cases spike, accusing officials who keep them closed as being motivated by politics.


He said in-person education was essential for the well-being of students, parents and the country as a whole, and he vowed to keep up the pressure on governors to open buildings.
“We want to reopen the schools,” Trump said. “We don’t want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons. They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep schools closed. No way.”


The president did not mention that his own reelection prospects may depend on whether voters see the country as having recovered from the economic and social devastation of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It’s also unclear whether the schools push will be a political winner for Trump.

Some parents are eager to return to normal but many others, fearful of the virus, have told districts they want to keep their children home this fall.


Virtually every K-12 school in the United States closed this spring in an effort to control infections, abruptly moving to online learning.

The system worked reasonably well for some families in some school districts but was an outright failure in others.

Colleges and universities also shut down, though their remote learning was generally seen as more successful.
Now schools at all levels are struggling to develop plans for the fall, with many planning a mix of in-person and online classes…

During an afternoon dialogue at the White House, federal, state and local officials made the case for in-person schooling, saying it was imperative for the education and social-emotional well-being of children, and critical for parents who need to go to work.

They noted that schools provide children with meals, mental health counseling and socialization.
“Parents have to get back to the factory. They’ve got to get back to the job site. They have to get back to the office. And part of that is their kids, knowing their kids are taken care of,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.


Children, officials added, are far less likely to become ill and die of the virus than older people, though little was said about the teachers and staff who might be at risk.
“We cannot simply focus on virus containment at the expense of everything else,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at HHS.


The confidence projected from the White House stood in contrast with the angst in many local districts working to develop plans for the fall. Most big cities and many others are developing hybrid models that alternate days in the building and days at home to minimize the number of students present at any given time.



Those models are being developed in part to comply with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends “enhanced social distancing” in buildings. For instance, the CDC recommends that desks be placed at least six feet apart, something that might not be possible if all students are on site.


Administration officials did not address these hybrid plans directly, though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that schools “must fully reopen and fully operate this school year.”


One guest, Patrick Daly, principal of St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma, Calif., said he plans a hybrid system, where students learn from home on certain days. Trump replied that he hoped the school could be in-person full time.

“I know you want to try,” he said.
CDC Director Robert Redfield noted that the agency never recommended that schools close in the first place. And he appeared concerned that his agency’s guidance has made districts reticent to open.
“Nothing would cause me greater sadness” than learning that schools view the guidance as reason not to open, he said.


Schools can safely reopen if they arrange for appropriate social distancing, face coverings and strong personal hygiene including hand-washing, Azar said.

He and some other administration officials were seen wearing masks at the White House, something the president has resisted.


Making his case for a return to normal, Trump repeatedly played down the rising number of coronavirus cases, saying treatments and vaccines are coming soon. He said there are only more cases because the country is doing more testing, a point health experts dispute.

Politico reported on a phone call that DeVos had with the governors, in which she demanded that schools reopen and ignore the risks.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia responded:

“The reality is no one should listen to Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos when it comes to what is best for students,” said Lily Eskelsen García, National Education Association president. “Trump has not once proven credible, compassionate or thoughtful when it comes to this pandemic.”

The White House is hammering a message of reopening schools even as coronavirus cases spike throughout the country, insisting it’s okay to move ahead and that decisions last spring to close doors came from states rather than health experts at the CDC.

Ignore them. They don’t care about human life. They care about the stock market and the election.

Carol Burris, experienced teacher and educator, writes here about the importance of reopening schools, with caution. Carol is executive director of the Network for Public Education, but she writes here on her own behalf; NPE has not taken a position on when or whether schools should reopen.

This article appeared on Valerie Strauss’s blog, “The Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post.

When covid-19 hit New South Wales, Australia, the majority of students shifted to remote instruction, with in-school instruction only for those families who needed it. After a few weeks, however, educators began to worry when they saw a reduction in calls to child protective services. It was likely that the reduction was not due to a decrease in child abuse, but rather the absence of the vigilance provided by schools. And officials could not guarantee the safety — or the learning — of some of the most vulnerable students, Education Week’s Madeline Will reported, so they shifted to a different strategy.




By May, New South Wales’ schools began to reopen for all — requiring physical attendance for all students at least one day a week. Now, some form of in-school instruction is happening in every Australian state; some have full attendance requirements and others do not. Each state has developed its plan based on local health needs. Schools have been agile in responding whenever an infection occurred.


As a former teacher and principal, I understand New South Wales’ worry. Schools play a critical role in the lives of children beyond the delivery of instruction. As a high school principal on Long Island, much of my day was spent with counselors and social workers addressing crises in teenagers’ lives. Child protective services was called, on average, once a month.
Combating truancy, school phobia, student depression, and drug dependency were part of our everyday work. The tragedy of student suicide was not unknown to us. Some students needed help talking to parents about their pregnancy or support in leaving an abusive relationship. And then there were the students living with parents who themselves were unwell.


Students at risk can easily slip through cracks. Due to the isolation of remote learning, those cracks have become crevices. Anecdotally, pediatricians are reporting rises in depression, obesity, and stress disorders as well as young children having heart palpitations absent a physical cause.


Research tells us that socially isolated children and adolescents are at risk of depression and anxiety. We know that too much screen time can result in inattention and impulsivity, and mental health disorders in both children and adolescents. And preliminary studies have shown that all but top students are academically falling behind — with the most disadvantaged students experiencing the most significant learning loss.


The Maasai tribe of Africa greet each other with the phrase, “Kasserian ingera,” which means, “And how are the children?” Right now, absent in-person contact, most school’s answer would be, “we don’t know.”




There are some things we do know, however. We know that children aged 10 and under are less likely to be infected by covid-19, less likely to be severely ill, and less likely to transmit the disease. A study of the spread of the disease in Iceland did not find even one instance of a child under 10 years old infecting a parent. A study of Australian schools found that “children are unlikely to transmit the coronavirus to each other or to adults in the classroom.” And the cautious, staged reopening of schools in 22 European nations did not lead to “any significant increase in coronavirus infections among children, parents or staff.”


While that is good news, there is a caveat. Reopening schools as they were before the pandemic was, in one case, a mistake. At first, Israel began reopening schools in a cautious way, with smaller classes and staggered schedules. That reopening was problem-free. Then in mid-May, the economy was fully reopened, and the government decided to throw caution to the wind and abandon the safeguards it had put in place. Infections broke out in several schools that had to be shutdown.


All of this, of course, begs the question, what should American schools do this fall?
The virus may very well be with us for a very long time. A vaccine is unlikely to give us perfect protection and surveys show that one-third of Americans may refuse vaccination.

Recognizing the negative impact of children being separated from in-person schooling, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently advised we pursue the goal of having all students physically present in school, while issuing guidance on how best to keep students and teachers safe.




It would be reckless for states with surging cases to reopen schools as though the virus is not happening. However, there are states where the virus is in decline or where low rates are holding steady. When asked whether schools should reopen this fall, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that decisions should be made locally, based on the severity of the virus.


Yes, it is complicated. It may mean periodic shifts to remote instruction for some classes or even schools if surges return.

Some states may have mid-year openings when the virus retreats.


But that is no reason to throw up so many barriers that it becomes impossible for any school to reopen until (and if) the virus disappears.


A recent Change.org petition claims its signers will not return to in-person school until there are 14 covid-free days in the county in which the school is located, along with universal single-payer health care, full payment of all mortgages and rent throughout the pandemic, and the fulfillment of other demands. Decisions about how much in-person time students receive and how much social distancing is required to reduce risk should be informed by science and medicine, not by politics on the one hand or unreasonable fear on the other.


Reopening schools will not be easy or inexpensive. Flexibility and resources will be required. Congress must send funding to states specifically dedicated to ensuring that schools can open safely — money that supplements, not supplants state funding to schools. If we have the funds to bail out corporations, how can we tell our schools to keep children and teachers safe with less?


We must follow the cautious examples of other countries, as well as learn from the success of those centers that have provided childcare for essential workers throughout the pandemic. Adjustments should be made based on grade level and student need.


Even in states that have put the virus in retreat, we will need to start with hybrid models that combine in-person and virtual learning — perhaps beginning as tentatively as New South Wales.

Safety requires small group instruction, health support in every school, masks and other supplies, as appropriate. And as vitally important as economic revival is, our decisions on the reopening of schools must put children first.


Children have been the silent victims of this pandemic. They have been subjected to harm, in part, by irresponsible adults who have refused to do what it takes to put the virus in check.


We owe it to them to not throw up our hands and say, “It is too hard to bring you back to school.” We must answer the question, “And how are the children?” with “better than last spring, and improving every day.”

In this post, experienced teacher Mark Weber (aka Jersey Jazzman) explains “How Schools Work” and the practical problems that will arise if and when schools open during a pandemic.

Even if schools get all the money they need (which is far from certain), there will still be the issues he raises.

Even if schools get all of the money they need, and staff show remarkable ingenuity and creativity, there are some basic, inconvenient truths we need to face about how schools work before we claim we can reopen safely this fall. So, in no particular order:

– Children, especially young children, cannot be expected to stay six feet away from everyone else during an entire school day. Sorry, even if a school has the room, it’s just not going to happen. One adult can’t keep eyes on a couple/few dozen children every second of every hour of every day to ensure they don’t drift into each others’ spaces. You certainly can’t do that and teach. And you can’t expect children to self-police. Young children are simply not developmentally able to remind themselves over seven hours not to get near each other.

– Children cannot be expected to wear masks of any kind for the duration of a school day. At some point, the mask has to come off; even adult medical professionals take breaks. And anyone who’s worked with young children knows they will play with their masks and not even realize they’re doing it. It’s simply unrealistic to expect otherwise.

– The typical American school cannot accommodate social distancing of their student population for the duration of the school day. Schools were designed for efficiency, which means crowded hallways and tight classrooms. Schools are expected to foster student and teacher interactions, which means close quarters. Expecting every students and staff member to maintain a 3 foot bubble* around themselves is not realistic given the way most school buildings are laid out.

– School staff do not generally have isolated spaces in their workplaces where they can stay when not working with children. I don’t have an office; I have a classroom. I’m only by myself when the kids leave… but everything they breathed on and touched and coughed on stays. I’m not an epidemiologist so I don’t know exactly what the consequences of this are, but I suspect it matters.

– School buses cannot easily accommodate social distancing, nor can they easily adjust to accommodate staggered school sessions. School buses aren’t as big as you remember (when’s the last time you were on one?). Social distancing is the last thing school bus engineers had in mind when designing the things. In addition: school districts often stagger the times of bus routes, usually by grade level, to get all the kids to school (this is why high school often starts much earlier than elementary school). If you go to split shifts, you are conceivably expanding a bus’s routes from, say, 6 to 12.** Unless you greatly expand the school day and pay a lot more for busing staff, it’s not going to work.

– Like every other workforce, school staff have many people who have preconditions that make them susceptible to becoming critically ill when exposed to Covid-19. The big worry I keep reading about is age — but that’s just the start. Three-fourths of the school workforce are women, and many are in their childbearing years; are we prepared to have pregnant teachers working? What about teachers who think they might be pregnant? And then all the pre-existing conditions…

– Schools are only one part of the childcare system in this country. The big worry seems to be that if we don’t get kids to school, parents can’t get back to work. But for many (most?) parents, the school day only covers part of the work day. Before- and after-school programs are a big part of the childcare system. Are we going to be able to enforce all the same restrictions on children during these hours that we will during the school day?

– Unsupervised adolescents cannot be expected to socially distance outside of the school day if schools are reopened. If we’ve got adults showing up at bars without masks in the middle of a frightening peak in Covid-19 cases, what do you think teenagers are going to do when school’s done for the day? Especially if we leave them at home, unsupervised, learning remotely while their parents work?

– Teachers are trained and experienced within an area of certification; moving them out of that area will lead to less effective instruction. When you become a teacher, you get a certification — maybe even two or three — in a particular area. Each certification requires coursework, and often a placement as a student teacher, in that area. A secondary math teacher, for example, has to study math at a certain level, and then learn how to teach it. You can’t expect a kindergartner teacher who’s been trained in early childhood education to do that job — and vice versa.***

– Even within an area of certification, moving teachers on short notice to a new subject or grade will lead to less effective instruction. How hard can it be to move from teaching 4th Grade to 3rd? More than you’d think. Every grade has its own curriculum, materials, assessments, etc. Teachers spend years developing lessons that often can’t be transferred to another grade level or subject; a choir teacher, for example, can’t just take her lessons over to the school band, even if she is a great music teacher. Expecting teachers to move quickly between grades or within areas and not face a learning curve defies common sense.

There is more. Open the link and keep reading.

This post will propose a GRAND BARGAIN for reopening the schools.

There is a great demand to reopen the schools for the sake of the economy, and there is great resistance to reopening the schools due to fears about the safety of children and staff.

Parents and teachers are worried that if schools open too soon, they won’t be safe. Students won’t be safe if classrooms are crowded. If students don’t wear masks, they will be in constant confrontations with teachers. How do you keep very young children six feet apart? What about safety measures to protect the staff? These are all genuine problems.

What makes this entire discussion surreal is that Congress and the Trump administration have thus far refused to pass legislation that would send the aid needed to help schools reopen safely and help local and state governments cope with drastic reductions in revenues due to the shutdown of the economy.

Some states are planning to cut school funding by large amounts. They are willing to lay off teachers and support staff, including nurses. Under these conditions, schools cannot possibly reopen safely and should not.

A few states, like California, plan to hold the school budget where it is, with no cuts.

But to reopen, schools need MORE funding. They must reduce class sizes drastically to have safe social distancing. Depending on room sizes, classrooms should have no more than 10-15 students. To do that means hiring MORE teachers.

The Council of Chief State School Officers has estimated that it will require up to $244 billion in additional federal aid to reopen schools safely. It might be even more. If that is the cost of reopening schools and reopening the economy, it is a price worth paying.

Since the federal government has failed to take the lead in controlling the pandemic, the number of cases of coronavirus continues to rise, unlike the EU or Canada or many other nations. Where the virus is still rising, as in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other states, schools cannot open safely.

But where the virus has been contained, schools can act on reopening plans only if they are adequately funded.

The only way to reopen schools safely, whether in the fall or months later, is by a dramatic increase in the budget so that there will be enough staff to protect the health and safety of the children, the teachers, and other staff.

Schools will need to hire additional nurses and health aides to monitor the temperature and health of everyone in the school as well as psychologists and social workers to aid students who have suffered trauma in recent months.

Some advocates of distance learning think it should become “the new normal,” but the past few months has demonstrated that not much learning is going on, that students are bored and long to be with their friends and teachers, and that distance learning is at best only a temporary fix.

Parents, business leaders, and everyone concerned about reopening the schools and the economy should together demand that the federal government provide whatever funds are needed to reopen schools safely so parents can return to work knowing that their children are safe. It may or may not happen in September, and there will be regional and local variations, depending on whether the coronavirus has been controlled.

But whenever it happens, the highest priority must be the safety and well-being of children and school staff.

It will not happen safely without a massive increase in funding from the federal government.

It should not happen until that funding has been approved.

Mitchell Robinson is a professor at Michigan State University.

In this post, he reviews the issues involved in reopening schools in the fall.

Teachers should not be expected to return unless conditions are safe for both students and adults.

That means more resources, not budget cuts.

Steven Singer is a veteran teacher in Pittsburgh. He loves being a teacher. But he loves being alive even more. He doesn’t think it will be possible to open the schools safely because our government has failed to take the steps necessary to control the pandemic. Other nations have. But we haven’t, and now we are paying the price.

Singer writes:

Nearly every other comparable country kept that downward trend. But not us.

The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Canada…

But the United States!?

Ha!

You think we can wear masks in public to guard against the spread of infection? No way! Our President politicized them.

Stay indoors to keep away from infected people? It’s summer and the beaches are open.

And – heck! – we’ve got to make sure restaurants and bars and other businesses are open, too, or else the economy will suffer…A sane country would come together and provide people with federal relief checks, personal protective equipment (PPE), protection from evictions, and universal healthcare. But we don’t live in that country.

Instead we’re all just going to have to suffer.

Not only you and me, but our kids, too.

Because they will have to somehow try to continue their educations through all this madness – again. And this time it won’t merely be for the last quarter of the year. It will be at the start of a new grade when everything is new and fresh and the groundwork is being laid for the entire academic year.

I don’t even know what to hope for anymore.

Would it be better to try to do a whole year of distance learning?

I speak from experience here – April and May were a cluster.

Kids didn’t have the necessary technology, infrastructure or understanding of how to navigate it. And there was no way to give it to them when those were the prerequisites to instruction.

Not to mention resources. All the books and papers and lessons were back in the classroom – difficult to digitize. Teachers had to figure out how to do everything from scratch with little to no training at the drop of a hat. (And guess what – not much has changed in the subsequent weeks.)

Let’s talk motivation. Kids can be hard to motivate under the best of circumstances, but try doing it through a screen! Try building a trusting instructional relationship with a child when you’re just a noisy bunch of pixels. Try meeting individual special needs.

A lot of things inevitably end up falling through the cracks and it’s up to parents to pick up the pieces. But how can they do that when they’re trying to work from home or working outside of the home or paralyzed with anxiety and fear?

And this is probably the BEST option, because what else do we have?

Are we really going to open the school buildings and teach in-person? While that would be much better from an academic standpoint, there’s still the problem of a global pandemic.

Kids will get sick. As time goes on we see increasingly younger people getting infected with worsening symptoms. We really don’t know what the long term effects of this disease will be.

And even if young people are mostly asymptomatic, chances are good they’ll spread this thing to the rest of us.

They’ll bring it home to their families. They’ll give it to their teachers.

Even if we only have half the kids one day and the other half on another day, that won’t help much. We’re still being exposed to at least a hundred kids every week. (Not to mention the question of how to effectively teach some kids in-person while the rest are on-line!)

Even with masks on – and can you imagine teaching in a mask!? Can you imagine kids wearing masks all day!? – those respiratory droplets will spread through our buildings like mad!

Many of us are in the most susceptible groups because of age or health.

Don’t get me wrong – I want to get back to my classroom and teach my students in-person more than almost anything – except dying.

I’d rather live a little bit longer, thank you… A crappy year of education is better than mass death.

Nancy Bailey has 22 reasons why schools should not open this fall.

Here are the first four:

1. Illness and Russian Roulette

According to the CDC, the risk might seem low for children, but they still get sick, some seriously. Children and teenagers have died. Questions still surround the disease. It’s not worth the risk. Maybe the situation will improve by January, or next summer. Currently we’re experiencing a pandemic and safety is the number one concern.

2. How Will the Flu and Covid-19 Tango?

Maybe Covid-19 alone doesn’t affect children as badly as adults, but what if you mix it with the flu? Every year the flu kills children. Last January, before Covid-19 became well known, 27 children had died of the flu. What will the dance of these two illnesses look like in the fall?

3. Adults Matter Too!

A large concern with children is that they can spread the disease to teachers, parents, and grandparents who could be vulnerable. It isn’t fair to risk their health by reopening schools. Teachers and staff should not have to fear their workplace.

4. Lacking Consensus

Adults can’t agree on recommendations surrounding Covid-19, so how can teachers protect children brought together in the classroom? Some students will want to wear their masks, others won’t. Some students will take the virus seriously, others won’t.

Agree or not, Nancy is always thoughtful.