Archives for category: Health

The Washington Post reports that schools have reopened safely in Germany, with no major outbreaks of coronavirus—yet. The key to success is the rate of transmission in the community. Or so it seems. With this virus, you can never be certain of future behavior. The difference in the U.S. is that some states are making no effort to control the virus, not even mandating mask-wearing. Trump has unfortunately encouraged and modeled anti-social behavior.

When the community is safe, the schools are likely to be safe.

It’s been a month since German children began to lead Europe in the post-summer ­return to school, streaming back into classrooms and onto playgrounds, with little aside from masks to differentiate the scene from pre-coronavirus times.


So far, epidemiologists are cautiously optimistic.
The school openings have been accompanied by some panicked closures and quarantines.

In the first week, there were 31 clusters — amounting to 150 cases — of the novel coronavirus in schools, ­according to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI). At least 41 schools in Berlin were reported to have been affected in the first two weeks.


But there have been few transmissions within schools themselves, health experts say, and although the number of new daily cases in Germany has been rising, schools haven’t been identified as a driver of infections.


“It’s looking promising,” said Johannes Huebner, president of the German Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases. “There have not been any major outbreaks yet. Single cases, but they seem to be manageable.”


While Germany’s full-throttle return to class may provide some assurance for those fretting about school returns in the United States and elsewhere, health experts note that it’s still just the early days — and they warn about extrapolating too much. They say the risk associated with reopenings has a lot to do with the levels of the virus circulating in a community.


“The important thing is you have to keep the number in the community low,” said Huebner, who is also head of the infectious-disease department at Munich’s Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital. “This is where the United States will have problems.”




Despite a rise in infections that Germany’s RKI said “must be taken seriously,” the 1,484 new cases reported Friday among the country’s population of 83 million compare with at least 37,876 new cases in the latest U.S. report — more than 25 times as many infections in a population just four times as large.

Folks, the federal government is in the hands of some very unstable people. The man in charge of communicating public information about the coronavirus at CDC is an unhinged Trump loyalist.

This story was in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.

Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers.

He went further, saying his physical health was in question, and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He also said the mounting number of Covid-19 deaths was taking a toll on him, telling his viewers, “You are not waking up every morning and talking about dead Americans.” The United States has lost more than 194,200 people to the virus. Mr. Caputo urged people to attend Trump rallies, but only with masks.

To a certain extent, Mr. Caputo’s comments in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page were simply an amplified version of remarks that the president himself has made. Both men have singled out government scientists and health officials as disloyal, suggested that the election will not be fairly decided, and insinuated that left-wing groups are secretly plotting to incite violence across the United States.

But Mr. Caputo’s attacks were more direct, and they came from one of the officials most responsible for shaping communications around the coronavirus.

C.D.C. scientists “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” Mr. Caputo said. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”

A longtime Trump loyalist with no background in health care, Mr. Caputo, 58, was appointed by the White House to his post in April, at a time when the president’s aides suspected the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, of protecting his public image instead of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Caputo coordinates the messaging of an 80,000-employee department that is at the center of the pandemic response, overseeing the Food and Drug Administration, the C.D.C. and the National Institutes of Health.

“Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Mr. Caputo’s Facebook comments were another sign of the administration’s deep antipathy and suspicion for its own scientific experts across the bureaucracy and the growing political pressure on those experts to toe a political line favorable to Mr. Trump.

This weekend, first Politico, then The New York Times and other news media organizations published accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide had routinely worked to revise, delay or even scuttle the core health bulletins of the C.D.C. to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light. The C.D.C.’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports had previously been so thoroughly shielded from political interference that political appointees only saw them just before they were published.

Mr. Caputo’s 26-minute broadside on Facebook against scientists, the news media and Democrats was also another example of a senior administration official stoking public anxiety about the election and conspiracy theories about the “deep state” — the label Mr. Trump often attaches to the federal Civil Service bureaucracy.

Mr. Caputo predicted that the president would win re-election in November, but that his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., would refuse to concede, leading to violence. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.”

There were no obvious signs from administration officials on Monday that Mr. Caputo’s job was in danger. On the contrary, Mr. Trump again added his voice to the administration’s science denialism. As the president visited California to show solidarity with the fire-ravaged West, he challenged the established science of climate change, declaring, “It will start getting cooler.” He added: “Just watch. I don’t think science knows, actually.”

Mr. Caputo’s remarks also dovetailed in part with those of Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime confidant of both Mr. Caputo and Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress was commuted by the president in July, told the conspiracy website Infowars on Friday that Mr. Trump should consider declaring martial law if he lost re-election.

Grant Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, was among the followers who had joined Mr. Caputo’s talk on Sunday. Mr. Caputo has 5,000 Facebook friends, and his video was viewed more than 850 times. He has now shut down his account.

Over all, his tone was deeply ominous: He warned, again without evidence, that “there are hit squads being trained all over this country” to mount armed opposition to a second term for Mr. Trump. “You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo added.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Caputo told The Times: “Since joining the administration, my family and I have been continually threatened” and harassed by people who have later been prosecuted. “This weighs heavily on us, and we deeply appreciate the friendship and support of President Trump as we address these matters and keep our children safe.”

He insisted on Facebook that he would weather the controversies, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.” And he boasted of the importance of his role, stating that the president had personally put him in charge of a $250 million public service advertising campaign intended to help the United States return to normal.

The Department of Health and Human Services is trying to use that campaign to attract more minority volunteers for clinical trials of potential Covid-19 vaccines and to ask people who have recovered to donate their blood plasma to help other infected patients. Department officials have complained that congressional Democrats are obstructing the effort.

While Mr. Caputo characterized C.D.C. scientists in withering terms, he said the agency’s director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, was “one of my closest friends in Washington,” adding, “He is such a good man.” Mr. Caputo is partly credited with helping choose Dr. Redfield’s new interim chief of staff.

Critics say Dr. Redfield has left the Atlanta-based agency open to so much political interference that career scientists are the verge of resigning. The agency was previously seen as mostly apolitical; its reports were internationally respected for their importance and expertise.

Mr. Caputo charged that scientists “deep in the bowels of the C.D.C.” walked “around like they are monks” and “holy men” but engaged in “rotten science.”

He fiercely defended his scientific adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, who was heavily involved in the effort to reshape the C.D.C.’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. Mr. Caputo described Dr. Alexander, an assistant professor at McMaster University in Canada, as “a genius.”

“To allow people to die so that you can replace the president” is a “grievous sin,” Mr. Caputo said. “And these people are all going to hell.”

A public relations specialist, Mr. Caputo has repeatedly claimed that his family and his business suffered hugely because of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Caputo was a minor figure in that inquiry, but he was of interest partly because he had once lived in Russia, had worked for Russian politicians and was contacted in 2016 by a Russian who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Caputo referred that person to Mr. Stone and was never charged with any wrongdoing. Mr. Caputo later wrote a book and produced a documentary, both entitled “The Ukraine Hoax,” to undermine the case for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

Mr. Caputo worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign for a time but was passed over for a job early in the administration. He remained friendly with Dan Scavino, the former campaign aide who is now the deputy chief of staff for White House communications and played a role in reconnecting Mr. Trump and Mr. Caputo.

Some of Mr. Caputo’s most disturbing comments were centered on what he described as a left-wing plot to harm the administration’s supporters. He claimed baselessly that the killing of a Trump supporter in Portland, Ore., in August by an avowed supporter of the left-wing collective was merely a practice run for more violence.

“Remember the Trump supporter who was shot and killed?” Mr. Caputo said. “That was a drill.”

The man suspected in the shooting, Michael Forest Reinoehl, was shot dead this month by officers from a federally led fugitive task force in Washington State. He “went down fighting,” Mr. Caputo said. “Why? Because he couldn’t say what he had inside him.”

The pastor who officiated at a super-spreader wedding gave a defiant indoor sermon to maskless congregants, according to the Boston Globe:

The officiant of a now-infamous wedding in Millinocket gave a defiant sermon during an indoor church service on Sunday, just a day after Maine’s CDC announced it was investigating a coronavirus outbreak among those affiliated with the Sanford church.

Todd Bell, the pastor, portrayed Calvary Baptist Church, which he leads, as being on the front lines of a culture war, battling against a “socialistic platform” that mandates mask-wearing and distance learning in schools.

“I’ll tell you what the world wants all the churches to do,” Bell said during one of two Sunday services, which the church posted on YouTube. “They want us to shut down, go home, and let people get used to that just long enough until we can finally stop the advancing of the Gospel.”

Bell’s comments echoed some of the political talking points that President Trump and others on the right have used to decry coronavirus restrictions. At a rally in New Hampshire on Friday night, for example, Trump lamented that Democrats “don’t believe law-abiding citizens can go to a church together. You can’t go to church anymore.”

The Aug. 7 wedding at which Bell officiated in East Millinocket has been linked to 123 coronavirus cases in Maine, the largest outbreak in the state, as well as to the death of Theresa Dentremont, an 83-year-old woman who did not attend the event. Many of the participants in the wedding, including the bride and groom, went silent as the fallout grew, switching their social media accounts to private.

But Bell’s sermon on Sunday, at his church 225 miles south of the scene of the wedding, was fiery and unrepentant, indicating just how politicized the coronavirus has become, even in communities that have been affected by it. At times, he seemed to delight in provocation, saying that he hoped media outlets would watch the service. He did not respond to a request from the Globe for comment.

Churches have been political battlegrounds during the coronavirus, as well as occasional hot spots, with more than 650 cases linked to houses of worship and religious events since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times database in early July.

On Sunday morning, a 15-person choir assembled onstage at Calvary Baptist, maskless, and sang hymns.

The state of Maine says “cloth face coverings must be worn by all attendees when physical distancing is difficult to maintain” at worship services and also that “choirs are strongly discouraged.” When asked by the Globe whether the Sanford church was violating state rules, the Maine CDC said only that there was an ongoing investigation into the outbreak.

Gib Parrish, an epidemiologist in Maine, said that, based on what the Globe described of the service, the Sunday gathering appeared to increase the risk of participants contracting the coronavirus.

“If there are people who are likely to be positive in that group, then having an extended period of time together — particularly if they’re close by, [and] they’re not doing anything in terms of physical distancing or wearing masks, if they’re singing or shouting or talking loudly — those are activities that are known to facilitate transmission of the virus,” Parrish said.

Bell said in the sermon that the church was discouraging people from coming if they were sick and advising them to quarantine at home.

The pastor also warned his congregants that a vaccine against the coronavirus would include “aborted baby tissue,” an issue that some religious and antiabortion groups have seized upon in recent months. A number of vaccines, including those against rubella, chickenpox, and shingles, were manufactured using fetal cells from elective abortions decades ago, but the cell lines that continue to grow the vaccines are now generations removed from fetal cells. In April, a group including committee chairmen from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged the Food and Drug Administration not to develop a coronavirus vaccine using cell lines that originated from fetal cells.

Bell said that instead of trusting a vaccine, he would put his faith in God, “the one that has the power to remove pestilences.”

The Boston Globe says the infamous wedding has thus far produced three deaths and more than 130 infections. It cited evangelical leaders who said that Pastor Bell represented a fringe element, not the mainstream of evangelical Christianity.

But even as such episodes of defiance and denial of COVID-19 make the rounds online, pastors and theologians in New England say such stances represent a fringe view within evangelical Christianity, one that serves to heighten the distance many faithful already feel from the politically fraught term “evangelical…”

“I think the aggressive stance of the guy in Maine is an outlier, and it makes me kind of cringe,” said Jeffrey Bass, executive director of Emmanuel Gospel Center, a group that works closely with evangelical churches in the Boston area.

Ryan Burge, an assistant professor at Eastern Illinois University who researches religion and political behavior, said evangelicals who reject public health guidance in the name of religious freedom are not representative of the movement as a whole.

Although there is no universally accepted definition of what it means to be an evangelical Christian, it’s generally understood to mean a commitment to the Christian gospel’s message of spiritual salvation through Jesus Christ, and a dedication to spreading that gospel to others. Self-identified evangelicals and born-again Christians make up 41 percent of Americans. Polls suggest the majority take COVID-19 precautions seriously, Burge and other experts said.

Chris Mann sings a song from “Les Miserables” for Betsy DeVos, who wants kids in school no matter how much disease surrounds them and their teachers, principals, and school staff.

This valuable report analyzes how money could be better spent to protect students at school. It’s findings are stunning. We as a nation are spending vast sums on police in schools but insignificant amounts on mental health services and counselors who interact directly with students.

KEY FINDINGS & OBSERVATIONS

*Since 2018, states have allocated an additional $965 million to law enforcement in schools.

*According to a 2019 ACLU study, 1.7 million students have cops in their schools, but no counselors; 3 million have cops, but no nurses; 6 million have cops, but no school psychologists; and 10 million have cops, but no social workers.

*As of 2020, nearly 60 percent of all schools and 90 percent of high schools now have a law enforcement officer at least part time.

*The $33.2 million “school security” budget allocated for 2021 in Washington, D.C., could instead fund up to 222 psychologists, 345 guidance counselors, or 332 social workers.

*The $15 million “school security” budget approved for 2021 in Chicago could instead fund up to 140 psychologists, 182 guidance counselors, or 192 social workers.

*The $32.5 million “school security” budget allocated for 2021 in Philadelphia could instead fund up to 278 psychologists, 355 guidance counselors, or 467 social workers.

The report describes “militarized schools”:

As of 2019, there were nearly 50,000 school resource officers patrolling the hallways of America’s schools.

In schools that serve predominantly Black student populations, it is often much more than hallways that are patrolled.

For example, D.C. police are deployed to nearly all high schools to monitor cafeterias, auditoriums, hallways, stairwells, restrooms, entrances, and exits, as well as provide security for school-sponsored events. Such schools promote a learning environment that is more akin to that of a correctional institution than an educational one

Dana Milbank is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, where this article appeared:


It was a life-or-death decision, and President Trump chose . . . himself.

To end the pandemic, there must be widespread vaccination among a public already skeptical about inoculations. If Americans think the covid-19 vaccine has been rushed for political reasons, tens of millions won’t take it — and herd immunity won’t kick in.

But Trump just couldn’t help himself. “So we’re going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date,” he teased at a news conference Monday, suggesting vaccination could begin in October. “You know what date I’m talking about.”

Um, Halloween?

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic
If timing a vaccine to Election Day weren’t political enough, Trump also claimed that the Obama administration wouldn’t have had a vaccine for three years, if at all, and that political benefit could “inure” to him.

Such careless, selfish talk confirms Americans’ worst fears about a vaccine. According to a new CBS News poll, just 21 percent of voters said they would get a vaccine as soon as possible, even if it were free, down from 32 percent in July. Two-thirds said they would suspect that a vaccine rolled out this year had been rushed through without sufficient testing, and only 34 percent said they trusted Trump to make sure a safe vaccine is available.

Administration scientists fought mightily Wednesday at a Senate hearing on the vaccine rollout to undo this damaging perception, caused largely by months of Trump’s public pressure on scientists.

“Please hear me now: The rigor of the scientific evaluation on safety and efficacy will not be compromised,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. He urged Americans to “take the information they need from scientists and physicians, and not from politicians.”

Surgeon General Jerome Adams echoed the plea: “There will be no shortcuts. This vaccine will be safe … or it won’t get moved along.”
But senators on both sides were wary. “The president has accused FDA officials of being ‘deep state’ operatives, he’s tweeted conspiracy theories about covid-19 deaths, and he has implicitly tied vaccine development to his reelection campaign,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) observed.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said her state needs “assurance that, yes, this vaccine is going to be safe, that this vaccine has not been subject to political initiatives that would speed it up in any such way that would cause it to be less effective.”

We are interested in hearing about how the struggle to reopen amid the pandemic is affecting people’s lives. Please tell us yours.
It’s all essentially a rerun of what happened at the beginning of the outbreak. Thanks to audio recordings of Trump released by Bob Woodward along with his new book, we know that Trump on Feb. 7 privately confided that the new virus was “deadly stuff.” But instead of preparing the country for such, he publicly claimed it would “disappear” and was no worse than the flu. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward.

That, too, was a life-or-death decision, and Trump chose political expediency.

Now, weeks before the election, this administration has become a government of the Donald, by the Donald and for the Donald. The Justice Department Tuesday intervened in a defamation lawsuit against Trump brought by E. Jean Carroll, who says Trump raped her years ago. Trump’s DOJ wants the United States to be the defendant in the case instead of Trump because, it claims, he was “acting within the scope of his office as President” when he denied the assault.

Attorney General William Barr claimed Wednesday that DOJ’s action was “routine” and is “done frequently.”

Uh-huh.

Also routine: trashing the South Lawn of the White House and the Rose Garden with a political convention, appointing a big-time political donor to disrupt service at the U.S. Postal Service on the eve of an election that will rely on mail-in voting, canceling intelligence briefings for lawmakers about foreign attempts to interfere in the election, having the Justice Department back Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about antifa and election fraud, making federal law-enforcement officers serve as Trump’s political paramilitary and using the federal government to damage Trump’s political opponents and boost his business properties.

Now, Trump is trying to use a vaccine rollout to revive his political fortunes. The result is lost faith in the vaccine — which inevitably will mean more suffering and death.

“What a heartbreak that would be,” Collins told senators Wednesday at a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, “if we go through all of this, we come up with a vaccine that is safe and effective, we have already lost 190,000 people, and we can prevent many more deaths, and yet people are afraid to use it. We can’t let that happen.”
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But it’s already happening, because the head of government has spent four years demonstrating that he cares only about his own interests.

More than 190,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus. The United States leads the world in infections, and the virus is still claiming lives. Soon, it will exceed 200,000.

Today is the premiere of, American Pathogen, a 30-minute documentary puts on record Trump’s historic mishandling of the Coronavirus pandemic. The message is clear: this tragedy was avoidable.

Watch it here (and share!) – AmericanPathogen.com.

Send it to your friends and spread the message: Vote 2020!

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, contributes frequently here.

He writes:

If you want to get really depressed about today’s politics, look at the New York Times’ Upshot, which asked: Should Children Go Back to School? Sadly, the answer has been, “It depends in part on your politics.”

One source the Times cited was a Brookings Institute analysis of data which found that “politics, more than public health, was driving school districts’ reopening plans.” Brookings discovered:

No relationship between school districts’ plans and their counties’ infection rates. Instead, there was a strong correlation between a district’s plans and a county’s support for Mr. Trump in 2016.

We should all be horrified that President Trump and his supporters have put ideology and short term politics over the health of students. When we get through this nightmare, deep soul searching will be necessary as we ask how our politics have devolved to this point.

Below is a step towards such a reckoning. It uses Oklahoma, a “red state” in terms of Republican power, which has become a “red zone” in terms of infection spread, as a case study. White House reports that were not revealed to the public until recently, now show that Oklahoma has the nation’s 8th highest positivity rate.

Eight White House Corona Virus Task Force reports on Oklahoma’s COVID infections were finally released on August 25. As many parents send their kids back to in-person school, they now can read the full truth that could have been revealed almost two months ago about what safe reopenings would require.

This is how Oklahomans finally got access to crucial public health information. The Tulsa World reported that on August 13, before Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx visited Tulsa, Gov. Kevin Stitt said he directed the state Health Department “to post everything and be as transparent as possible.” But, a week later, The Center for Public Integrity published a second, secret report; Tulsa Mayor Bynum thus learned that “eight White House reports had been issued. Bynum said he was only aware of one that had been previously leaked to the media.”

Dr. Birx met briefly with numerous members of the Stitt team and a few others, but without key public health leaders, such as Tulsa Health Department director Bruce Dart, Democratic officeholders, or the press, and she also met privately with Stitt. The governor said, “Overall it went really good, and she’s pleased with Oklahoma and what we’ve done so far.”

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister posted on Facebook that Birx warned, “Oklahoma is about 4 weeks behind the South” and needs to “avoid asymptomatic spread which is happening in Southern states.” That cryptic comment didn’t make the headlines, or prompt a discussion of how would it be possible to reopen schools in counties where the virus was spreading.

Stitt characterized Birx’s advice as, “A lot of other states have shut down bars. That was a recommendation — it wasn’t a recommendation, but that was something she said, you’ve got to be ready if you see your positivities kick up that you can maybe limit bar capacity.”

Tulsa Public Radio challenged spin on the crucial question of how schools and colleges can open this month, adding, “Birx’s task force has, in fact, told Oklahoma it should shut down bars statewide, calling it ‘critical to disrupt transmission.’”

As school was starting, about 50 school sites were dealing with COVID infections; the first week of partial reopening, the number rose to over 100. If – as public health experts predict – asymptomatic children spread the virus to their classmates, teachers and school staff, and their families, parents should ask why they were not warned when Oklahoma entered the “red zone” around July 14.

Similarly, administrators can ask how they could have prepared differently for reopenings if they had been told about the effect of “community spread” on schools. The week before classes were scheduled to open, two school systems had to delay in-person instruction. Who knows how many of those wrenching adjustments will occur in the first weeks of school?

If they had known the full story presented in eight studies, many districts could have prioritized preparation for virtual over in-person instruction. Had administrators been told of the August 2 task force recommendation for a statewide mask mandate, and recommendations as early as July 5 on bars and indoor dining, would they have given different advice to their school boards on reopening? Had they known when the task force recommended that red zone counties limit social gatherings to ten people, would they have thought differently about school sports?

Administrators were already behind in preparing for school because as late as June many researchers still doubted that young people would spread the virus as much as older persons. It wasn’t until late July that experts were fully aware of the super-spreading by young people. And I would add that decision-makers should have considered the New York Times database. It estimated that on July 31 an average Oklahoma County school with 1,000 students would begin the year with 11 students with the virus.

Also, on July 23, the State Board of Education voted 4 to 3 to adopt the protocols presented by State Superintendent Hofmeister as recommendations – not mandates. Had they known what would be revealed in the recent recommendations for Oklahoma, would they have voted differently in terms of making masks mandatory in schools? Had the SDE guidelines on providing only virtual learning been discussed in communities that were fully aware of the task force’s recommendations on limiting the size of social groups, would they have thought differently about closing schools in the counties with the highest infections?

State Impact and the Oklahoman now report that only six of the 136 districts in counties at Orange Level 2 or the higher are starting the year with distance learning. The SDE can only “beg” districts to take unpopular public health actions and only 1/3rd of them mandate masks for students and teachers.

So shouldn’t the Board take another vote? And while they’re at it, they could order districts to report COVID infections to the Health Department.

Moreover, education and urban leaders, as well as state policy-makers should study the new reports within the context of perhaps a bigger threat – the reopening of colleges. Cities have no control over universities’ policies, but especially in areas that attract large numbers of college students who have failed to follow social distancing rules, cities could follow federal guidelines on closing bars and in-person dining. And if state leaders took these public health regulations seriously, they could have taken action with the hugely dangerous Weedstock concert near Oklahoma State University.

This summer’s misstatements of fact by the Stitt administration were serious because they undermined preparations for a safe reopening of schools. During a time of “alt facts,” however, it isn’t surprising that many Oklahomans didn’t demand fact checking of the governor. The release of the full facts occurs at a time when students are placed at risk, and schools will likely struggle with infections. Now that the full task force findings are released, parents, educators, and policy makers may bring a more informed mindset to their guidelines.
More importantly, though, will we take a more morally responsible look at the politics of school reopenings? Will we come to grips with the way that America placed politics over the health and safety of our kids, and pledge to never do that again?

Nancy Bailey provides 91 examples of the confusion that surrounds returning or not returning to school during the pandemic. The complete lack of national leadership has contributed to the confusion. Her opening quote from Betsy DeVos, who said that the coronavirus is “a good thing” for the schools because it is forcing necessary changes; it’s a statement that ranks right up there with Arne Duncan’s ludicrous assertion that Hurricane Karina was the best thing to happen to the schools of New Orleans because it wiped out public schools and the teachers’ union and opened the way for mass privatization and Teach for America.

By the way, Nancy and I have never met, but we collaborated in writing a book called Edspeak and Doubletalk: A Guide to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling. I promise you will love it. We worked very hard to disentangle “reformer speak” from doubletalk. You can order it on Amazon for about $10. We both donated our royalties to the Network for Public Education, so you can not only have a delightful read but send a few pennies to a good cause.

The New York Daily News reported that the Trump administration has changed rules for spending federal funds on emergency spaces, which means that subways and public schools will no longer receive funds for cleaning during the pandemic.

Transit systems, schools and other public facilities in New York could soon become a whole lot dirtier because of a policy change enacted by the Trump administration that’ll strip millions of dollars in critical coronavirus aid for the state, the Daily News has learned.

It’s a gut-punch no one saw coming, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) railed Thursday.

Since the outset of the pandemic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has helped New York and other states cover the costs of coronavirus-fighting efforts — from disinfecting schools and government buildings to stocking up on personal protective equipment for public employees.

But FEMA snuck in a rules change this week to say “the operation of schools and other public facilities” are no longer considered “emergency protective measures eligible for reimbursement,” declaring, “These are not immediate actions necessary to protect public health and safety.”

Presumably, this change will affect schools across the nation that rely on FEMA for extra cleaning.