Last Monday, nine of our interns in the SF Court Watch program and I went down to San Francisco Superior Court—it was my first visit since March 13. We were pushing the court to make streaming video available, so we didn’t have to go into the courtrooms and potentially expose ourselves to COVID.
As I sat there, I became increasingly uncomfortable with what I saw. It was a large room, but there were at least 50 people inside. The ventilation was poor. They didn’t screen people. People were wearing masks, but were pulling them down to talk or in one case—yes—sneeze. For the length of time we were in there—about an hour, even with distancing and masks, it seemed likely that if someone were sick, we might have been exposed to the virus.
After leaving, several of the interns told me that they were extremely uncomfortable. The experience has shifted my thinking about willingness to put anyone in a courtroom.
DJUSD has been polling parents about their preference for the fall. It comes in the middle of two things. On the one hand, a huge surge in cases of COVID. The U.S. added nearly 70,000 cases in a day. Hospitals and ICU units are filled. The death rate is starting to tick back up after months of decline.
On the other hand, the Trump administration is trying to pressure states and schools to re-open. The President tweeted last week: “I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”
“None of the CDC’s recommendations are intended to replace state and local rules and guidance,” Pence said.
My wife and I agree: we are not sending our kids to schools until vaccinations are widely available. We are at 929 cases in Yolo County. Remember when it was in the 300s? That wasn’t very long ago. In May we were getting about 1 to 5 in a day, now we are getting as many as 59 in a day. Things are out of control.
This is why we shouldn’t have opened back up in May, even with the numbers low. It wasn’t because one death in two weeks would shut down the economy. It was because shutting down the economy kept things from spiraling very quickly out of control.
I can tell you, as a parent of kids age 8 and 10 in the 2nd and 4th grades, distance learning was not great. The amount of learning they did after March was minimal. It was a challenge to monitor kids while having two adults with challenging jobs.
But what’s the alternative? I have two high-risk adults in my household. With my diabetes and my wife’s bad asthma, getting COVID probably sends us to an early grave.
People who argue that kids are low risk are missing several key things. First, we really don’t know what the long-term risk is. We see a low mortality rate for younger people—but we also see young people hospitalized and suffering from decreased lung capacity and other chronic ailments. We are messing with things that we don’t understand. That’s scary.
Second, children are not the only variable. You have teachers—and in DJUSD many of them are high risk. We are going to have them be in a classroom for hours at a time with children and exposed to COIVD? Does that make sense?
Third, we have parents. My kids get sick, there is no way I’m not. Like I said, I don’t believe I will survive it.
How safe can we make things? We know that people are contagious probably at least two days before they show symptoms, so standard temperature and screening is going to be incomplete.
Yes, we can social distance and require masks. But we are talking about children now. Adults pull their masks away from their face or wear them below their nose. What are children going to do?
You think we can keep children away from each other? I keep having to complain to the neighbors to have their kids stay six feet away from mine.
And even under perfect conditions, you are in the same situation as the courthouse—long period exposure negates the effectiveness of either masks or social distancing.
This will have an impact on my kids. I suggest the schools go to online lectures on video until vaccines are available, or the number of cases drops to zero. That will harm children’s learning and we will probably have to do something radical like summer schools to catch them up. But the health concerns are overwhelming all other considerations.
Whatever the school does, my kids are not going to school. I know other families feel the same. That’s just how it’s going to be. It would be better to work with us rather than fight us.
—David M. Greenwald reporting