By David M. Greenwald
Slow and steady wins the race. That’s how the saying goes, but it could also be adapted to the fight against COVID. If there is a lesson for the failed policies of the last year, one of the biggest is stop being so darned impatient. Every time we have knocked down the spread of COVID, we have let down our guard and it comes back worse than before.
We have vaccines of course, but the distribution has been lagging. Until we get them out to the vast majority of the public, we are at risk. Make no mistake—while cases have gone down, we still had 3500 deaths nationally on Friday. Since December, the daily death toll has been the highest ever and the death toll stands at 462,000 as of Friday.
It therefore chagrins me to see parents attempt to pressure the school district to re-open now.
“We’re simply asking for the Board of Trustees to listen to, and follow, the science and advice of the experts,” Mike Creedon, a member of the group, said in a press release.
He added, “Creating arbitrary and excessively strict requirements to keep our children out of classrooms is counterproductive, for both the children and our community.”
But not everyone agrees with that approach.
In a letter to the Enterprise, Anoosh Jorjorian pointed out that in working with the families of essential workers, some of the most marginalized families in the district, their biggest concern “is not whether or not school is open, but whether they can access childcare. After all, school hours are not the only hours these parents need care.”
She writes, “Meanwhile, the parents agitating for opening schools have not approached me nor any other organization that serves these marginalized students asking what these families need.”
In flier that the Vanguard acquitted, Jorjorian explained that they are counter-protesting because “a small but vocal minority of parents are pushing for school sites to open for a hybrid distance learning/in-person model quickly, claiming conditions are safe for in-person instruction now.”
Most parents, she argued, “support the school district’s conditions for re-opening, which are based on consistent advice from many experts as well as respect for the lives and health of our teachers and staff.”
The district has set four conditions that all experts agree upon: masking for all, social distance, ventilation and air filtration, and on-site testing at least once a week.
In addition, Jorjorian and teachers as well are calling for “teachers and staff (to) be fully vaccinated” as well as the need for “community infection rates to decrease until we are in the red tier for two consecutive weeks.”
Why must teachers and staff be vaccinated, she asked, if the Director of the CDC says it isn’t necessary?
Jorjorian writes: “Teachers and staff deserve the peace of mind that vaccination will bring them.” She points out that even mild cases of COVID “can result in lifelong cognitive, respiratory and cardiac impairment.”
As I have pointed out several times here, there are two fundamental problems that drive my concern with re-opening now, other than the sheer need to reduce the spread of this disease. First, we have been playing with fire for too long. People were lulled by irresponsible reports about a low death rate and the skew of the serious illness toward older or vulnerable people.
The problem with taking comfort in that is that this is new and we have no idea of the long-term impacts of this disease.
Second, we forgot that the fundamental nature of viruses is fairly rapid mutation.
As Jorjorian points out: “California in particular now has two variants of the virus as well as the UK variant, and scientists are still learning about their properties.”
Exactly. We don’t really even have good longer-term data on schools and community spread. We lack sophisticated contact tracing and so the research that suggests schools that take proper precautions are not seeing spread may be false comfort and premature.
As Jorjorian notes, “In many districts, including ours, reporting infections of COVID-19 are voluntary, which means infections may have happened but were not reported. Some families may have gotten sick but were never tested. Further, every district has different reporting standards, all over the nation.”
My solution, as I have suggested previously, is take steps to in effect use the one advantage we have—time. Run the clock, to use sports parlance. Delay continued instruction, push learning back to the summer when it is more likely that we will have lowered our community spread and when we are closer to the day that the full community is vaccinated.
Moreover, stop being impatient. Impatience when it comes to COVID is killing us—literally. We have had three surges now because every time we slow the spread, we lose discipline. We are slowing the spread now—let us allow that to remain in place until everyone can be vaccinated.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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