Home > Uncategorized > Absurd Absence of Federal Standards Leads to Hodgepodge of State Guidelines

Absurd Absence of Federal Standards Leads to Hodgepodge of State Guidelines

August 23, 2020

As AP writers Collin Binkley and Katie Foody reported earlier this week, parents (and voters) can be forgiven if they are confused about what constitutes a safe standard for re-opening schools and, by extension, for re-opening the economy. The consensus seems to be that in order for schools to reopen, “...virus rates in the community should be low“. But what constitutes “low” varies wildly from state to state.

Minnesota, for example, suggests fully in-person classes if a county’s two-week case rate is no higher than 10 per 10,000 people. In Pennsylvania, it’s considered safe if a county’s positive virus tests average lower than 5% for a week…

…In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said schools can reopen in areas where the average rate of positive tests is below 5% during a two-week period. But in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said schools can open only if the rate is below 3%.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, meanwhile, has ordered all schools to provide at least half of their instruction in-person unless they are granted a waiver from the state. Under her policy, schools are exempt from classroom instruction only if their county’s test rate is 15% or higher, and if at least 10% of students are absent.

So… not only do the rates vary from State to State, they vary within states! The result of this lack of ua uniform standards is predictable:

The uncertainty has become a source of tension among school leaders who say they are being pressured to reopen without clear guidelines on how to do it safely. Some school leaders say they’re left making decisions that should be made by health officials.

Parents, too, often say they’re being left to fend for themselves amid the void, scrolling through health department dashboards to scrutinize virus statistics and make decisions about whether they should send their children back to school in-person or virtually.

And the lack of standards contributes to the politicization of the school openings. Those who support an aggressive stance of opening the schools at all costs, like Governor Reynolds, set a low bar for re-opening. In the meantime, those who are worried for the safety of their overall populous, like Bill de Blasio set the bar high. People in Iowa can point to NYC and complain and vice versa.

I believe that we are all in this together as a nation— it is a PANDEMIC after all. If we ever hope to contain the spread of this disease we need to get behind one set of standards and share in the sacrifice. Has we done that in April we might not be having this debate now and we surely wouldn’t have 13,000+ different standards set by local school boards.


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