Home > Uncategorized > Reopening Schools in US MIGHT be a Good Idea… IF!

Reopening Schools in US MIGHT be a Good Idea… IF!

October 25, 2020

Over the past several days I’ve read many articles with headlines insinuating that scientific evidence indicates schools in our country SHOULD be opening… BUT… a closer reading of those articles indicates that scientific evidence indicates schools in our country SHOULD be opening IF and ONLY IF they follow the same protocols as regions in our country and nations in the world are following regarding mask wearing, social distancing, and monitoring.

“Are the Risks of Reopening Schools Exaggerated?”, a recent NPR report by Anya Kamenetz is a case in point. In the article Ms. Kamenetz cites the positive experiences in Spain as evidence that our schools should open… BUT… compare this report on Spain to what is transpiring in too many school districts in our nation. Enric Álvarez at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya reported on the findings of his study of the impact on reopening schools in Spain:

“We are not sure that the environments of the schools may not have a small and systematic effect,” said Álvarez, “But it’s pretty clear that they don’t have very major epidemic-changing effects, at least in Spain, with the measures that are being taken in Spain.”

These safety measures include mask-wearing for all children older than 6, ventilation, keeping students in small groups or “bubbles,” and social distancing of 1.5 meters — slightly less than the recommended 6 feet in the United States. When a case is detected, the entire “bubble” is sent home for quarantine.

Those conditions sound eminently reasonable…. but not for the libertarians in our country who view mask wearing as limiting their rights and the COVID truthers who believe the whole thing is a hoax made up to undercut the leadership of Donald Trump.

The ultimate conclusion on the efficacy of reopening schools is that no one knows and, at least in our country, we may never have the data we need to make a rational decision:

Few states are reporting school-related data…(and) that’s a shame, said Buntin at Vanderbilt. “One might argue that we’re running really a massive national experiment right now in schools,” Buntin said, “and we’re not collecting uniform data.”

The largest centralized effort at such data collection in the United States — the unofficial, crowdsourced COVID-19 School Response Dashboard — has gotten a lot of publicity. But it is self-reported, not a representative sample of schools.

Buntin and other experts said it’s likely that the dashboard is biased toward schools that are doing an exemplary job of following safety precautions and are organized enough to share their results. Also, the dashboard doesn’t yet offer the ability to compare coronavirus cases reported at schools with local case rates.

And when data is not systematically collected, decisions based on anecdote can take hold… and some of the anecdotes are not happy:

In the absence of data, there are scary and tragic anecdotes of teachers around the country dying of COVID-19. But it’s hard to extrapolate from these incidents. It’s not immediately clear whether the educators contracted the virus at school, whether they are part of school-based clusters, or what safety precautions were or were not followed by the schools in question.

And so we muddle through…. unsure of whether measures taken or not taken are impacting the spread of coronavirus and, in effect, making life and death decisions based on nothing. Here’s hoping that no matter what happens on November 3 we get our heads screwed on right in terms of measuring the spread and impact of this disease.

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