Since the return of children to school will be one of the most tangible signs that the country is returning to normal – and will begin to take significant steps towards economic recovery – the issue has a strong emotional and social dimension.
Fauci’s warning will resonate between principals and school authorities and college presidents who are trying to chart a strategy for some kind of resumption of lessons in person. Emphasize the reality that while children in states with low infection rates will turn back next academic year, those in hotspot areas may be staying out for weeks or months longer.
Parents were already concerned that sending children back to school would not only make them prone to infection, but could turn them into asymptomatic carriers that could infect vulnerable seniors. On the other hand, the educational and developmental damage inflicted by months out of school is also weighing on families.
But late tests made it more difficult to open schools. Fractured state budgets that could lead to job cuts are also complicating the picture. And school supervisors have warned that without billions of dollars in extra funding, states and districts may find it difficult to implement a protocol such as staggering classes, social exclusion measures and extra bus rides to curb infections.
Like workers who have lost their jobs, school children are also victims of the worst public health crisis of the past 100 years. Many have already missed weeks of crucial education which they may have difficulty making up for. Children from poorer families often do not have the computers or learning environments necessary for online lessons. Millions of children have to take AP and other crucial exams for their future without proper home teaching.
And many young Americans will drop out of high school and universities in the coming weeks without the precious adulthood rituals such as graduation degrees and kick-off ceremonies.
Paul and Fauci collide on the schools
Paul pointed out that the mortality rates for young people were relatively low and deceptively suggested that the virus had been relatively “benign” outside of New England.
“I think the one size fits all – that we will have a national strategy and that no one will go to school – is ridiculous,” said Paul. “We should really do it school district by school district. And the power must be lost because people make wrong predictions.
“If we keep children out of school for another year, what will happen is that poor and underprivileged children who don’t have a parent who can teach them at home won’t learn for a whole year … I think it’s a big mistake if we don’t open schools in the fall. “
Fauci warned Paul that the country had to be “very careful” to underestimate the effect of Covid-19 on young people, citing in particular the inflammatory syndrome that killed a number of children in the United States and Europe.
“I think we should be careful if we are not dismissive in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” said Fauci.
Hopes for a return to class are largely based on the administration that draws on its repeated votes to massively increase coronavirus test programs and the efforts of state governors to make up for the lack of federal effort.
The administration’s repeated failures to deliver on its promises to massively increase testing is one of the reasons why there is skepticism that education can return to normal since August.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers Union, who drew up a plan on how to reopen American schools, complained that the tests available to everyone in the country were not up to the standard that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence offered themselves to the White House.
“I firmly believe that if it is safe and if we can make it safe, we must voluntarily return the children to school during the summer and to school in the autumn,” said Weingarten.
But he added: “You must have a testing infrastructure in a community large enough and large enough to maintain a minimum level of virus and, if you immediately see a case, track the contacts and isolate.”
Trump wants schools to move forward
Trump, pushing aggressively to restart the economy that is vital to his reelection campaign, prompted state governors to open schools for the first time several weeks ago.
“A lot of people are thinking about school openings. And I think it’s something … they can seriously consider and maybe get started,” Trump said.
The way forward for education dominated the Senate virtual hearing on Tuesday.
Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who chaired the panel, broke with the triumphalism of the White House on tests to demand a better effort to bring schools and universities online.
“Widespread screening of entire campuses, schools or workplaces will help identify those who are sick, track down those who are exposed,” said Alexander. “This, in turn, should help persuade all of us to go back to school and go back to work.”
Admiral Brett Giroir, pediatrician and assistant secretary of the United States for health, said at the hearing that the situation for students would depend on the spread of the community in their areas. But he expressed optimism that the tests could be fast enough to resume school in August.
“We expect 25 to 30 million point of care tests will be available per month. It is certainly possible to test all students,” he said, but added that surveillance strategies could mitigate the need for general tests.
Giroir also suggested some “promising” strategies that could be used to test the wastewater of an entire dormitory to determine if there are coronaviruses in the wastewater.
States and cities still hope to open up, but warn that it depends on science
The White House wants decisions on when schools return left to state and local authorities.
A resumption of academic life is in the second phase of the White House’s plan to reopen America in states and regions where there is no evidence of a rebound in infections or that meet the criteria for falling disease incidences.
Many states are already proceeding with openings, although they do not come close in any way to the guidelines for a 14-day drop in infections to also enter phase one of the program. The White House is doing nothing to induce states to comply with the guidelines.
In the absence of strong federal leadership, the recovery of schools and colleges is likely to reflect the wider patchwork effort to open up the national economy.
Some jurisdictions have doubled in the past few days over hopes to reopen in the fall. Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said Monday that it was “fully our intention” to be ready for the next academic year, although he warned that the data would guide Keystone state decisions.
And New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday “at this time” that he believed city schools could open in September – although he warned that he was closely watching the inflammatory syndrome.
Coffee enthusiast. Travel scholar. Infuriatingly humble zombie fanatic. Thinker. Professional twitter evangelist.