Researchers at www.endcoronavirus.org rank countries in three categories: those that have “beat the virus” (31); those that are “nearly there” (19); and those that “need action,” where the U.S. and Israel join 84 other nations.
When Israel opened its schools in late May, they experienced a huge virus outbreak, which, as one news source reported, “forced hundreds of schools to close, and tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.” Premature opening of American businesses and schools, primarily in the South, have led to the same disastrous results for both adults and children.
In his column (His View, Aug. 19) Dale Courtney compares the possibility of a child dying of the virus to being hit by lightning. The latter is a so-called “act of God,” but virus deaths, while not completely preventable, can be limited by standard public health practices, which Courtney does not support.
In Florida alone, more than 48,000 children younger than 18 have tested positive for the virus, nearly 600 have been hospitalized, and 11 of those, including a 6-year-old girl, have died because of the virus. More than 339,000 children in the U.S. have tested positive — an 8.8 percent infection rate.
On Aug. 20, The Journal of Pediatrics published a study done at Massachusetts General Hospital that found “that among 192 children, 49 tested positive for the coronavirus and had significantly higher levels of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in intensive care units.” The authors conclude that “healthy children may be more contagious than sick adults.”
The extent of viral spread in America’s schools is unknown, because school administrators in states such as Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Kansas have not reported cases citing privacy issues. This is a dodge because no one is asking for the release of any names.
Many parents are outraged when they hear of infected students or staff, and school administrators refuse to confirm the cases, which have disappeared into unspecified totals in local health departments. Orange County Florida has more than 14,000 cases and desperate parents want to know how many of these are school children.
A group of concerned citizens has tabulated virus data it has gleaned from parents and other sources, as well as states that report school cases. Their updated spreadsheet for 1,081 schools is at this shortened web link: t.ly/RHpc. It includes some startling results: 4,282 cases and 75 deaths.
Courtney makes the absurd claim that teacher unions are the main cause of schools not offering in-person classes. The unions are simply agreeing with 64 percent of those who, in a Peterson Foundation poll, said “they are not confident that it will be safe for K-12 schools to reopen in person.”
The unions are also committed to Trump’s CDC guidelines, which insist on a 14-day decline in the number of cases and an infection rate of 5 percent or below. Only 22 states have met the latter criterion. All the New England states, New York, West Virginia and New Jersey lead the way with infection rates of 2 percent or below. Idaho is still at 16 percent.
Only 40 percent of college and university campuses are opening for in-person classes, and, as the number of infections rise, some are now reconsidering their decisions. At last count, more than 26,000 students and staff on 1,500 campuses in 36 states have tested positive for the virus. Just in: 500 new cases at the University of Alabama.
The main venues for these infections are off-campus gatherings, sororities, fraternities and dorms, where some resident advisers report that they cannot control their charges.
Washington State University has prudently gone online, but even so, Whitman County reported 159 new cases since Saturday primarily near College Hill. Unwisely, the University of Idaho has begun hybrid-flex instruction and 59 cases have already been reported on campus. Dr. Krutika Kuppalli of the Global Health Committee states: “In a pandemic, it always has to be about ‘we’ not ‘I.’ ” For libertarians such as Courtney, the focus is always on the individual, not the collective, and we will not contain the coronavirus until we have the unity of purpose that other countries have shown.
Nick Gier was president of the Idaho Federation of Teachers from 1982-2020. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.