As far as my current research indicates, schools worldwide, except those in Israel and the U.S., have reopened with few problems. The reasons for their success are that they have followed public health protocols, and they have leaders who respect science.
Dale Courtney missed some key points in his column praising the schools in Nordic countries (His View, August 5), so I will focus on those nations.
On March 11, Denmark was the second European country to enforce a strict lockdown. Within a month, health authorities were so successful in bending the infection curve that they recommended that schools reopen.
On April 15, Danish children ages 2-12 went back to daycare and primary schools in “protective bubbles” of 12. Students ages 12-16 returned to school on May 18, but universities were closed until August 1.
Because of stringent health protocols and high levels of testing (253/1,000 in Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Finland have kept the number of positive cases to between 0.1-1 percent of people tested.
With far fewer people tested (59/1,000), Sweden’s infection rate has been between 2-3 percent. The higher this rate is the more difficult it is to trace contacts, quarantine and control the virus, which the U.S. has generally not done.
Sweden did not close its schools to children ages 16 and under, but the high schools and universities have remained closed. From Feb. 24 to June 14, there were 1,124 children ages 0-19 infected with COVID-19.
Only one Swedish child and one teacher have died, but the “remain open” policy has cost the Swedes dearly in all other age groups. They have the fifth-highest COVID-19 death rate in Europe, while their neighbors have had the lowest.
One of the principal CDC criteria to open businesses and schools is that the virus positivity rate must fall below 5 percent. Only 15 states have achieved this goal, and most of the Northeast and New York are now below one percent. Four states in the South, Nevada and Idaho are at the top with rates ranging from 16 to 21 percent.
New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has been an exemplary leader in fighting COVID-19. His state’s virus positivity rate is now an incredible 0.78 percent. Cuomo is allowing schools to open at the discretion of local officials and according to strict guidelines.
The virus infection rate in Los Angeles County now stands at 8.6 percent, so school officials have wisely decided against in-class instruction. With a rate that has risen to 5.8 percent in Cook County, Chicago schools will also be closed.
In Florida, where the positivity rate is now 17 percent, the median age for positive tests has dropped from 65 in March to 35 at the end of June. By July 15 nearly a third of those infected were below the age of 18.
San Diego schools will not reopen for in-person classes. The virus positivity rate in the county is 11 percent, and among those infected are 3,649 children and youth ages 0-19. In one Texas county there have been 85 infants who have tested positive for the virus.
According to a recent study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there were at least 97,000 children who tested positive in the last two weeks of July. There have now been more than 339,000 children infected since the beginning of the pandemic. The states with the highest child infection rates are Missouri, Oklahoma, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho and Montana.
As classes have begun in some states, there have been virus outbreaks in Indiana (9 percent), Georgia (11 percent), and Mississippi (21 percent). (Infection rates noted.) In one Georgia school district 800 students and staff are in quarantine, and 22 schools have been closed in Mississippi with 34 students and staff infected. It is unclear how many have become infected by one student in an Indiana school.
Just think if someone as competent and proactive as Andrew Cuomo were president instead of Trump. We would have had tens of thousands fewer deaths and our economy would not have crashed at a record annual rate of 33 percent.
Nick Gier was president of the Idaho Federation of Teachers from 1982-2020. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.