Here’s a little skit I wrote based on recent events:
Interviewer: So, if we put students in those giant rubber hamster bubbles would schools be able to re-open?
CDC Person: Um — I guess.
Right-wing website, the next day: SLEEPY CHINA QUID PRO JOE’S STAFF SAYS WE CAN RE-OPEN, WHY WON’T HE “LISTEN TO SCIENCE”?
[Directed by M. Night Shyamalan]
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, on 2/3/2021 CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the following on The Rachel Maddow Show:
There’s accumulating data that suggests that there is not a lot of transmission that is happening in schools when the proper mitigation measures are taken, when there is masking, when there is distancing, de-densification of the classroom, ventilation, contact tracing, hand-washing, all of those things, when they’re done well, the data suggests, the science suggests that there is not a lot of transmission happening in schools, and in fact, the case rates in schools are generally lower than they are in the population surrounding it. So, that’s what the data and the science suggest. And that we definitely want to have the community rates of disease go down. We want to make sure that that is happening as well. But the data suggests that it’s safe to go back to school if you do all of those mitigation measures.
The next day, Not The Bee ran the following headline:
Here’s the CDC Director herself suggesting schools can reopen safely. So why are your kids still home?
[Directed by M. Night Shyamalan]
Of course, the CDC Director did say schools could re-open — assuming they take really specific and often costly precautions. Ironically, the only states that would follow these precautions if they re-open are the states that wouldn’t re-open in the first place. Do you really think Ron DeSantis, who compared people who want schools to remain closed to flat earthers, is going to make Flordia schools follow any of the guidelines laid out by the CDC Director above?
Take just one — technically two — things Walensky mentioned in the quote above, “Distancing” and “de-densification of classrooms,” as an example. One of the biggest issues with many poor schools is over-crowded classrooms due to lack of funding, how could a classroom that was already over-crowded distance? For that matter, how could a classroom that was already underfunded afford to put any of the safety measures Walensky listed in place?
And then there’s the matter of if the students will actually obey the measures. Once again, here poorer schools with more disciplinary issues would get the shaft, as they would have a much harder time enforcing these measures than a richer school would. And once again, this means that the advice of the CDC is falling on deaf ears of the people who are throwing the advice of the CDC in our faces.
Of course, it is not only Republicans who are dogmatically demanding schools reopen. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has spent the past couple of weeks fighting teachers' unions in order to demand schools reopen. One cannot help but notice just how sudden Mayor Lightfood’s shift regarding COVID-19 has been. Lightfoot has put COVID-19 restrictions even as recently as 11/12/2020 (although those seemed to be suspended when she wanted to celebrate Biden’s victory), but now she suddenly wants all those restrictions to be lifted. One has to wonder what happened to “stay home, save lives.”
Lightfoot’s arguments are, I should note, awful. Here’s just one she threw at us on 2/4/2021:
We need our kids back in school. We need our parents to have that option. It should not be that CPS parents are, of all the schools in our city, the only ones that don’t have the option for in-person learning. It cannot be that a public school denies parents that right.
Okay — why? (Also, what exactly are “public school deniers” and why can it not be that they “that right”?) Lightfoot doesn’t give any sort of justification, instead just ordering from above that all schools in her city re-open all of a sudden.
However, this rush to re-open schools is not doing anything but putting more students — and everyone else — in danger. Instead of focusing on how we could technically re-open schools to make them safe, we could actually focus on practical matters for making schools safe. And when it comes to the most practical matter, not opening them until COVID-19 is over seems like the best solution.