On 2/9/2021, Press Secretary Jen Psaki had the following exchange with a reporter during a briefing regarding the topic of school re-openings:
Q: Okay. And then, you mentioned the, sort of, goal is opening up schools swiftly and safely. Could you help us understand what the White House’s or what the President’s definition of “open schools” is? Does it mean teachers in classroom teaching students in classroom? Or does it just mean kids in classroom with a remote screen? Help us understand.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so, more than 50 percent — open by day 100 of his presidency. And that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week. Hopefully, it’s more. And obviously, it is as much as is safe in each school and local district.
Q: So when you say “some teaching,” that’s — you didn’t use the same majority qualifier there. You just have to have some teaching in school, some teachers in school — not the majority of teachers in school in the majority of classrooms.
MS. PSAKI: Well, teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools, by day 100.
Q: Okay. And that’s in-person teaching.
MS. PSAKI: In-person teaching, yes.
So Biden wants at least half of all schools reopened in some form at least one day a week. For the record, between 20% and 30% of schools have been doing some form of a hybrid model since the start of the 2020–2021 school year. Meaning the school year started with half of Biden’s work done for him — over two months before he was even elected President.
It should also be noted that by the time of Biden’s 100th day as President, most of the 2020–2021 school year will be over. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just wait until the 2021–2022 school year starts up before you start doing things like this?
And that’s not even getting into the fact that Biden should have no say over if a school district re-opens or not. That choice is almost always made by local school districts, meaning Biden would have no control over if they do or not. Psaki makes it clear she’s not endorsing mindless reopenings by saying “it is as much as is safe in each school and local district.” But what if under half of all school districts feel it’s safe to be open for less than one day a week? Looks like Biden’s plan has a large number of holes with it.
It should also be noted that hybrid models are basically the worst of both worlds when it comes to the balance between stopping COVID-19 and helping students. They stop the spread of COVID-19 about as well as fully in-person schooling, and they are about as good for student’s mental health as fully remote schooling. However, despite being the objectively worse solution, they give the appearance of compromise so it’s no surprise that’s what our middle-ground worshipping political class is pushing right now.
Those who have been reading my blog know that I am a vocal critic of COVID-19 half-measures. The reason is simple: It is either safe to re-open, or it is not, there is no middle ground on this topic. Yet, our political class keeps trying to convince us that, despite this being a black-and-white situation, we can somehow find a gray point regarding these two sides.
Opening up schools only a couple of days a week, or making all students wear masks, or forcing students to be six-feet apart all the time (hey, what happens when students don’t follow these rules — as children are known to do with any rules) does not make the COVID-19 they could catch any less serious, it just makes the politician look better. The politician can claim that he’s come to a “bipartisan solution” to the issue of COVID-19 lockdowns, while children are stuck with the results of two very bad ideas. I can’t help but find it annoying that two sides, both of whom complain that COVID-19 is being “politized,’ keep pushing the most politized solution of all — as in this is only even being considered because it’s seen as good for politics — down our throats.
If you listen to our political class, you’d think hybrid models make COVID-19 less dangerous. After all, if schools are only open one day a week instead of five days a week, then the COVID-19 becomes COVID-3.8. And if only half of all schools are open, then that COVID-3.8 becomes COVID-1.9 — it’s 10% as bad as normal COVID-19! This, I assume, is the science President Biden has been listening to.
To put it simply, the reason why half-measures don’t make sense regarding COVID-19 is because there is no halfway point between having COVID-19 and not having COVID-19. Doing half-measures will not result in people getting some kind of COVID-9.5 — it will result in them getting COVID-19.
Now, some might respond by saying this or that compromise of method would result in fewer people getting COVID-19 than a certain alternative. And I’m sure that’s the case, Biden’s plan for school re-opening, for example, would cause fewer COVID-19 cases than a number of plans the Republican have had. (Although the numbers have rarely shown that to be the case, but I guess I just feel like being nice today.) However, with a pandemic based around contagious illness, the goal should be to eliminate it, not just be happy when we get the number down slightly.