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Stunningly Oblivious

December 7, 2020 am31 11:47 am

On Thursday, November 19, all school buildings (NYC public schools) were closed.

Today, December 7, New York City elementary schools buildings are reopening.

This is not because the situation has gotten better. It has gotten worse. Much worse. There is a huge wave of COVID moving across the United States. The case rate in NYC was 3% when buildings closed. The case rate today is over 5%. Hospitals across the country are reaching capacity. Cities, states, regions are bracing for shutdowns. Indoor gatherings are being restricted. Outdoor gatherings are being restricted. New Jersey yesterday imposed a 25-person maximum on outdoor gatherings.

Not everyone is reacting with proper concern. Many Trump supporters are refusing social distancing and masks. In NYC a bar owner was arrested yesterday, not for flouting public safety (which he had done) but for trying to run down a deputy who was enforcing COVID restrictions. And there are some restrictions in place. But more are needed in New York State. And Andrew Cuomo has dithered. As the surge begins he has avoided updating the state’s color zones. And in NYC Carranza, de Blasio, and Mulgrew are sending children and staff back into schools.

We know that the virus spreads in schools. Masks, conduct, ppe can mitigate that spread, but they cannot stop it. I know in my school, in March, one room where a significant number congregated, and several became infected. With more care we can slow the spread. We cannot stop it. Testing is a mitigation measure, not a prevention measure.

But why gather large groups in the first place? They are not bringing school back. Less than a third of students want to attend in person under current conditions (most choose remote learning), and of that 30%, only about a third came in each day before the 11/19 shutdown. That’s 100,000 out of 1,100,000 – Will they magically get the numbers to be better?

Perhaps they will get shorter rotations, with more schools on a daily or every other day schedule (rather than every other or every third). So 50% of the eligible kids. But half the system (6-12) stays remote. And only 30% are opting for this hash anyhow. Someone should get Tweed to release attendance, but today’s insanity probably brought 70,000 or so children into buildings.  We should get the real number. That is maybe 6% of NYC’s school children. Over 90% of our learning and teaching continues to occur on-line, where there is little planning resource being devoted, little media attention, and no COVID spread.

I watched Mulgrew’s press conference this morning.

You would have thought that they had a safe way to reopen all of NYC schools full time. They have a way to bring in one out of every 15 children.

You would have thought there was a cure. They have measures to mitigate the spread.

And you would have thought that we were about to, nationally, take control of the situation. That will come, but in this moment we are facing a rising wave, propelled forward by Thanksgiving gatherings, and about to be accelerated by Christmas gatherings.

Opening schools now? Stunningly oblivious.

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