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No Quarantine – What are these people thinking?

December 31, 2021 am31 12:52 am

I’ll play out a few scenarios – both for the No Quarantine Policy, and also the No Mandatory Negative Before Returning to School Policy.

And by “these people” I specifically mean Bill de Blasio / Eric Adams. I’ll say “de Blasio” most of the way, but I’ll mean “de Blasio today and Adams tomorrow.”

To play along, you need to set aside what you think is best for the system, for the students, for the staff. This game guesses what de Blasio’s objectives are, and then sees if the policy would be a logical policy based on THOSE objectives. Remember, his objectives may be misguided, or worse – but we are trying to discover them.

Scenario I

de Blasio seeks to keep the number of infections as low as possible.

This scenario immediately fails. Quarantine lets fewer people get infected than No Quarantine.

Scenario II

de Blasio seeks to keep the schools open, and seeks to minimize infection. He uses the rapid tests to quickly identify sick students and staff.

This first part of the scenario passes. It keeps the schools open. But rapid testing on the first day will catch no infections. And rapid testing on the fifth day WILL catch infections, but after the victims had already spent time, contagious, in school.

This scenario fails.

Scenario III

de Blasio seeks to keep the schools open, and seeks to control infection rates. The rapid tests will help control infection rates, at least a bit.

This first part of this scenario passes. It keeps the schools open. But same problem as scenario II with the second part. This scenario fails.

Scenario IV

Maybe the rapid tests are a decoy: de Blasio seeks to keep the schools open. He is deploying the rapid tests for a reason other than controlling infection.

This first part of this scenario passes. It keeps the schools open. But it leaves two questions: why deploy the rapids? and, is he doing nothing to control infection?

Scenario IVa

de Blasio seeks to keep the schools open. He is deploying the rapid tests for some other reason. And he is doing nothing to control infection.

This first part of this scenario passes. The second part is incomplete. Why deploy the rapids? And his people know the virus is spreading. The third part, do nothing to control infection, kind of guarantees serious outbreaks that will blow back on him. This fails.

Scenario IVb

de Blasio seeks to keep the schools open. He is deploying the rapid tests for some other reason. And he is doing something else to control infection.

This first part of this scenario passes. The second part is incomplete. Why deploy the rapids? And his people know the virus is spreading. The third part, begs the question, what is he doing (not rapid testing) to control infection?

At this point, IVb is the best. But those questions need some sort of guesses: Why use the rapids if they are not keeping us safe? And how does he think he will keep big outbreak from happening?

Why use rapids?

  • They are cheap.
  • They address parent and staff demands for “testing” (but not effective testing)

Let’s try this,
Scenario IVb1

de Blasio seeks to keep the schools open. He is deploying the rapid tests because they are a cheap way to convince the public that testing is happening. And he is doing something else to control infection.

The first part of this scenario passes. The second part is intriguing. The story line is “more testing.” And aren’t rapids being funded by the state and the feds? I can’t find a source for that, but would be grateful is someone could point it out to me. It looks like they are being dumped. And a rapid on the first day is essentially a test in the trash – which makes no sense from an epidemiological point of view, but the perception that more tests are being given will be real. The second part of this scenario fits. But what about the third part?

So IVb1 is looking best. But the third part of that scenario needs filling in: How is he hoping to control infection?

  • Rapid tests?
  • Morning screeners?
  • Count on omicron being mild?
  • Count of infectiousness and symptoms arriving simultaneously.

Before looking at those possibilities, let me return to a previous assumption: I do not believe that de Blasio intends to get lots of people sick. There’s all the usual reasons – looks bad, inhumane, stain on his record – but a big outbreak would close schools, and I’ve assumed that his top priority is keeping schools open, which works with most of these scenarios.

And with that in mind, that de Blasio really doesn’t want big outbreak, which of these four possible reasons won’t work? Just the rapid tests – because they are being given too early to catch anything, and then to late to prevent spread. The morning screeners could help. Some parents will send in symptomatic kids, but some will not. Omicron does look “milder” than previous variants. Scare quotes on “milder” because it still can pack a wallop. And the “mildness” may relate to previous infection or vaccine status. And it is true, infectiousness and symptoms arrive after infection (I’m not sure how close together), which makes me believe that the first day after infection there are not likely to be symptoms, or spread.

So, let’s try this:
Scenario IVb2

de Blasio seeks to keep the schools open. He is deploying the rapid tests, not to control outbreaks, but because they are a cheap way to convince the public that testing is happening. And he thinks he will control outbreaks because 1) omicron is milder than previous strains, 2) parents will keep symptomatic kids home, or the kid will fail the screener and 3) before the symptoms arrive the kid won’t be very contagious.

The first part of this scenario is consistent with what de Blasio has said, and his actions. The second part fits what is happening, including public concerns about spread, and cost. But what about the third part? Will mild omicron, parents keeping kids home, and a window before a kid is infectious hold down infections?

Maybe. But these are people’s lives. Those are awfully high stakes for “maybe.” A bean-counter, a bureaucrat, might be okay with that sort of gamble, but not you or me. But who do you think worked on de Blasio’s plan?

One last detail gnaws at me. What about the first serious illness? Or death? That, on reflection, is not a big problem. Just claim that the kid got infected at home. There is a lot of omicron in circulation, after all.

A different problem

Second problem, quicker solution. Why is de Blasio opposed to mandatory testing before January 3? Or delaying opening a few days to allow time for mandatory testing?

Look at the answer to the previous problem. de Blasio is opposed to closing schools. So a delayed opening violates that objective. And mandatory testing will show many many infected children. Enough that it might lead to closing schools or classrooms. And de Blasio is opposed to closing schools.

But won’t that allow lots of sick people into schools to spread omicron? Look at the answer above. Omicron is milder, parents will keep symptomatic kids home, and asymptomatic kids are less likely to spread it.

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