The nation’s largest public schools system won’t be doing any in-person instruction in the foreseeable future — and, according to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s one of the worst things that could happen to children.
After hitting a 3 percent COVID-19 positive test rate over a 7-day rolling average, New York City shut down in-person learning in its public school system on Thursday. While the arbitrary 3 percent guideline had been in place for some time, the announcement that the schools would be shuttered came just after 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to The New York Times.
It left parents with mere hours to find child care arrangements for their children as the city switched back to all-remote learning.
“I’m in my savings already paying someone to watch my kids and manage remote learning while I work,” a parent complained, according to The Times.
In-person hybrid learning had only been going on for eight weeks and the shutdown was considered a major blow for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was the first major-city mayor to reopen his schools after the coronavirus pandemic hit. While the city may be seeing a resurgence of cases, however, not so much for the public schools. The positivity rate for students and as of Monday was 0.23 percent as of Monday, according to ABC News.
New York public schools have tested more than 140,000 students and staff and had a positivity rate of 0.23% as of Monday.
— Rebecca Jarvis (@RebeccaJarvis) November 18, 2020
President Trump and other conservatives have long been advocates of keeping America’s schools open, citing little evidence that the virus is a significant risk to healthy students or their families.
“We believe many school districts can now reopen safely, provided they implement mitigation measures and health protocols to protect families, protect teachers, and protect students.” President Trump said in an August media briefing. “All families should be empowered to make the decision that is right for their own circumstances.”
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield agrees. During a Thursday White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing, he said that “the truth is for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be from our perspective is to remain in school.”
“[I]t is the position of this task force, of this administration and of the CDC that we do not need to close our schools,” Redfield said.
“The more we’ve learned about this virus, the more it’s simply affirmed that. We think our kids belong in the classroom. We’re absolutely committed to continue to provide resources so our kids, our teachers, our administrators can safely get back to school,” he added.
“It’s really important that following the data, making sure we don’t make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close,” he added
“I’m here to say, clearly, the data strongly supports that K-12 schools, as well as institutes of higher learning, really are not where we’re having our challenges, and it would be counterproductive from my point of view, from a public health point of view, just in containing the epidemic if there was an emotional response to say, ‘Let’s close the schools.’”
A whole lot of parents in New York City are in agreement, given they’re Gotham’s latest protest group.
“I’m sick and tired of sitting on the sidelines while other people decide whether my children could go to school the next day,” Daniela Jampel, who organized a demonstration in front of New York City Hall the day after the announcement, told the New York Post.
“We are here to tell de Blasio that we are the parents and we demand that schools reopen as quickly as possible.”
Lura Espinoza, the mother of two special-needs children, said that she was “tired” and “exhausted” by the exigencies of remote learning.
“They need to pay attention to our kids. They need to have a plan for our kids,” she said
“They do in-school learning where they have a therapist,” she added. “I am frustrated because remote learning doesn’t work for my twins. They need to be in school. I can’t do it alone at home.”
Brooklyn 5th-grader Romaine Guinchard also agreed schools shouldn’t be shuttered.
“Schools should be opened. Kids are not going to learn without schools,” she said.
“We feel like the mayor doesn’t want schools to be opened.”
The protest outside of City Hall on Thursday culminated in the group handing a mayoral aide a petition in which 12,000 New York City parents urged the city to reopen schools as quickly as possible.
The group drifted over to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office only to find the “governor’s office categorically refused to send anyone down.”
This probably has to do with the fact no one from Cuomo’s team even wants to show their face after a shouting match between the governor and a reporter over the possibility of New York City schools closing during a Wednesday media briefing. The governor vehemently denied that what ended up happening just minutes later would happen, according to Fox News:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) mocks and argues with a TV reporter during a testy exchange today about school openings: “What are you taking about?” pic.twitter.com/jMrDFbiyTe
— TV News HQ (@TVNewsHQ) November 18, 2020
“What are you talking about? ‘You’re now going to override.’ We did it already! That’s the law!” Cuomo said during the shouting match with a Wall Street Journal reporter. “An orange zone and a red zone, follow the facts!”
“I’m still confused,” reporter Jimmy Vielkind said.
“Then you’re confused!” Cuomo responded.
When he was told that parents were confused, as well: “No, they’re not confused. You’re confused.”
As it turns out, apparently Cuomo was confused. When the news was given to him by a reporter just minutes later: “That 3 percent [benchmark], the mayor set, in my opinion, in a collaborative with the parents,” Cuomo said. “That was the agreement and the agreement should be honored.”
Cuomo has since re-thrown de Blasio under the bus, signing onto a joint statement with other Northeastern governors asserting “that in-person learning is safe when the appropriate protections are in place, even in communities with high transmission rates.”
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) November 19, 2020
Putting Gov. Cuomo’s shouty-time antics aside, he’s not wrong on this. Nor are any of the governors who signed onto that statement — and all but one of them is a Democrat.
Nor is New York Times staff editor Spencer Bokat-Lindell when he notes that “the bulk of the evidence suggests that schools, especially for younger children, are not stoking community transmission of the coronavirus.” Nor is CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield or the president.
There’s a stunningly large body of this evidence at this point that schools aren’t a vector for the virus, nor that it’s hurting our children. In fact, what’s hurting our children — and their parents — is keeping them home. We’re supposed to listen to science, I’ve reliably been told. Well, let’s listen.
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