August 1, 2020

Schools in certain parts of the country began reopening in late July, and it is not going well at all. The New York Times is reporting that in one school district in Indiana, just ONE day in, a student attending the first day of classes tested positive for coronavirus. This was just hours after classes resumed for the '20-'21 school year, at Greenfield Central Junior High School.

The school immediately isolated the student and ordered everyone who was in class with the student, or potentially had contact with the student, to quarantine for 14 days. ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. It is not clear yet if the student infected anyone else, but we should know within a week or two.

The superintendent of Greenfield-Central, Harold Olin, said:

“We knew it was a when, not if," but stated that they were "very shocked it was on Day 1.”

I am not.

Many other school districts are not shocked, either, which is why so many opted to go 100% distance learning for the fall semester. But watching this scary scenario play out in Indiana should provide further proof that the decision to not bring back students was the right idea. This should also lead other school districts that have refused to close schools to reconsider their plans (I am looking at you, Florida.)

The New York Times reports that "of the nation’s 25 largest school districts, all but six have announced they will start remotely, although some in places like Florida and Texas are hoping to open classrooms after a few weeks if infection rates go down, over strong objections from teachers’ unions."

Let's see if that changes now.

Even if schools reopen with the most rigorous cleaning methods, social distancing, enforced mask-wearing, temperature checks, and hand washing, these don't stop the number one delivery system: an asymptomatic carrier. Kids over 10 can transmit the infection just as well as adults can, although most of them are asymptomatic — which makes them the deadliest and most dangerous group. They do not know they are sick, so they go to school and infect their teachers, the staff, and custodians, who DO get sick. That is how the wildfire spreads. One small ember.

Once a handful of kids in one school tests positive, which will happen in a matter of days, if not weeks, contact tracing, staff and student quarantine, and panic among parents will lead many schools to shut down one by one. Houses where siblings go to different schools will likely lead to further outbreaks, if just one kid in the house is positive and then introduces it to a sibling who attends another school (ie middle school to elementary,) which would lead to more quarantine and contact tracing.

School districts that are unwilling to close down for the fall will soon realize their mistake when cases spike in kids, a group that has been considered unlikely to get sick. The fallacy in the argument of these largely Republican politicians is that kids were not sick because they were home when the outbreak was flaring. Once you reintroduce them to peers and teachers, they will realize that kids do get sick (although maybe not to the point of death in most cases) and that they bring it home to their parents, grandparents and siblings.

This is the first of many of these stories that we will see. Absolutely awful.

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