U.S. President Donald Trump, the former real estate mogul who never governed, has been saying all summer long that schools must reopen despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has now killed nearly 170,000 Americans in five months and threatens to kill perhaps 300,000 by year’s end. But the government can’t make teachers go back to work. Not only can they quit teaching, they have teachers’ unions. And each of the nation’s school districts’ staffs may have something to say about it.
My daughter is a school teacher. She thinks the whole educational system in our nation, let alone elsewhere in the world, is likely to collapse due to COVID-19. She says many school teachers are sixty years old or older and thus more at risk to contract this devastating disease. And no one knows better than school teachers how the school system–especially kindergarten and early grades–is a breeding ground for spreading colds, which are coronaviruses themselves.
It is still uncertain how much children ages 1-10 are affected by this coronavirus. It was being reported that they are less susceptible to contracting COVID-19 because those testing positive and death rates are much lower among this age group than the overall U.S. population. However, authorities recently have been changing about that. They say it is possible that this young age group may contract the virus just as much but be more asymptomatic. They may spread the virus just as much as those who are sick.
A study (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2768952) published two weeks ago states, “Children are susceptible to infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) but generally present with mild symptoms compared with adults.Children drive spread of respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses in the population, but data on children as sources of SARS-CoV-2 spread are sparse.” They studied three age groups of people: ages 1-4, 5-17, and 18-65. The study concludes, “Our analyses suggest children younger than 5 years with mild to moderate COVID-19 have high amounts of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in their nasopharynx [throat and nose] compared with older children and adults. ” Moreover, the study reveals, “The observed differences in median CT values between young children and adults approximate a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children.”
That is alarming! This study was conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Chicago and published in JAMA Pediatrics. But how much children are transmitting COVID-19 to each other is still an open question.
The Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third largest public school district. It announced ten days ago that all of its schooling starting from September 8 and going to November 6 this year will be conducted online, thus no in-person attendance. It was the first such announcement by a large school district in the nation. Others are considering doing likewise. School districts are still trying to figure this out with only a few days left before school starts. This CPS decision has been very controversial both within and without this school district.
My daughter has been saying for several weeks that many teachers may go back to work as school opens with the normal in-person school attendance, but change their minds when they see some of their students coming down ill from COVID-19. She says if there is a serious exodus of teachers because of this, the schools will not have enough substitute teachers to fill their roles, and that is how the in-person school attendance system could collapse so that schools would have to be conducted entirely online.
Many colleges are already set to have either all online courses or both online and some in-person attendance, albeit with the requirements of wearing masks and doing social distancing by spacing chairs a certain distance apart.
Here where I live, in the Phoenix metro area (The Valley), it was reported today by media outlet azcentral, “The Queen Creek Unified School District and adjacent J. O. Combs Unified School District voted earlier this week to reopen schools for in-person learning. But on Friday afternoon, J. O. Combs announced that it would not open at all on Monday because too many teachers refused to show up. . . . Superintendent Gregory A. Wyman in a statement said the district had received an ‘overwhelming response’ from staff indicating that they did not feel safe returning to classrooms with students. . . . Wyman said the district had received a high volume of staff absences for Monday, with teachers citing health and safety concerns. ‘Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to re-open on Monday as planned,’ Wyman wrote. ‘At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume.'”