When the water runs out to sea, it’s not time to explore the newly-exposed ocean bottom. When the seismic buoys register ocean floor tremors, it’s not time to remark upon the sunny weather and plan on a day at the beach. When the tsunami warnings are sounded, it’s time to head for high ground.
The water ran out to sea in late May/early June in Florida, especially in Jacksonville. The curve had flattened. The data showed that hospitalizations were down; few people had died. This was the moment that reopening the city seemed like a good choice. Dine out, go out to bars, attend to personal needs like hair styling and pedicures.
But the water running out had a different purpose.
By late June and moving into July, the numbers began jumping and resumed their exponential increase. The tsunami began pouring in. By late July, it was clear, despite protestations that the numbers had stabilized, that we had flatlined again, albeit at a higher level, and that we were peaking, that the continuing public health crisis would upend plans to reopen schools, not to mention bars (in Florida, they were ordered closed in late June. Then, the increase in cases shifted into a linear model. Anyone see a connection? Florida wants to reopen its bars.)
But what about the schools? Districts have been working on plans for two months. But what seemed reasonable in early June now seems outrageous in late July.
The big unknown is how contagious are children. No one knows. Politicians like to cite data about a low rate of infection and the very rare death for humans under 18. The truth is that we don’t know. We locked down schools for the last two to three months of the school year. After that, children have remained at home. Whether their parents have kept them isolated or allowed them to run loose over the summer, we have no data.
What little we do know comes from the summer programs and camps that tried to carry on with in-person operations. For too many, it hasn’t ended well. Schools that tried in-person summer school instruction have also had to close because the virus turned up and spread to the children and staff.
In pandemic times, normal procedures for scientific studies are compressed or suspended. We read about many experiences and it’s up to the reader to sort through the details to see if a study reports about a few people or is more extensive and worthy of attention.
We should always err on the side of caution. We are learning that SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19 for short) is more than a respiratory disease. Of major concern is the heart damage it causes–damage that will last for life. Also concerning is the lung scarring medical experts are discovering in children who did contract the virus.
We are learning that children over the age of 10, especially teenagers, can catch and spread the disease at almost the rate of adults, even if they do not experience a serious bout of illness themselves.
These are the seismic buoys warning of tremors in the ocean floor. Tremors that are sending waves upward through the water. There is a tsunami coming.
Others express it differently. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the noted American expert on infectious diseases, told teachers in an AFT virtual town hall last night that our schools will be an experiment in how the disease progresses through children, adolescents, and the teachers and staff who work in the schools.
It is time for bleating politicians to stop with the false reassurances. No one knows for sure. But when the water runs out to sea and the buoys report their readings, it is time to head for high ground.
Would you rather err on the side of keeping school buildings closed and later realize it wasn’t necessary? Or do you want to take the chance of not one super-spreader event, but 98,000 super-spreader events? (Number of estimated schools in the U.S.)