So, apparently Governor Newsom of the West Coast Pact thinks schools here may be able to reopen in July.
Here in Sonoma County, the new and active case lines are flat or possibly trending slightly upward (though the county has recently started proactive testing on medical staff and first responders so a slight uptick from newly detected asymptomatic cases is to be expected).
The trendlines for California generally are rising with no sign of a plateau (though I have not been able to find a good graph for statewide current active cases, as opposed to cumulative).
So, if schools need to be closed now then why would they not still need to be closed in a month?
There is literally nothing in the data to indicate any dropoff in infection rates; not now, nor in the immediate future.
We’ve kept the infection rates low thus far precisely by limiting the circles of people with which we come in close contact.
And children simply cannot maintain that level of separation in a group setting.
Well, small children can’t.
Colleges, obviously, are dealing with folks who are legally adults and can be expected to act as such (though, just as obviously, they’re college students so they’ll still be trying to get in each others’ pants fulltime regardless).
And high school students can probably be expected to behave themselves acceptably if you rearrange the scheduling and spaces a lot.
But middle school and elementary kids?
They just can’t do it, and it’s insane to expect them to.
All you’ll achieve by reopening the middle and elementary schools is merging the infection risk pools of every houselhold associated with each school into one giant pool that will immediately spread any infectious disease across the entire associated population.
So, if there’s any SC2 in your school’s population it’ll promptly spread to every household.
So, no: the younger schools cannot safely reopen in the near future.
And it would be foolish to try.
Worse, by directing our attention to that possibility Newsom distracts us from efforts that could actually be helpful:
- expanding broadband services
- hiring one-on-one tutors
- organizing households into mutual-support groups
- training schools in remote technology
Because the longer we faff around with idle dreams of reopening, the longer we delay actually addressing the problems we can work on in favor of contemplating hopeless scenarios of “normality”.
Because this virus will not be going away any time soon.
We’re looking at 18-24 months before a vaccine will be available, at best.
It is not a problem we can do anything about, other than to minimize its spread while the professionals get on with the vaccine research.
So stop daydreaming and knuckle down to fixing the problems we can do something about.
This situation is bad enough; don’t make it worse by getting distracted now.