Declaring the reopening of schools a "national priority," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said over the weekend that any needless delays to the resumption of in-person instruction would be damaging and unacceptable. Granted, this comes with a bit of a wiggle-room caveat, but it's a strong statement nevertheless, largely echoing a sentiment President Trump has been expressing for weeks:
Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than is absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible.https://t.co/9sK8lpQPsJ— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 9, 2020
Boris Johnson today throws down the gauntlet to union leaders blocking the return of pupils to classrooms by insisting the country has a ‘moral duty’ to reopen schools next month. In an exclusive article for The Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister declares that a resumption of normal teaching is now his ‘national priority’. The rallying cry will further crank up the political pressure over the issue, which is fast becoming a totemic test of the Government’s ability to reboot the economy and move the country safely out of lockdown...Mr Johnson writes: ‘Now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so.’...Mr Johnson’s words come after Dr Mary Bousted, head of the National Education Union, urged schools to ignore ‘threatening noises’ from the Government and refuse to reopen if they feel it is unsafe.
Here in America, some teachers' unions have been staging "die-ins" to protest proposed school re-openings, making wild Socialist demands, and even insisting on limiting virtual teaching obligations. Prime Minister Johnson's case is boosted by this large and significant study featuring roughly 20,000 students across 100 schools, reported by the Times of London:
One of the largest studies in the world on coronavirus in schools, carried out in 100 institutions in the UK, will confirm that “there is very little evidence that the virus is transmitted” there, according to a leading scientist. Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of the government advisory group Sage, said: “A new study that has been done in UK schools confirms there is very little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools...“This is the some of the largest data you will find on schools anywhere. Britain has done very well in terms of thinking of collecting data in schools.”...About 20,000 British pupils were tested in a study that found little evidence of transmission.
Trump has been pressing schools to return to an in-person format, drawing widespread criticism. But with Dr. Anthony Fauci reiterating similar points, and several prominent Democrats endorsing the idea (Andrew Cuomo) and warning of serious consequences if schools don't reopen in short order (Chuck Schumer), it appears as though the tide may be turning. Certain cynics have wondered whether Democrats started to notice movement in their internal polling that may have jarred them from their stance of reflexive opposition. Overall, data from around the world has shown few negative COVID-related ramifications from schools being open, while documented downsides of closed schools range from emotional distress to developmental regression, to other serious byproducts of isolation. That being said, examples out of Israel and American summer camps cut in the opposite direction -- and this week, a Georgia high school that garnered negative attention for punishing a student for posting photos of crowded hallways is now pausing instruction after a group of students and teachers have tested positive:
Nine people have tested positive for COVID-19 at a Georgia high school where a photo of a packed hallway went viral earlier this week. Six students and three staff members who were at the school last week have tested positive, according to a letter sent to parents Saturday that was acquired by ABC News. The positive cases were reported to the school after private tests...The photo showed students crammed wall-to-wall at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. Some students were wearing masks, but many were not, and social distancing was not possible. The picture prompted outrage from parents and outside observers, but also punishment for the student who shot the pictures and shared them.
COVID does not pose zero threat to kids, but the threat is exceedingly low. The issue is potential spread to vulnerable populations from students who could contract the virus in schools. In hopeful news, it very much appears as though all of the recently-affected sunbelt states are past their COVID peaks and are now on the downslope on key metrics (deaths, a lagging indicator, would follow):
You can clearly see that states like AZ, FL, and TX are past their peaks from recent spikes and following the curve on the right while NY and NJ followed the path of the curve on the left. https://t.co/zZaNpIJQ8S— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) August 9, 2020
Florida emergency room visits for COVID-like illness continue to plummet: pic.twitter.com/vDmKv0RPAd— Jennifer Cabrera (@jhaskinscabrera) August 9, 2020
Solid improvements in GA https://t.co/MPOtyrPzOQ— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 9, 2020
It's premature to say with certainty, but as of now, it looks like much-maligned states like Arizona and Florida will end up with flattened and delayed Coronavirus curves -- which was explicitly laid out as the goal -- compared to the early and disastrous spikes in places like New York and New Jersey. I'll leave you with this analysis from Dr. Scott Gottlieb on testing, and a worthwhile piece by healthcare policy expert Avik Roy:
“We need to implement more low cost tests,” @ScottGottlibebMD tells @margbrennan. That’s the key to #reopeningschools.— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) August 9, 2020
This week, the @US_FDA will likely approve one such a test - a saliva test, he says. pic.twitter.com/YpK4NCceXO
New: my @WSJ Review cover story on the compelling case for reopening schools, especially for younger children. Children themselves are at extremely low risk of serious illness or death. So the question I answer is: can children pass #COVID19 to adults? https://t.co/1HA0pc402o— Avik Roy (@Avik) August 7, 2020
UPDATE - There are no easy answers on any of this:
At least 800 students and staffers in a Georgia school district have been quarantined after coming into contact with dozens of others who tested positive for Covid-19, just one week into the new school year https://t.co/HAj7BmXeZr— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 11, 2020