Schools in Session?
Opening up schools in the fall with the pandemic unabated, is a heated topic of discussion throughout the country. The President is adamant in ignoring the experts and demanding that schools open. Gov. Herbert announced that schools will open in Utah, but he will mandate masks for students.
Given that everyone would love to have schools open, but polls show the majority of people prioritize safety, how do we make the right decision? What happened in Israel can give us a clue. Initially Israel did everything right. They drove their national cases down to almost zero with a national lockdown.
Then they went ahead and opened up schools without much planning or commitment to safety, and against the advice of their health experts. Two weeks later, the virus in the community reignited, wiping out all the gains of control that had been achieved with the lockdown. Now, almost half of all cases in the new wave were contracted at schools.
Researchers found that middle schoolers were the most dangerous vectors, becauseyounger students had more respect for their teachers and were more obedient and easier to control. High school students had a better ability to understand the need for constrained behavior like masks. But middle schoolers love to rebel, not listen to teachers and were more likely to spread the virus.
Schools are our greatest public asset. But opening up schools while the virus continues to spread, breaking records every day, is just asking for trouble, and will likely end up in another shut down. Some teachers will get very ill and die, even a few children are likely to as well. But the experience in Israel is a clear warning that it will quickly spread back to the community, putting everyone at risk.