Coronavirus lockdown covid Covid shutdown Economy Intelwars Reopening schools School reopening

Report: Keeping kids out of school could cost the US economy $700 billion … or more

As debate over whether to reopen schools has raged on, most people have focused on the wisdom of sending kids back to school as the nation continues to work to get the coronavirus pandemic under control.

Folks worried about reopening are concerned about the health of students, teachers, and staff — as well as all those people’s families — and want to make sure that reopening will not exacerbate the COVID crisis.

Advocates for reopening say that remote learning isn’t enough: Kids need to be back in school, they say, because they learn better with in-person instruction. Those advocates also note children need the social aspect of schools and that many kids need the services and protections many schools provide.

But what about the economic impact of keeping schools closed? How much damage will closed schools have on the U.S. economy.

A report this month from Barron’s examined those questions and came up with a troubling answer: Keeping schools closed may well cost the U.S. economy more than $700 billion.

What’s this, now?

The Barron’s report started with an ominous note: “The only thing standing between a recovery and a double-dip recession might be the back-to-school season.”

As the new school year starts, Barron’s noted, 56 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade are facing all sorts of new challenges — most are going to have to use distance learning, which presents unique academic challenges, while others will face the challenge of dealing with COVID regulations within their schools.

But those challenges might just pale in comparison to the economic challenge of not returning to in-class instruction.

“The risks to reopening schools are clear — they could become a new epicenter for Covid-19,” Barron’s said, “but the costs of keeping schools closed could be even higher.”

Just how much higher?

Barron’s says the U.S. would be looking at $700 billion in lost revenue and productivity, which would be 3.5% of GDP, Axios said.

The impact closed schools will have on the economy is connected to our nation’s decision to have schools act as child care so that parents can go to work. With kids at home, parents are being forced to give up work hours or quit their jobs altogether.

According to the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago, working parents account for about one-third of the nation’s workforce, Axios noted.

The outlet added that child-care needs in the wake of the nation’s response to COVID last March, which closed schools across the country, meant that 13% of those working parents lost their jobs or cut back their hours. And those who did not have to give up work have found themselves considerably less productive: The average working parent has lost eight hours a week of productivity with kids at home during the pandemic.

Misty Heggeness, a visiting scholar at the Minneapolis Fed, told Axios, “Even if you’re lucky enough to have a teleworking situation, it’s really hard to work at full capacity when you’re essentially acting as a teaching assistant.”

COVID-19 Intelwars New york city schools School reopening teachers union united federation of teachers

NYC teachers won’t show up unless every student and staff member gets a COVID-19 test, union threatens

A New York teachers union announced that New York City teachers may not show up for school if every student and staff member is not tested for COVID-19 before entry for in-person classes, according to the New York Post.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the extreme amount of testing is the only way to ensure safety and prevent a coronavirus disaster upon reopening.

“Every single person — both adult and child — that is to enter an NYC school must have evidence that they do not have the COVID virus,” Mulgrew said during a news conference. “New York City must have a rigorous and intensive testing system in place. What happened in March cannot happen again.”

Mulgrew is proposing three things that he says Mayor Bill de Blasio must make happen for teachers to agree to come back to school:

  • Full stock of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, and proper ventilation
  • COVID-19 response team at each school and a clear plan of action
  • Every single person screened and able to prove they don’t have COVID-19 before entering a school building
“We are not going back to hell because of short-sighted political agendas,” Mulgrew said.
The union’s plan would require anyone without a positive antibody result within 10 days of reopening to get a COVID-19 test and produce a negative result before entry into a school building.

While it would certainly be nice if everyone could be tested as a precaution, the sheer number of New York City students who attend public schools may make that impossible.

According to the Post, more than 1 million students attend New York City schools. That doesn’t include faculty and staff. On a daily basis, the entire state of New York conducts between 50,000 and 80,000 tests.

The delay in testing results due to high volumes would also be an obstacle to this plan. In some cases, people are having to wait 10-14 days before getting their results, which in many cases could render it useless. Someone can have COVID-19 and then have totally recovered from the virus within 2 weeks.

New York City schools are scheduled to start Sept. 10 with a combination of online and in-person learning.

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Georgia school backs down, reverses suspension of student who shared crowded hallway photo

A Georgia high school reversed its decision to suspend a student who tweeted a viral photo of a crowded hallway, which sparked widespread criticism for the school’s apparent lack of social distancing, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Sophomore Hannah Watters, 15, attends North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. Earlier this week, Hannah tweeted a photo showing the hallway between classes, where students were packed in the hallways shoulder-to-shoulder with most of them unmasked. She and another student were suspended for sharing photos.

Hannah’s mother, Lynne Watters, confirmed that after a conversation with school officials, the suspension was reversed and Hannah will return to school next week.

“I spoke to the principal a short time ago and he has rescinded the suspension and she will have no discipline on her record,” Lynne Watters told AJC.

The suspension was related to student conduct policies banning the use of phones during instruction time, the use of a phone during school hours for social media, and recording students and posting the recording on social media.

Hannah admits she broke the rule about posting images of students to social media, but both she and her mother said high school students are exempt from the phone ban and she didn’t post the photo until after school.

“Cellphone use is allowed by high school students during non-instructional time, and she did not post to social media until after regular school hours,” Lynne Watters said, according to AJC.

WSB-TV first reported that Paulding County Superintendent Brian Otott threatened punishment for students who shared crowded hallway photos, and reported that he only threatened such action after the photos went viral.

Otott said the photo has been taken out of context to criticize the school, although he admitted in a letter to parents obtained by WSB that “there is no question that the photo does not look good.”

“Some individuals on social media are taking this photo and using it without context to criticize our school reopening efforts,” Otott said, according to WSB. “Under the COVID-19 protocols we have adopted, class changes that look like this may happen, especially at a high school with more than 2,000 students.”

Hannah said even a suspension would have been worthwhile in the interest of safety.

“I’d like to say this is some good and necessary trouble,” Hannah told CNN. “My biggest concern is not only about me being safe, it’s about everyone being safe because behind every teacher, student and staff member there is a family, there are friends, and I would just want to keep everyone safe.”

There have not yet been any reports of COVID-19 cases at the school.

Schools begin reopening amid coronavirus safety concerns

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Illinois school district to prioritize ‘Black and Brown’ students for in-person learning due to limited capacity

Racial minorities will be among those prioritized when Illinois School District 65 determines who can attend classes in-person with capacity limited by COVID-19 precautions, according to the Evanston RoundTable.

Schools in the district, which includes Evanston and Skokie, will be using about 60% of their square footage and ensuring that students have the space to maintain 6 feet of space between them as much as possible. Teachers will not be forced to work from the schools, so some of them may not be available to provide in-person instruction.

That means student capacity will be limited, and if too many parents choose to send their students to school in-person instead of online, the schools will have to make decisions on who to accept and who to deny. Superintendent Devon Horton said priority will be given to “dependent learners” and “students that are marginalized.”

“We are in a pandemic,” Horton told the RoundTable. “And we also know that everyone is affected by this differently. But there was a pandemic before this. That was inequity and racism, and classism and all of these other things. And so I just want to make sure that as we’re making a decision — no decision is going to make everyone happy — we understand that. We’re trying to support every single child to the best of our ability, and we can’t allow a political cash train to take over our decision-making regarding how we return our students to school.

“We have to make sure that students who’ve been oppressed, that we don’t continue to oppress them and that we give them opportunity,” Horton continued. “I’ve heard for quite some time that this is a community that’s about equity for Black and Brown students, for special education students, for LGBTQ students. We know that this is important work, and we’re going to prioritize that.”

Other prioritized groups, according to Deputy Superintendent Latarsha Green, include “students receiving free or reduced lunch, Black and Brown students, students who received an [incomplete] or less than 50% on their report cards, emerging bilinguals, and students with [individualized education programs]” as well as “students who are not performing according to reading or math grade-level expectations, and students with no comorbidity factors.”

School District 65 will begin its year fully online beginning Aug. 27, with plans to launch in-person classes on Sept. 29 if conditions allow. In-person classes will be Tuesday through Friday, with Monday set aside for the buildings to be thoroughly cleaned.

(H/T: Fox News)

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Some Georgia schools struggle to socially distance, manage COVID-19 cases as they reopen

Some schools in Georgia have opened for in-person classes, but reopening has come with the reality of the difficulty of social distancing and the impact a single positive COVID-19 case can have on the rest of the school, CBS News reported.

Pictures circulated online of students packed in hallways, with few of them wearing masks, and showing students getting together in groups for first day of school pictures. Educators are optimistic or hopeful that students and teachers will be safe, but theories about how the virus may spread in school environments will be put to the test.

Cherokee Independent School District Superintendent Brian Hightower on Friday sent a stern message to school teachers and staff, implying they may need to seek employment elsewhere if they didn’t like the plan to reopen — although he pulled back on that some after criticism. From CBS News:

“For those of you who are unhappy with various facets of our reopening plan, I ask you to reflect on the best direction for you in your role with CCSD,” Hightower wrote.

On Saturday, Hightower wrote another email saying he heard from “several” employees and he “should have done a much better job of sharing my appreciation for both your efforts and concerns as it relates to our school reopening.”

Statistically children have been shown to be at an extremely low risk of serious illness when infected with COVID-19. However, the highly contagious nature of the virus means that even a minor or asymptomatic case can shut down entire classes for weeks.

Sixes Elementary School in Cherokee County had one second-grade student test positive for COVID-19, which required the entire class of 20 students, and the teacher, to quarantine at home for two weeks, during which time the students will engage in online instruction.

For the parents of those students who are forced to be home for two weeks regardless of whether they’re sick, the quarantine could be highly disruptive to work schedules, creating an environment where the stakes are high in terms of the effort to keep classes infection-free. But, as one administrator told CBS, even mandating masks can be impractical or impossible.

“Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them,” Paulding County Superintendent Brian Ottot said.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds threatens consequences for schools that refuse to reopen

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is not budging against schools that defy her mandate to open for in-person instruction at least 50% of the time, according to the Des Moines Register.

At least two school districts in Iowa have decided not to abide by Reynolds’ mandate, and Reynolds made it clear Tuesday that schools that aren’t open for in-person classes at least half the time won’t have that excess online instruction counted toward the state-mandated number of instructional hours and days.

“Schools that choose not to return to school for at least 50% in-person instruction are not defying me, they are defying the law,” Reynolds said during a press conference. “If schools move to primarily remote learning without approval, according again to the law, those days do not count toward instructional time.”

While Reynolds did not say that schools could lose state funding over this issue, the situation could cause students not to make the proper academic progress, and could also lead to licensure discipline for administrators.

The districts are arguing that they should have local authority to make their own decisions because of the unique public health circumstances. From the Register:

The Urbandale school board voted unanimously Monday to continue online-only learning at Rolling Green Elementary School, after the state denied the district’s request to extend online learning at the school.

The Waukee school district also issued a statement Monday saying it would not follow Reynolds’ guidance, asserting that state law gives school districts the power to make their own decisions about how to handle potential hazards to their students and staff.

Some other districts, including Des Moines, intend to ask for waivers for the 50% requirement or for permission to push the school year back some, and will then decide how to proceed in the event that those waivers are denied. There is hope that regardless of how much in-person instruction is needed in the fall, things could be better in the spring semester.

“While we don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the beginning of June, there is some degree of possibility that come spring we’re at a very different point as it relates to COVID-19 and school could look a lot more like normal. Then we could easily get to the 50% number,” Superintendent Tom Ahart told the Register.

Iowa has experienced 887 COVID-19 deaths, with the peak of the outbreak coming in late April through mid-May.

California school Day care program Intelwars Online only School closure School reopening

California school district will be online-only to fight COVID-19 — but it will offer extended day care program where up to 12 students can be in a classroom

A California school district that has elected to operate in a 100% virtual capacity because of COVID-19 concerns has adopted a seemingly counterintuitive approach to schooling this fall by also announcing a day care program where students can attend online classes and complete schoolwork in a physical classroom.

What are the details?

The South Pasadena Unified School District in Los Angeles County announced earlier this month that, in accordance with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders, it would implement a distance-learning model to begin the year and continue that model indefinitely.

In subsequent communication on its website, the school district reiterated that “schools will be physically closed at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, and all students will participate in 100% distance learning.”

Yet soon after, in an effort to assist working families in need of child care, the school district also announced the implementation of an extended day care program for students up to eighth grade.

According to a document detailing the program, the district said that families will be able to drop their children off at schools between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and that while there students will be supervised and provided with time to complete their schoolwork.

Up to 12 students will be allowed in individual classrooms.

The document adds that the district will be “requiring all students and staff to wear masks, ensuring social distancing, frequent sanitation of rooms, and all other County guidelines and protocols to help keep staff and students safe.”

TheBlaze reached out to the South Pasadena Unified School District for clarification on the school’s reopening plans and extended day care program, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

It begs the question

The seemingly counterintuitive move begs the question: If the school district can safely operate a day care program with up to 12 students in individual classrooms, why can’t they conduct in-person classes?

In a tweet about the news, former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson wrote: “So, look, on the one hand the district deserves credit for trying to help working parents … but could there be more obvious proof that closing the schools is nothing more than a cave to [Randi Weingarten] and the gang? It is impossible to be too cynical.”

Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teachers unions, which in recent weeks has fought against the physical opening of schools. On Tuesday, Weingarten authorized AFT members to strike if their schools go forward with reopening plans that don’t meet AFT’s exhaustive criteria for safety.

An an updated guidance on schools reopening issued last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that while faculty and staff may be at some risk, “the best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms.”

The guidance also said that “the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.”

Body bags Dc schools Fake body bags Intelwars School reopening schools

‘RIP Favorite Teacher’: DC teachers line up ‘body bags’ and signs to protest potential return to school

Public school teachers in Washington, D.C., lined up fake “body bags” and displayed signs in front of the school system’s offices recently to protest a partial return to the classroom.

Evidently, the teachers wanted to make their feelings known ahead of Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser’s announcement regarding D.C.’s plan for reopening schools this fall. Bowser is expected to make the announcement this Friday.

Debbie Truong, an education reporter for WAMU-FM, Washington’s NPR station, posted a photo of the bags to Twitter on Monday.

In the photo, you can see filled garbage bags tied with duct tape lined up outside the offices along with several signs that read, “RIP Favorite Teacher,” “RIP, Killed in the Line of Duty,” and “[D.C. Public Schools], how many will you let die?”

Another sign read “Distance Only” in reference to the virtual classroom learning that many districts around the country shifted to last spring amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, officials in D.C., as in many communities, are finalizing decisions on how to reopen schools as the virus lingers, considering a full physical return, an all-virtual return, or a hybrid model.

Last week, parents in D.C. were asked to fill out a “technology survey” to help inform DCPS administrators about the resources available to students should virtual learning be continued. The survey asked parents to provide feedback on whether or not their children had access to a laptop, tablet, DCPS-issued device, or none of above.

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have pushed for public schools to fully reopen and earlier this month threatened to cut federal funding to schools that refuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an updated guidance on schools reopening last week, in which the agency noted that “the best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms,” though that the risk is heightened for faculty and staff.

The guidance added that “the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.”

In an accompanying statement, CDC Director Robert Redfield argued that it is “critically important for our public health” that schools reopen.

(H/T: The Washington Examiner)

American Federation of Teachers Coronavirus COVID-19 Intelwars randi weingarten School reopening teachers union

National teachers union authorizes its 1.7M members to strike if they don’t like school reopen plans

One of the nation’s largest teachers unions has authorized local chapters to go on strike if their school systems try to reopen without a plan that the meets union standards for safety, Politico reported.

The American Federation of Teachers will provide legal, financial, and staffing support to local chapters that go on strike, as the school year approaches amid significant disagreement between teachers and some state and local governments about whether to start the school year in-person or only online.

“Let’s be clear: Just as we have done with our health care workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of students and their educators,” Union President Randi Weingarten said Tuesday. “But if the authorities don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, nothing is off the table — not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary and authorized by a local union, as a last resort, safety strikes.”

The AFT released a resolution that detailed its demands before it would agree to the opening of schools for in-person instruction.

The union will support full reopening only if the average daily community infection rate is below 5% and the transmission rate is below 1%; high risk staff are given access to special accommodations; schools can be closed if cases spike; and if precautions are taken such as social distancing, masks for students and staff, and upgrades to school building ventilation systems.

Weingarten said in a statement that most teachers supported reopening in June, but recent spikes in cases and aggressive pushes by the federal government have caused many teachers to change their minds.

“Before the virus’ resurgence, and before Trump’s and [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos’ reckless ‘open or else’ threats, 76 percent of AFT members said they were comfortable returning to school buildings if the proper safeguards were in place,” Weingarten said. “Now they’re afraid and angry. Many are quitting, retiring or writing their wills. Parents are afraid and angry, too.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly pointed to data showing that children are at low risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and that keeping the schools closed could be more harmful to their well-being than having them in school.

“In areas where there are hot spots, remote and distance learning might need to be adopted for a certain amount of time,” Deputy Education Secretary Mitchell Zais said during a CDC press briefing. “But the research and science continue to suggest that it is safer, healthier and better for students to be in school full time.”

Coronavirus COVID-19 Intelwars School reopening schools teachers unions

Republicans want schools open, Democrats want them closed, poll shows

The question of whether to reopen schools for in-person instruction is split sharply down party lines, with Republicans mostly in favor of reopening, and Democrats mostly wanting them to remain closed for the foreseeable future, an ABC News/Ipsos poll showed.

The country is deeply divided over how to proceed with schools, with 55% of respondents opposed to reopening in the fall. At the same time, 59% of parents say they’re concerned about their children falling behind because of school closures.

Most Republicans, 79%, support schools reopening in the fall, while most Democrats, 78% want schools to operate remotely during the fall semester. Most schools across the country closed in the second half of March or early April in the spring.

CDC Director Robert Redfield has said it is “critically important for our public health” for schools to open, and that he would be comfortable sending his own grandchildren back to school under the current circumstances.

The CDC released new guidelines on Thursday that gives schools advice on how to reopen with students in-person in a safe manner.

Redfield has sought to change the conversation around reopening by highlighting the public health concerns that arise if schools are closed for too long.

“It’s not public health versus opening the school versus reopening schools and the economy. It’s public health versus public health,” Redfield said, according to The Hill.

From the CDC website:

Parents are understandably concerned about the safety of their children at school in the wake of COVID-19. The best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms.[1],[2],[3] Death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults. At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant. Further, the lack of in-person educational options disproportionately harms low-income and minority children and those living with disabilities. These students are far less likely to have access to private instruction and care and far more likely to rely on key school-supported resources like food programs, special education services, counseling, and after-school programs to meet basic developmental needs

According to the CDC, people under the age of 18 account for nearly 7% of cases and less than 0.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

“So far in this pandemic, deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons, with only 64,” the CDC information reads.

CDC COVID-19 Intelwars Reopen Robert redfield School reopening schools

CDC director says he ‘absolutely’ would send his grandchildren back to school in September

As the nation continues to debate whether to send students back to school this fall, at least one famous health expert has come out as a major advocate for getting kids in the classroom by September.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday it’s “critical” to get the schools open because of the health consequences connected to keeping kids out of school.

Redfield said that he believes schools can open safely — and is so certain of it that he would have no problem sending his own grandkids to school.

What did he say?

The CDC director began his interview touting the importance of masks and reminding viewers that there’s data showing that face masks work to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“If all Americans would embrace that [masks] as part of their personal responsibility to confront this outbreak, we could actually have a very significant impact on the outbreak that we’re seeing across the country in the next four, six, eight, 10, 12 weeks,” Redfield said.

But, he did not go so far as to agree with host Cecilia Vega that the federal government should mandate masks nationwide.

“Why not just mandate this nationally and make people wear a mask?” Vega asked.

“I’m not sure that mandating makes sense,” Redfield replied. “I think the issue is how to motivate all Americans to do that. It’s obviously an independent decision that the individual governors are making.”

With that out of the way, Redfield addressed the need to get kids back in school.

Asked about how realistic it is to get little kids to stay six feet apart at lunch and recess, the director said that getting the students back in school is itself a public health issue.

“It’s really important to get our schools open,” Redfield answered. “As I’ve said, it’s not public health versus opening the schools for the economy. It’s public health versus public health. I think there really are a number of negative public health consequences that have happened to our K-12s by having these schools closed.”

He emphasized the importance of working with the schools to implement the CDC’s social distancing and face mask guidelines.

“It’s so important now to work together with the school districts to figure out how they can take our guidelines and operationalize them in a practical way,” he said, “and to do it in a way that’s safe for those that are vulnerable.”

What about his grandkids?

Vega asked Redfield if he would be comfortable with his school-age grandchildren going back to school in the fall.

“Absolutely,” the doctor said.

“The only one that there may be some reservation is my grandson with cystic fibrosis, depending on how he can be accommodated in the school that he’s in,” Redfield said. “My other 10 grandchildren, of those, eight of them are school-aged, I’m 100% that they can get back to school.”


Coronavirus COVID-19 Intelwars Jerome Adams School reopening Surgeon general

US surgeon general says whether or not schools open ‘has little to nothing to do with the actual schools’

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams weighed in on the school reopening debate, saying the decision about whether to open isn’t as much about the actual schools as many believe it is, CNN reported.

“What I want people to know is the biggest determinant of whether or not we can go back to school actually has little to nothing to do with the actual schools — it’s your background transmission rate,” Adams said. “And it’s why we’ve told people constantly that if we want to get back to school, to worship, to regular life — folks need to wear face coverings, folks need to practice social distancing. Those public health measures are actually what’s going to lower the transmission rate.”

Transmission rate measures the average number of people who get infected by a person infected with COVID-19. A transmission rate below 1 is needed to show that the disease is gradually being contained, rather than continuing to accelerate in its spread.

Adams acknowledged that the COVID-19 risk to children is low but said minimizing transmission of the virus is important to protect teachers, staff, and parents/guardians.

“We know the risk is low to the actual students. But we know they can transmit to others,” Adams said. “We need to take measures to make sure we protect those who are vulnerable either because they are older or they have chronic medical conditions.”

According to Statista, only seven states in the U.S. have a transmission rate below 1: North Carolina, Delaware, and Connecticut at 0.99; South Dakota and New Hampshire at 0.95; Utah at 0.92; and Maine at 0.85.

Montana has the highest transmission rate in the nation at 1.36. New York is among the states with the lowest transmission rates, at 1.03.

Possibly Adams’ most well-known contribution to the public COVID-19 response is his proclamation early in the pandemic that masks don’t work to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 in the general public, so people should stop buying them in order to save them for health care workers.

That tweet is still active on the surgeon general’s Twitter page, currently accompanied by a profile picture of Adams himself wearing a mask.

Now, Adams is insisting that wearing masks is crucial to lowering the transmission rate, which in turn is essential in getting schools open. This assertion seems to indicate that either Adams was lying in February about masks not being effective, or he’s lying now about how important it is to wear them.

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California cancels high school sports until at least December

The California Interscholastic Federation announced Monday that high school sports won’t begin in the state until at least December because of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The announcement delays football, girls volleyball, cross country, boys water polo, girls golf, girls tennis, and field hockey until the winter or spring.

“This is the best possible plan we have with what’s going on to give students an opportunity to participate,” Vicky Lagos, commissioner of the Los Angeles City Section, said, according to the Times. “There are going to be issues in terms of facilities and multiple-sport athletes, but this is the best scenario for the most people. I have confidence the schools and coaches will work it out among themselves. My take from coaches is they want the opportunity to participate and be with the kids.”

The new calendar means the football season will end in April, and basketball, baseball, and softball will all be concluding postseason championships in mid- to late-June.

The schedule will create numerous complications for athletes who are usually able to participate in multiple sports with little overlap or conflict, such as football and basketball, or football and track, for example. Coaches who are normally able to coach both boys and girls volleyball will have to make other arrangements.

Most California schools will start the academic year with online instruction, until they meet the strict guidelines set by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) that would allow them to reopen for in-person classes. Schools can’t reopen in-person until their county has been off of a statewide monitoring list for rising COVID-19 infections for 14 days.

Currently, 31 out of California’s 58 counties are on the monitoring list, leaving a majority of schools without the option to hold classes in-person to start the year.

Whenever schools can reopen in California, students third grade and above will be required to wear masks, and younger students will be encouraged, but not required, to wear a face covering of some kind.

Schools that have more than 5% of students sick will be forced to close, and districts with 25% or more schools closed within a two-week period will be forced to shut down.

The state reportedly is better prepared for online instruction than it was in the spring, when teachers were overwhelmed by the challenge of balancing their own home lives with teaching students through an unfamiliar method, and when some students didn’t have access to the technology necessary to participate.

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Florida teachers union sues the state over executive order to reopen schools in August

A teachers union in Florida has sued the governor and the state Board of Education over an executive order calling for schools to open five days a week for in-person instruction in August, NPR reported.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the Florida Education Association, names Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The union believes August is too early to safely bring students and teachers back into schools,

“Any sensible person would tell you we have got to get the positivity rate down,” union president Fedrick Ingram said, according to NBC News. “This is a life or death situation. We don’t want to be reckless; we don’t want to be irresponsible.”

What does the order say? The order, issued by Corcoran, states, “Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students, subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health, Executive Order 20-149 and subsequent executive orders.”

The order allows for waivers or flexibility regarding some state requirements for number of days of operation, as long as that flexibility is exercised within a reopening plan approved by the state.

While schools will be reopened under the order, the state will also provide online education options for students and parents who need it due to medical conditions that either the student or someone they live with might have.

What is the state saying about the lawsuit? DeSantis deflected questions about the order by pointing out that he didn’t issue it.

“I didn’t give any executive order. That was the Department of Education,” DeSantis said, according to NPR, which noted that DeSantis appointed the education commissioner and six members of the education board.

Corcoran dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous” and “reckless.”

“Clearly the FEA hasn’t read nor understands the Florida Department of Education’s guidance, the Emergency Order No. 2020-EO-06, or Florida Law,” Corcoran said in a statement. “Currently, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Statute 1001.42 (the law) required K-12 Schools ‘to operate 180 days’ a school year. If you do the math, that equates to 5 days a week for 36 weeks.”

“This E.O. did not order any new directives regarding the requirement of schools to be open, it simply created new innovative options for families to have the CHOICE to decide what works best for the health and safety of their student and family,” Corcoran said.

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North Carolina teachers’ union demands welfare for illegal immigrants and suspended rent before schools reopen

A teachers’ union in North Carolina has introduced a long list of demands that need to be met before schools can reopen. The Durham Association of Educators is calling for widescale and sweeping social programs such as universal health care, welfare benefits for illegal immigrants, and a suspension of rents and mortgages.

Last week, the DAE released a “Statement on School Re-Open Plans.” The teachers’ union says, “COVID-19 is a game of Russian Roulette, in which BIPOC communities are disproportionately killed.”

The union claims that politicians “are under enormous pressure to re-open schools, no matter the risk,” and “they are prepared to let us get sick and die.” The announcement states: “Trump, DeVos, and Berger want schools to open because they care about protecting wealth and big business.”

The DAE says schools can not reopen “until COVID-19 transmission rates are much lower than they are now,” and the union instructs Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to completely shut down North Carolina.

The union calls for sweeping social programs in its reopening demands statement.

“There are concrete policies that have permitted other countries to flatten the curve and return to public life: moratoriums on rent and mortgage, universal health care, direct income support regardless of immigration status,” the statement reads.

Last week, Cooper unveiled his plan to reopen North Carolina schools in August. The plan is to have children attend in-person classes every other day or every other week that will feature “moderate social distancing.”

“We know that school will look a lot different this year,” Cooper said last Tuesday. “They have to in order to be safe and effective. The public health experts and the school leaders developed these safety rules to protect our students and teachers and their families.”

Teachers have balked at Cooper’s school reopening plan.

The DAE isn’t the only teachers’ union to utilize the coronavirus shutdown to push overtly progressive policies. The 35,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles union demanded the defunding of police, the end of charter schools, and for financial support of undocumented students and their families.

The New Jersey Education Association has proposed a strict reopening plan that involves weekly COVID-19 tests for all students, social distancing of six feet at all times, and door-to-door mandatory masks.

Dawn Hiltner, a spokeswoman for the NJEA, said teachers fear that sending children back to school in September could endanger both children and teachers.

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Mass. General Hospital experts make the case for students returning to in-person learning

Two health experts in Massachusetts penned an op-ed making the argument that it should be safe for students to return to their classrooms and resume in-person learning.

The editorial by Dr. Lloyd Fisher, president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Sandra Nelson, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, was published on Thursday.

The doctors acknowledged that social distancing and lockdowns have been beneficial in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, but explained the danger of a continued lockdown to the development of children.

For most children COVID-19 has not had the devastating and life-threatening physical health effects seen in adults. But the negative impact on their education, mental health, and social development has been substantial.

Children with emotional, psychological, or developmental disabilities often receive necessary services through schools. Because some of these services were put on hold, continued school closures have been especially detrimental to this group of vulnerable children.

They pointed to the evidence that the coronavirus is less of a threat to children than it is to older groups.

“Children are less susceptible to infection and less likely to become severely ill when infected with COVID-19,” they wrote. “Thus far children have not been major drivers of transmission; and evidence from the pre-lockdown era points to lower rates of transmission in schools than in other community settings.”

This, combined with the fact that health officials know better how social distancing can thwart the spread of the coronavirus, lead the doctors to conclude that the benefits of in-person classroom instruction outweigh the risks.

We have done a great job in Massachusetts, heeding the call for distancing to get our transmission rates down. We believe a return to school in this setting and with mitigation strategies is safe, and that Massachusetts can and should continue to be a model for safe reopening.

Massachusetts is six weeks away from the beginning of the regular school year.

A national debate

The national debate over whether children can safely return to classroom instruction under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic has developed into a partisan struggle.

President Donald Trump and many of his allies have argued that it is essential for students to return to classrooms in order to mitigate the negative effects on children and their parents.

Many of the Democratic governors and politicians of the left have argued that it is far too dangerous at a time when coronavirus cases are increasing in the United States.

Here’s more about the classroom coronavirus debate:

McEnany downplays fears of reopening schools

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Utah parents protest state mask mandate for students by not wearing masks to crowded meeting

Utah parents disregarded all social distancing protocol during a Utah County meeting that was called to discuss a state mandate that K-12 students wear masks when they return to school, ABC News reported.

The parents did not wear masks and did not abide by a seating arrangement that was meant to maintain distance between attendees. The result was dozens of people sitting close together in an indoor space with no masks — the exact opposite of what even the more conservative medical experts would recommend.

One attendee told KTVX-TV that she thought the mask mandate was a “political hoax” and that she was against their use. Another attendee held a sign that read “no masks.” The Salt Lake Tribune reported that there were many passionate expressions of opposition to masks:

As she walked up to the podium to speak, one of the moms grabbed a face mask and spit her gum out into it. “It’s garbage,” she shrugged, wadding it up. “It doesn’t work anyway. Not for me and not for my kids.”

A dad who spoke after her said he, too, doesn’t think the masks are effective, and said he’s pulling his kids out of school this fall if the state doesn’t lift its mandate requiring all K-12 students to wear a face covering. Another mother carried her 4-year-old son in her arms, noting there’s no way he would keep one on in his kindergarten class — but she thinks they’re stupid anyway, regardless of age.

Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge was booed when he criticized the crowd for their maskless protest, saying, “This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing.”

The commissioners voted to postpone the meeting, leading to more boos.

“We are supposed to be physical distancing, wearing masks,” Ainge said.

Watch: Parents Pack Into Utah County Meeting To Protest Student Mask Mandate | NBC News NOW

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) wants schools to reopen in the fall, but he issued an order that students and teachers be required to wear masks when they return.

Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee sent a letter to Herbert asking him to waive that requirement. Ainge supports the mask mandate.

“I’m not saying no masks, and I’m not saying fully mask,” Lee said, according to KTVX. “I’m saying let’s find some commonality in this that makes sense. That’s what I’m asking. There’s not enough that we understand. They’re sitting there going wait a second, wait a second, we should have more discussion — and I’d like to see it brought down to a more local level.”

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CNN’s Jake Tapper chides reporters — including Jim Acosta — for misrepresenting Kayleigh McEnany comment

CNN host Jake Tapper chided reporters — including his own colleague from CNN, Jim Acosta — who misrepresented a comment from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

The comment was made Thursday during McEnany’s media briefing as she was defending the president’s demand that schools reopen despite criticism that it might help spread the coronavirus.

Josh Lederman of CBS tweeted that McEnany said, “The science should not stand in the way of this,” in relation to the reopening of schools.

Critics of the administration took the quote to mean that President Donald Trump was not going to let scientific conclusions stand in the way of his preferred policy to reopen schools. The claim was emphasized in the headline from The Daily Beast that read, “Kayleigh McEnany: ‘Science Should Not Stand in the Way’ of Reopening Schools.”

But even Tapper, who has criticized the Trump administration heavily, had to chide reporters for propagating the misleading quote.

“Folks read the ENTIRE McEnany comment about “the science should not stand in the way” of opening schools,” Tapper tweeted.

“She’s arguing that the science is on the side of those who want to open them, she cites a JAMA study. I’m not taking a position on the matter but be fair,” he added.

Some people noted that Tapper could have tagged his CNN colleague Jim Acosta, because he was one of the journalists who dishonestly circulated the misleading McEnany quote.

Acosta later added further context to her quote, but not her full quote.

Tapper also went on to criticize the administration for past policies and statements after his tweet about McEnany’s comment.

“Before the familiar voices jump on this to score whatever political points they want,” he tweeted, “the facts are also clear that the president has ignored science and health experts far too many times and the US response is empirically a failure compared to the rest of the Western world.”

Critics of the school reopening plan say that although the coronavirus doesn’t appear to lead to many hospitalization or fatalities among children, opening them up too soon would help spread the virus to more susceptible groups.

Supporters of the plan to reopen schools counter by arguing that children need the socialization that schooling provides, and total distance learning would be a severe hardship for many parents.

Here are the comments from McEnany:

McEnany: Science shouldn’t stop schools reopening