No Safe Road to US School Reopening

This was to be the year that our daughter would go to kindergarten. My wife and I REALLY wanted to see that happen, public education is important to us for many reasons. COVID-19 threw that vision into question. But we held out hope. I know that the childcare provided by schools as well as the learning provided is essential to getting our economy moving again. However, the Federal Administrations criminally negligent mishandling of the crisis has fully killed any hope I had.

The ask from the administration is to pretend that kids can’t get COVID (they can and do), that those kids who do get COVID just end up with a snotty nose (Also possible: permanent lung and heart damage, death) and that the rate of infection and it’s presence in the general population is under control (The likelihood that someone in the US has COVID is significantly higher than any other country).

They want us to pretend that teachers can be asked to do twice as much work (Split classrooms, VC, extra precautions, means double prep, double work), willingly take a level of personal risk that we pay military members “hazard pay” for, and do all this with less money than last year before the virus.

As parents, every day we run risk calculations. We look at what we want (ex. Camping Trip), how it benefits our little ones (Experience, love of the outdoors, fitness), identify the most significant risks (the drive) the worst case outcomes (car accident, death, injury), mitigate as much as possible (good car seats, safe vehicle) — And put it on the scales. So I’m not fully opposed to sending my child to school in this new COVID era. It is going to be done in a number of other countries. However, the risks in this country are much higher (we are in the middle of an escalating outbreak of the virus), and the mitigations put in place, will be done on a ridiculously constrained budget. If this were a camping trip, it would be one done in a poorly maintained vehicle, up a one way steep cliffside road 75% wide enough for our vehicle, blocked by goats, while our children sit unbuckled on our laps, after 2 hours of sleep and 3 shots of tequila.

OSHA violation

Teachers, if our local governments and school districts are forced into taking that drive I hope you strike. I’ll bring the signs and N-95 masks.

I was asked about my napkin math for understanding the risks, so I put together this:

Depending on the unknown transmission rates, this sheet shows that death of children due to school reopening could be over 9,000 per year. By comparison (and using the same sheet) the comparative risk of day care reopen would be around 87 fatalities. There is so much missing data around child risk to this disease, as they’ve been the most sheltered (Less likely to go to hot spots like bars, and large parties) since the start of the virus. Already we are seeing in reopened daycares a number of clustered outbreaks, so they are neither “immune” nor “invulnerable” as some narratives would claim. Feel free to copy the spreadsheet, and put in your own findings to make a conclusion, but understand that there are a LOT of US students, and the rate of new cases in the US is ridiculously high.

Kevin Lohman, Software Engineer, Father, Story Teller, and former US Navy Sailor (who never set foot on a ship)

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