Parents across America in areas without in-person teaching are desperate for help as their children fall behind academically and their community life evaporates under lockdown.
President Joe Biden has promised to reopen schools, but teachers’ unions are pushing back, citing COVID-19 concerns. Biden’s head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently appeared to greenlight the reopening of schools, only for her comments to be discounted by the administration.
Lockdown measures adopted amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic have weighed especially heavily on families with children whose schools have closed. Remote classes have proved ineffective, requiring parents to maintain constant supervision to ensure that any education takes place at all.
Children, meanwhile, have been stripped of their freedom to take part in sports and other extracurriculars, not to mention personal contact with friends.
Experts worry about the long term impact on academic performance, mental health risks, and even long term psychological damage to children growing up under lockdown. Meanwhile, hotline calls regarding children and domestic violence went up more than 50 percent during lockdown months, and reports of predators enticing minors online nearly doubled last year.
Many conservatives have encouraged parents to homeschool, but even that has become more difficult. Homeschooling families often depend on local cooperatives where they visit each other for shared learning, which is prohibited during lockdown.
As a result, a massive number of families aren’t ready to replace school on their own.
“We’re just deciding to throw away this generation of kids, like burned toast,” said author Ann Bauer after listening in on a conference call between a group of parents and a Minnesota state legislator.
“They described girls who hid in their rooms and cried and boys falling so far behind they might never catch up,” she said in a series of emotionally charged Feb. 4 tweets that are no longer available online.
Minnesota closed schools in March and later switched to remote or partly remote classes.
Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, told school districts in December to reopen at least elementary schools, but has faced objections from teachers unions that want to wait until teachers, or even all students, are vaccinated.
Many parents, however, are on the edge already.
Bauer said: “They said our state is way behind not just the world but the country, that we’ve denied children a decent education for a full year. They said their kids are not at risk for COVID; they pointed out that teachers are less likely to be infected in the classroom than the community.
“They talked about suicidal kids, their own and others. They talked about promising athletes who couldn’t play sports. They said their kids are being sacrificed.”
These parents were from one of the most affluent and academically best-performing districts in the state. They said they could afford tutors and electronics, but they still couldn’t cope.
“What surprised me is how money didn’t make this OK. These parents looked terrified,” Bauer said. “Two of the fathers cried; one turned off his video because he could not keep it together. Two of the moms had outbursts, and I couldn’t blame them.”
Arguments about the risk of spreading COVID-19 in schools rely on research of asymptomatic spread of the virus. But the research remains scant. An analysis of four such studies concluded that the risk is between zero and 5 percent. But that analysis only pertained to spread within a household. A recent paper that estimated nearly 60 percent of cases resulted from asymptomatic spread was based on assumptions regarding symptom onset and infectiousness duration.
Teachers don’t necessarily have to be vaccinated in order for schools to safely reopen, according to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
“I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” she said during a Feb. 3 press briefing.
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki later told reporters that Walensky was speaking “in her personal capacity” and that the official CDC guidance on school reopening has yet to come.
Walensky promised the guidance would come this week, but reiterated that most infections found in schools are coming from outside.
“The data from schools suggests that there’s very little transmission that is happening within the schools, especially when there’s masking and distancing occurring,” she said during a White House Feb. 8 briefing on COVID-19.
Daily infection positive test numbers have been dropping for weeks, but numbers of deaths only exhibit a slow downward trend, according to the CDC.
One argument against school reopening is the spread of new mutations of the virus, for example, the one first identified in the United Kingdom in December. Initial data indicate that this more-transmissible strain is also more virulent, or harmful, but “that needs to be confirmed,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), during the Feb. 8 briefing.
Slowing the spread helps slow down the mutation of the virus, Fauci said at last week’s briefing. But it’s not clear how much its mutation can be realistically slowed. NIAID referred The Epoch Times to CDC for more information. CDC didn’t respond.
Fauci has previously admitted to skewing the facts. Early in the pandemic, he discouraged people from wearing masks, later telling Congress he only did so because there was a shortage of masks for health care workers that would have been exacerbated if the public was encouraged to wear them. Later, he admitted that his early projections for how high a vaccination rate would lead to herd immunity were intentionally lower as vaccine acceptance among the public wasn’t polling high enough.
Update: The article has been updated with a response from NIAID.