Why American Schools Can’t Reopen Safely
With 4,816,646 cases of covid-19 currently raging in the United States the wrath of the covid-19 seems endless. Multiple states are reaching the milestone of 500,000 cases and new hotspots are developing in the Midwest while north-eastern states are recovering from the current wave. Over 150,00 people have died of covid-19 just in the United States. In this chaos the talk of opening schools has begun and the range of ideas that politicians have proposed is massive. The process of reopening schools for fall could prevent another massive wave of cases or be the catalyst for a massive wave of chaos.
American schools were already in a precarious situation before the pandemic and now they must face one of the greatest public health challenges in history. The issue with containing the coronavirus for many schools is a resource problem. Masks, social distancing, and constant tests are required to keep a covid-19 free environment in any situation; However, operating covid-19 free requires large amounts of material resources and many schools already lack normal school materials during a good year. On top of material resource problems many schools also lack the human resources required to enforce these restrictions. If a single teacher becomes sick, then classes would be left without a teacher or classes would have to be merged into super classes which requires more space. The fragile situation of these schools is even worse when you start to consider the innate covid-19 risk factors that many schools face.
Once you start looking at the covid-19 spreading risk in many educational institutions, you realize why many parents are mortified to send their kids back to school. Kids are already not the best at following rules, so how can anyone guarantee that all kids will wear masks properly to prevent unnecessary spreading risk. Another risk that many schools face is large class sizes that are bloated from an ongoing lack of teachers. A large classroom might as well be a covid-19 factory since most kids will breathe the same air for hours a day. Finally, when one of these infected kids goes home, they could bring the disease back to a nuclear or multigenerational household. Once an infected kid goes home any older family member could quickly end up in a hospital room and other family members could become the next super-spreaders. The careless opening of in-person classes could start a vicious outbreak cycle in many parts of the country.
The cycle of covid-19 outbreaks moving west across the country is already bad, but reopening schools could turn the United States hotspot map completely red. Every school that is reopened is a possible hotspot and once reopening plans are put in action the news will most likely be dominated by covid-19 breakouts in schools across the country. The cycle of outbreaks means that schools that open will most likely have to close in-person classes later due to a covid-19 outbreak and then the local community will be left with a trail of death following the students that originally caught the virus. The lack of unity among school reopening plans means that the severity of these surprise covid-19 outbreaks could range from small to devastating. If many of the school reopening plans mentioned in the news are pushed forward, the most memorable part of the school year for many kids will be the funerals.
Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
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