Saturday, March 7, 2020

Carranza's Email Reminds Me: Don't Trust The Teller. Trust The Tale

It has been just one week since I wrote "fast moving events change peoples' mindset in a very fast way" and suggested that school's in New York may actually close for a time because of COVID-19. And in that week -in just one week- events have happened very fast indeed:

  • A number of people in the metro area have tested positive for the virus 
  • The exact number is difficult to ascertain (not only because of fast moving events but also because of the poor way the media has kept everyone up to date). The NYC DOH page for the Coronavirus lists only 4 New Yorkers  as having tested positive, with 55 tests yet to be completed. 
  • According to the Times, "More than 2,700 people are under some form of quarantine in New York City." for having been possibly exposed to the virus (4000 across the whole state)
    • There are two types of quarantines; mandated quarantine and self quarantine 
  • A health care worker who had returned from a trip to Iran via JFK tested positive for the virus. The press took great care to say that she "had not" taken public transportation from the airport. 
  • A lawyer from Westchester County, and his entire family,  tested positive positive for the virus. The press did not take great care to say he avoided public transportation. 
  • That lawyer had not traveled outside the country and we have still not been informed about how he got sick.
  • The Federal Government does have enough COVID-19 tests for all Americans and seems ill prepared
  • There is an obvious sense that the mayor, in hopes of avoiding wide-spread concern, is not sharing all information
  • The language of whether or not schools will be closed is now addressed with the essential response of "we're not there yet"

The Independent published a piece that showed the governor depicting the Westechester situation in the following way

“There are going to be hundreds [of cases] in Westchester,” the governor said. “The number of people who will be infected will continue to increase. It is going to be dozens and dozens and dozens.”

Dozens and dozens and dozens.

Those are all predictions of a politician who would rather not be facing this problem. 

So not only has the spread of the virus into the city moved fast, government's responses have moved fast as well. 4000 people across the state into some type of quarantine (either 'self quarantine' or 'imposed quarantine').  Grim predictions. 

This is al in just seven days. 

Of all the systems put in place across all of the institutions in the entire country, I trust NYC's systems the most. After all, look at what happened: FOUR people came down with the virus this week and the city removed more than 2700 people, folks who could possibly contaminate others, from the population. That's fairly impressive and I can't see any other city (or state) in the nation that has moved as fast.

But when I see officials saying things that are so obviously not realistic, the one of these institutions, my employer, falls under more than a bit of suspicion. Schools are the most likely place for a virus to spread. They, besides the subway and buses, are the front lines here and this is where the defense should be at its best. 

Yet when Carranza sent his email out to school staff it was complete with assumptions that just don't pass the smell test. My red flag went up in the first paragraph:

At this time, it is important to listen to facts and not respond to fear ... 

This was a week where facts were not in full supply. Just a review of unanswered questions can show that Carranza's assumptions about how well the government is communicating were wrong. Who are the other 55 people currently being tested? How did the Westchester lawyer arrive and go home to work? Where did he shop? How were those 2700 quarantined persons identified? Were they all related to folks who had the virus? Can anyone say that *only* those who came in contact with these sick people were quarantined? Or were other people quarantined? Where do we self report if we think we may have come in contact with the virus? These are all questions that I heard others ask this week and no answer to these questions -to the concerned questions all relating to Could I get sick?- the electeds and appointed officials had no word to address.

And when folks who have no facts to address specific concerns scold me, and tell me 'listen to facts' -facts which a great many feel are limited- then that raises a suspicion. How can you tell a bunch of concerned people who don't have the facts they need to not respond to fear? The answer is easy: Your assumptions about what the government is telling people are wrong.

The Chancellor's assumptions about something else -his custodial staff- are wrong as well. In his email, he wrote us a list of things that he claims are being done to help schools not become incubators for the virus.

Measures taken in schools and other DOE sites include:

§  Increasing deep cleanings to two times per week, disinfecting surface areas with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-approved cleaning disinfectant;

  • Increasing deep cleanings in schools to two times per week, disinfecting surface areas;
  • Ensuring that all 1,800 schools have adequate hygiene and cleaning materials so that bathrooms are continuously stocked with soap and paper towels;

The mayor even asked anyone who saw a bathroom with no soap to call 311 so they can 'rain hell' on that school.  I like my school leader and custodian. I don't want hell to rain on them. At the same time, a simple review of my school -the very next morning- showed the same cleaninless levels in the bathrooms (not with soap in the dispensers and had did not look as though they had been the previous evening). When I heard from some others in different schools, from different boroughs!- I heard some of the same observations. The "deep cleaning" and "soap" promise did not pass the "my experiences" test. And the reasons for this are because you don't just snap your fingers and have bathrooms in over 1800 schools cleaned.

Carranza is the guy who will look a group of parents right in the eye and say things the way he sees it. And whether you like him or don't like him, there aren't many who can say he isn't credible. They can say many things but not credible isn't one of the criticisms I have heard.  I find this chancellor to be exceedingly credible. And yet wrong assumptions make a person look like they're just not.

Most concerning of all were his assumptions about school experiences. I read this part his email and laughed, for a moment, out loud (of course that moment ended as soon as I realized how concerning this actually is). The chancellor said that the DoE was

Strongly encouraging students to take time for handwashing, especially before meals; monitoring this and making changes as needed to ensure students have the time

A typical cafeteria holds 100 students. There is, usually, one bathroom for each gender near each cafeteria. So how long does it take for 100 students to wash their hands before their 45 minute lunch period? What measures are you taking to strongly encourage this to happen? With your building staff spread so thin that many schools cannot properly monitor a cafeteria, how, exactly, do you intend to monitor hand washing? Were you going to delegate that to an already underpaid school aide? An already overburdened dean? Or counselor? How was this system made? When was it piloted or tested? What, exactly, are you talking about when you say you're going to have 1.1. million children wash their hands before lunch time? Are you saying that you've just thought of this? Or are you saying that someone had a plan for this years and years ago, while all of my colleagues caught colds or the flu or red or whatever other ailment visits the poor classroom teacher? Are a few of the questions that popped into my own mind after reading that. 

I don't feel like the chancellor's assumptions about the surrounding supports are spot on either. Many people won't remember this but, ten years ago, during a similar scare for H1N1, the DoE sent hand sanitizer to every single school in the city. These dispensers were hung, and filled, and students were told, by staff (who had been told by their supervisors who had been told in a Principal's Weekly to do it) sanitize your hands whenever you're in the hallways. Now. This isn't being done. 

And I like this Chancellor! And I think he and his boss are leading the best systems to help slow the spread of this virus in the entire nation! And, who knows, maybe they will be able to do this for one more month (before the warm weather hits and all of this starts to pass until next year) but reading that email and realizing that almost all of this man's assumptions are not correct, made me think of famous advice from poet DH Lawrence. 'Don't trust the teller. Trust the tale"

So far in New York, the tale is showing that state and city governments are doing as best as any government has so far (my opinion). But the bullshit is slowly beginning to pile up and I'm also seeing quotes like "we're not there yet" with regard to closing schools and predictions like "hundreds. Dozens and dozens and dozens" with regard to one county so that tale is also a bit foreboding. 

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