Thursday, March 12, 2020

It's Time to Close the Schools

Well, it's been another week. The numbers have grown, then grown again and then jumped.

As ICE reports, Ohio -with only 5 cases of the virus- has shut down every school in the state (here). Maryland has as well. The entire city of Seattle have (finally) closed their schools.

The number of cases in New York City jumped today -and the mayor has still not made the call to close here.

For the record, I love what the mayor and governor are trying to do. Keeping schools open sets of standard of normalcy. It allows parents to go to work and allows for many teachable moments inside the schools. I have always been a fan of eating and of the idea that schools are the place to get that level of care and support -to eat- is well worth our best efforts. The guy has realy earned my respect. Cuomo (who is doing a better job than any other elected official in the entire nation) has as well. He is doing so well that he has actually earned my vote next election.

Their first approach -Community Mitigation- is new to me and is interesting. Public awareness to wash hands is great. Asking businesses to have employees work from home is great as well.

Their fall back approach -this targeted social distancing strategy where some areas close and other essential areas do not- isn't too bad either. Banning 500 or more people from gathering is a good start. Closing Broadway? Not bad either. Get people away from people and the virus will stop spreading.

That this virus is moving so fast that, so far at least, no government in the world has been able to stop it from spreading, should not have prevented them from trying these approaches.. It was a great try.

These strategies were developed by people who are a lot smarter than me. But they were developed with developing nations in mind. This is the first world. A crisis has now come here and the strategies are, as we can see, just not working.

Twenty million people live in the greater New York City Metropolitan Area. 20 million! Whether children get sick or not, the schools they attend are at the very the center of incubation in any community. This is especially true for NYC. Children may not get sick but they will carry this virus and they will pass it along to those who will get sick. This will be their parents. It will be their grandparents. It will be the person behind the counter at the corner store.

And some of those people will be their teachers.

There are around 70,000 teachers in the New York City Dept. of Education. The global death rate from this pandemic is 3.4%. What will the mayor do if the unthinkable happens and 3.4% of the teaching corps -2,380 teachers- die from this?

Oh, are you rolling your eyes? I was as well -yesterday. Three weeks ago, doctors in Italy were as well. Now, they're making their claims to the rest of the world: BE PREPARED. Italian doctors have recently learned that, during a real crisis "Every ventilator becomes like gold".
"Someone already to be intubated and go to intensive care. For others it's too late... Every ventilator becomes like gold: those in operating theatres that have now suspended their non-urgent activity become intensive care places that did not exist before"

Some facts to consider.

  • Approximately eight million people live in New York City. 
  • 3.4% of eight million is 272,000. 
  • New York City has only 26,000 hospital beds. 

These are just facts.

There are also not enough ventilators. 
Oh yeah.

Five years ago Dr. Howard Zucker -the very person in charge of handling COVID-19 right now (sitting next to the governor at every press briefing this week) published guidelines on distributing ventilators during a time of a crisis just like this. This is what he wrote  (about New York) then:

"Specifically, many more patients will require the use of ventilators than can be
accommodated with current supplies. New York State may have enough ventilators to meet the needs of patients in a moderately severe pandemic. In a severe public health emergency on the scale of the 1918 influenza pandemic, however, these ventilators would not be sufficient to meet the demand."

Would not be sufficient to meet the demand. 

I am one of the few New Yorkers who has always loved this mayor. His policies, his world view and the way he understands people who live in impoverished circumstances has been a brief breath of fresh air. His heart is truly in the right place. I have become a recent big fan of the governor as well. But schools are the most obvious place where the virus can incubate and spread. It doesn't take a pandemic scientist to figure that one out.

They have tried mitigation and the numbers have grown. They have tried targeted social distancing and the numbers have grown. They are not prepared for something like what is happening in Italy and, oh yea, no government so far -in the entire world- has gotten through this without shutting down schools and or whole parts of normal society.

And now other politicians -ones who do not listen to scientists but who listen to voters- have listened to the warnings.

It is time to close the schools in New York.


  1. From the NY Post:
    City schools will remain open despite coronavirus concerns, Carranza says
    By Selim AlgarMarch 12, 2020 | 9:08

    Richard Carranza at a press conference regarding coronavirus concerns
    City schools will remain open indefinitely despite mounting coronavirus fears, Chancellor Richard Carranza told a parent group Thursday.

    Carranza said the decision was driven by the roughly 100,000 students either living in temporary housing or shelters who depend on schools to provide meals and other programs — and other vulnerable groups, who lean on the school system as a vital social safety net.

    That means many students would have nowhere to go and nothing to eat should public schools lock their doors, Department of Education and City Hall officials have argued.

    A participant at the meeting of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee asked Carranza about a petition with about 108,000 signatures demanding a systemwide shutdown.

    The schools chief said the DOE would maintain the status quo “until 108,000 epidemiologists” make the same demand.

    Carranza reiterated that schools with confirmed coronavirus cases would be addressed on a case by case basis.


    NYC's first public school student has coronavirus, 2 Bronx schools closed
    The city closed a Bronx school building Thursday after a student self-reported a positive coronavirus test.

    While they are treating that case as credible, city officials said they are awaiting an independent confirmation.

    Carranza said that the building would reopen after a thorough cleaning.

    Several parents asked about the state of several DOE policy initiatives around diversity and school admissions given the coronavirus crisis.

    Carranza said that those efforts would be frozen temporarily as the city girds against the contagion

  2. If the Ds are serious about removing Hair Furor from the White House, they'll ease Uncle Joe out of the picture (after finishing off their real enemy, Bernie Sanders), and nominate Cuomo as a Unity Candidate.

    He, not Biden, would have realistic chance of defeating Trump.

  3. Mayor Bill de Blasio I’ve decided to rate you on the same scale teachers are rated on.

    Domain 1: planning and preparation
    You say that you have been preparing since January, but there are no systems in place for educating, feeding or keeping students safe? There are no measures put in place for teachers safety. You clearly have not designed coherent instruction for the teachers to follow in these trying times. Students are not receiving quality instruction when more than half are absent (both staff and students).

    Domain 1: INEFFECTIVE

    Domain 2: RESPECT! LOL you have shown you have no respect for professionals, staff members, students, parents. There is no respect on either side at this point. As far as establishing a culture for learning: nope. This is a culture of fear and panic. Students cannot learn under these conditions. We are sitting ducks.

    Domain 2: INEFFECTIVE

    Domain 3: Instruction: instead of putting plans in place for remote learning. Instead of providing teachers with the tools they would need to successfully teach from a safe environment and have students learn in a safe environment, students aren’t receiving quality education. New content can not be delivered to less than half a classroom. New content is not being delivered through substitute teachers who don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of the curriculum. Students are not learning as they should be.

    Domain 3: INEFFECTIVE

    Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities. This made me LOL. As mayor, your professional responsibility is to ensure the safety of the 1.1 million students in our systems as well as the teachers and staff in our school system. You have shown that your professional responsibilities are only toward some and not others. You have proven that teachers DO NOT MATTER.

    Domain 4: INEFFECTIVE
    Saturday, March 14, 2020 11:00:00 AM