This Week's Herman Trend Alert

in Normal 2.0


  The Herman Trend Alert

August 5, 2020

Getting Kids Back to School Should Be our #1 Priority

In a previous Herman Trend Alert, I wrote extensively about a detailed plan for opening schools. Unfortunately, since then, reopening schools in the United States has become a major issue.

One of my daughters has a friend concerned about the schools not reopening. My daughter called me the other day with her friend's concerns and that phone call changed my life. It gave me a different perspective on virtual education that was truly eye-opening. I had been squarely in the camp of staying isolated and keeping schools virtual. After speaking with her, my thoughts are definitely more conflicted.

Intelligence is No Measure for Adaptability
Not surprisingly, with two brilliant parents, these three boys, 13, 11, and 7 are all extremely bright. However, for whatever reason, they did not thrive in the virtual version of education. In fact, when they heard that in-person school would not be happening in Marin County, due to a spike in COVID cases, they cried. They miss their friends; they miss their sports; they miss their teachers.

The Educational Cost to Children
There is a tremendous cost to not educating our kids. Most have fallen behind where they would be had they been in school; and with the current state of COVID cases in many areas, most schools will not restart in-person education in the Fall. Even the highly respected American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged the social and emotional costs and encouraged in-person education. Sadly, once COVID began spiking again in many states, they walked back that statement.

The Current Situation with COVID-19
While a few countries in the world have a very good handle on this crisis (notably Spain and France), sadly the United States is not among them. Right now, globally, the pandemic is raging. Many countries in the world, including Brazil and India have fast-increasing COVID-19 cases; however no other country in the world can approach the US for its increase in infections. As I write this Herman Trend Alert, 24 of the 50 United States are considered to be in the Red Zone, defined as those that are spiking or increasing in their numbers of COVID-19 cases. How can we possibly open up the schools there with cases increasing? Elsewhere, in states like Vermont and Maine, in the Green Zone, one would hope that they will be reopening schools---with the appropriate masking, ventilation, and PPE.

The Teachers' View
From the teachers' perspective, reopening elementary education is a nightmare waiting to happen. Veteran teachers imagine the first day of school when little kids exchange masks and exposure to COVID-19. Many teachers are in the twilight of their careers and often have underlying conditions. Without the additional retrofitting of buildings, hiring additional staff, adequate fast testing, and giving the teachers adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), it would be unconscionable to open the schools at this time.

Re-Opening Schools Should Be a Top Priority
No one would dispute that having children safely back in schools is better for everyone. It would be helpful to the parents to be able to work; it would be better for the childrenŐs social and emotional development, and certainly, it would be better for the economy of the country. However absent the billions of dollars to make life safe for teachers and students, we simply must not return to in-person education---especially in spots around the globe where the virus is spiking. Even in the Green Zones, we must be willing to make the extra investments to make life safe for everyone.

One Possible Answer
In the US and abroad, schools confront huge financial challenges, including costs for additional staff, PPE, retrofitting buildings for proper ventilation, and supplementary support services for students. If we were to make the significant investments needed by giving teachers the PPE they need, invest in the facilities, and allocate money to give students what they need, we could send them back into the classroom. All that said, no plan can work without getting control of the virus and establishing a massive testing program. Right now, in the US, we have shortages of testing equipment and processing capability. Moreover, we would need the tracing talked about in a previous Herman Trend Alert,.

Great News on the Testing Horizon
So it turns out that we now know a very important piece of the puzzle we did not have before: we have been chasing tests that are unnecessarily sensitive. . . and, the less sensitive tests which are quite adequate to find people whose viral load puts others in danger, are inexpensive paper tests. And the best part is that the results are available in just 15 minutes.

Next Week: Solving the Testing Crisis and Acknowledging Vaccine Progress
In this Herman Trend Alert, we will cover the new tests, including the 15-minute paper tests and pool testing---two potential solutions. There is also more promising news on the vaccine front. See you next week.

Special thanks to subscriber Craig McDermott for new information about testing.

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