I have friends who are teachers in Maine and New York state, and family who are teachers in Ohio and Georgia. There’s a great deal of uncertainty about the upcoming school year, and lots of concern over COVID-19. One of the crucial aspects of re-opening schools is the current state of the pandemic. Of course it’s only one factor in the school decision, but it is a crucial one. With that in mind, let’s look at these four states and assess how ready (or not) they are to deal with COVID-19.
In my opinion, in order to loosen restrictions, re-open the economy, and/or consider re-opening schools, a state should be in the “green zone” — no more than 40 cases per day per million population. At that level, cases are few enough that contact tracing can work its magic to best effect, stomping out flare-ups before they get out of hand. Contact tracing, and a mandatory mask order, are how you stay in the green zone.
New York is in excellent shape: the green zone.
New York is there, and they’ve been there consistently for weeks now. Furthermore, they have the experience of having dealt with a crisis early (when the caseload exceeded 300); they have the infrastructure in place and they know how to do more than flatten the curve; they crushed it.
Maine is also doing well: green zone.
Ohio is in bad shape: orange alert.
They spent a lot of time in the yellow alert zone during April and May, but since mid-June the caseload has swelled into the orange alert zone. And it’s still rising.
Georgia is in terrible shape: red zone.
Georgia was already doing badly, unable to get out of the yellow alert zone, and their recent re-opening has been a disaster, cases soaring beyond the orange-alert zone into the red zone. And still rising.
None of this addresses the other, many unanswered questions about school re-opening. What I’ve seen of the plans presently in place and being discussed, does not inspire confidence. In fact, it convinces me that no state, none at all, is ready to re-open schools.
But apart from all those considerations, this much is clear: Ohio and Georgia should not re-open schools no matter what. Until they can bring the epidemic under control, they have no business risking more lives.
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