The facts are in. When it comes to COVID-19, New York did it right.
Until today, I thought no state had a realistic plan for school re-opening. Today New York governor Andrew Cuomo offered the first sensible talk I’ve heard on the subject.
Because whether or not schools are open is a question that remains always open, and the answer depends on data. Everybody can watch the numbers, everybody can tell what the result will be if they get out of hand. Whether schools are open or closed can change from week to week, depending on how well the state handles the pandemic. Bottom line: if your state can’t keep COVID-19 under control, you’re not ready to open schools.
Key to their plan is that it is data-driven. They have selected a “green light” and “red light” test (green light means go, red light means stop) based on the positive fraction of testing:
The 14-day average positivity rate must be no more than 0.05 to set the light to “green.” Once you’re there, if the positivity rate rises as high as 0.09, the light changes to “red.”
I’ve suggested a similar idea based, not on the positive fraction of tests, but on the case load (daily new cases per million population). Here it is again, on a logarithmic plot:
I selected the “green zone” as case load no higher than 40 per day per million population. Based on New York’s choice, I would modify it this way: When the 7-day average case load is at or below 30 per day per million population, the light turns “green.” When it rises above 50, the light turns “red.”
I much prefer using the case load as a test statistic, rather than the positive fraction, because there are situations where the positive fraction can be low enough to suggest safety when the case load is high enough to contradict that. Despite my quibble, I am delighted to see a rational, data-driven metric used to set policy.
I’ll point out an addition advantage: it gives people yet another incentive to wear masks and practice social distancing. When you know that your business, your job, and/or your kids’ school depends on keeping the numbers down, you’ll work extra hard to keep the numbers down.
I haven’t seen enough of the next part of New York state’s plan, because after answering the question “IF” schools re-open, you have to say “HOW.” Much remains to be done, but I am at least encouraged that one state seems to be asking the right questions and making best use of the science.
Meanwhile, Florida is not in the green zone, they’re in the red zone. But governor DeSantis seems dead set on opening schools. He also seems dead set on clinging to the myth that Florida has things under control.
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