School or ‘Russian Roulette’? Amid Delta Variant and Lax Mask Rules, Some Parents See No Difference

Yves here. I can’t imagine how parents who are on top of Covid will cope with the opening of school. It’s a disgrace that efforts to protect students, teachers, and staff are coming down to masks, when in densely-seated classrooms, they won’t be all that helpful even when they are required. The failure to do anything about improving ventilation is a scandal (and yes, there are cheap options, but apparently no one can be bothered).

As GM wrote a few days ago:

I was very puzzled by the whole Obama birthday party story — surely someone must have told them we have a problem and it is really really not a good idea to have such a large event for his and his guests’ own safety. They did it anyway, Maybe they have gotten their third shots already (but then the people you just had as patients probably would have too, and they clearly haven’t), maybe they thought they will catch all infections with rapid tests (as if that has a good record of keeping such events safe), who knows. But the fact that they went ahead with it speaks clearly that they are in denial about the situation. It’s not like they had to do it as it faced major backlash as it is. This was not Trump feeling he has to show strength at all costs and thus leaving the hospital and giving speeches from the balcony of the White House while clearly gasping for air. Not at all, they could have just laid low, there was no external demand on them to have a huge party now.

Another story showing the same phenomenon — apparently the Palo Alto school district is going ahead with classes as if the pandemic is over. Which has meant that the few people I know there who grasp the gravity of the situation are now in a real tough spot — can’t pull the kids out of school, remote learning isn’t properly set up this year, so what do you do? This is Palo Alto, it’s some of the most highly educated zip codes in the whole country, yet apparently most of the parents have drunk the kool-aid and believe that the pandemic is over and nothing bad can happen to their own kids (even though they aren’t even vaccinated). These are also supposedly “data-oriented” people yet most seem to think this is a problem only in the South and because of low vaccination rates. When in reality states like WA and OR are having huge spikes too right now. But I suspect following the statistics is not something one does once he has decided the problem is solved and it’s all over.

This story keeps up the narrative….it’s all about Bubbaland.

By Rae Ellen Bichell, a Colorado Correspondent for Kaiser Health news who was previously, she was a radio reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, KUNC, and NPR. Originally published at Kaiser Health News

The child had just started kindergarten. Or, as her mother called it, “Russian roulette.” That’s because her school district in Grand Junction, Colorado, experienced one of the nation’s first delta-variant outbreaks last spring, and now school officials have loosened the rules meant to protect against covid-19.

The mother, Venessa, who asked not to be named in full for fear of repercussions for her family, is part of a group of parents, grandparents, medical professionals and community members who assembled in the past few weeks to push back.

The group calls itself “S.O.S.,” which stands for “Supporters for Open and Safe Schools,” while nodding to the international signal for urgent help. It’s made up of Republicans and Democrats, Christians and atheists, and its main request: Require masks.

Venessa said the concept is not complicated for her 5-year-old. “She just puts it on, like her shoes.”

But just two weeks into this school year, 30 classrooms already have reports of exposure to covid-positive students, district spokesperson Emily Shockley said. And three more classrooms were quarantined because they’d had at least three students in them test positive. Masks are still not universally required.

Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “universal indoor masking” in schools regardless of vaccination status, schools across the country are not embracing mask requirements, including for students under 12 who aren’t yet eligible for protective vaccines.

Mesa County, where Venessa lives, was one of the places where the variant arrived before school let out for summer. A report published in early August by the CDC found that from late April through late June, as the delta variant spread there, schools were the most common setting for outbreaks aside from residential care facilities, even though masks were required in schools for students age 11 and older. Schools were bigger virus hubs than correctional facilities.

Susan Hassig, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, views the report on Mesa County as a warning shot of what’s to come, showing high spread of the variant among schoolchildren.

Prior assumptions that kids weren’t likely to get or spread the virus no longer apply, she said: Kids are back to their regular in-person activities, and with a highly transmissible variant circulating to boot. “We’ve got a lot more kids that are getting exposed, and with delta, a lot more kids getting infected,” Hassig said this month. “And now we’ve got full children’s hospitals here in Louisiana.”

Politicians in eight states, including Texas and Florida, have prohibited mask mandates in public schools, but some school districts — including in big cities such as Dallas, Houston, Austin and Fort Lauderdale and small ones such as Paris, Texas — are rebelling against those orders and mandating masks anyway, despite the threat of fines.

The Biden administration has supported those local jurisdictions that have gone rogue, with offers to pay the salaries of Florida school board members going against their governor. The administration is also considering investigations into states and districts for potentially violating civil rights that guarantee access to education.

“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators from protecting our children,” said President Joe Biden.

Dr. Jyoti Kapur, a pediatrician with Schoolhouse Pediatrics in Austin, Texas, and mother of two children under 12, was part of a group that persuaded the school district there to enact a mask mandate. Kapur said her kids are “ecstatic” about starting school again in person.

“We want all the school superintendents and their boards of trustees to know everywhere in Texas — and in the country — that the experts are with you,” said Kapur. “Let’s do our best. If it doesn’t work, we will go down knowing we did our best to protect our children.”P

In Louisiana, Hassig pointed to the “nearly vertical” case rates and hospitalization rates in her state as evidence of how seriously schools should take the virus this year.

As a grandmother, she wants her granddaughter to be able to attend second grade in person. As an epidemiologist, she worries about not just the immediate effects of the delta variant on hospitals and economies, but also the opportunity its spread gives to the emergence of new strains that may be even more contagious, or able to evade vaccines. To Hassig, masks are part of the toolkit that could assuage both fears.

“What may have been sufficient to reduce widespread problems last spring is not necessarily going to work with delta, because delta is different,” Hassig said. “Be ready to take it up a notch.”

However, the Mesa County Valley School District 51 is ratcheting measures down a notch — despite its experience last spring with outbreaks. Without a state mask mandate in place this school year, the decision was punted to county public health officials and individual school districts. And the school district in Mesa County is not requiring masks for students or staffers.

Venessa, the mom of the kindergartner, said she had assumed guidelines would be more stringent this school year than last because of the delta variant’s pervasiveness. “Why not start with the horse on a lead rope?” she said. “Not just open the corral, let it run out, and then try to go catch it?”

Federal guidelines around public transportation mean students do have to wear masks on school buses, but when they get to school, those masks can come off. According to Joel Sholtes, a member of the S.O.S. group and the father of a second grader, that’s exactly what’s happening since school started for his kid on Aug. 9.

“Unmasked kids are telling our masked kids that they don’t need to mask and should take them off. Some kids are because they don’t want to stand out,” said Sholtes, who, as a civil engineer, believes it’s as important for schools to hew to public health guidance as it is for him to hew to expert guidance on how to safely design a bridge.

“It’s not who can be loudest at a public meeting. There’s some things that we need expert opinion on, and we have to follow those,” he said. “Public health shouldn’t be different.”

Police escorted school board members to their cars after a public meeting Tuesday because they felt threatened by some parents who wanted more time to voice anti-mask and anti-vaccine concerns, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Brian Hill, the Mesa County district’s assistant superintendent, said the school system is “highly recommending” indoor masking. He said he saw a mixture of masked and unmasked students in his rounds of campuses during the first week of class.

“We’ll also support students and staff within our schools, with whatever decision they make around that,” he said. “Whether they make the decision to wear a mask or not, we’re going to support that in the campuses in a way that we don’t want students to feel bullied or feel judged for the decision that they’re making.”

Hill pointed to numbers from last school year showing that family members — and not school interactions — were the primary culprits in passing covid on to the 1,293 students who tested positive out of the district’s 21,000 students.

“It’s a very tiny, tiny percentage that were traced back to any sort of in-school transmission,” he said. “So, we weren’t really seeing transmission in our schools. It was happening out in the community.”

During the past school year, about 7% of those age 18 and under who tested positive for covid in the county had exposure through an institutional facility like a school or child care site, according to a district presentation.

As of late July, about two weeks before the school year started, fewer than 60% of school district staffers were fully vaccinated, and fewer than 23% of eligible students were fully vaccinated, the presentation said.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis sent a letter to district superintendents imploring them to adopt strategies such as mask requirements, though he has avoided imposing a statewide order. Polis also recently announced that Colorado is offering weekly rapid testing — considered a useful screening tool when done frequently — to all schools in the state, and might even pay students between $5 and $25 to take the tests, though they’d need consent from a parent. Hill said it’s too early to say if his district will opt in.

Blythe Rusling taught fifth grade at one of about a dozen schools in Mesa County that had an outbreak last spring. That was back when students 11 and older were required to wear masks.

“The kids might grouse a bit about wearing a mask, but at the end of the day they understood that it was something we could do to keep each other healthy,” said Rusling, who is working as a reading interventionist this school year.

Now, though, she said, she noticed the tenor had changed among the adults. As staffers prepped for school, she said, she was one of the few to wear a mask. “It almost feels like you’re not the cool kid when you’re wearing a mask,” she said.

Still, two messages brightened her view of the future. They were from former students who had turned 12 and couldn’t wait to tell her the news: They’d gotten covid vaccines.

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  1. Tom Stone

    Dead Kids.
    Crippled Kids.
    Effing great.
    This is certainly going to liven the public debate up by late fall.
    Along with how many newly homeless?

    Incompetence no longer seems an adequate explanation.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      While I’ll admit to going back and forth on this, more and more it seems to me that simple incompetence does not suffice, but it’s not some MOTU plan. Instead, the people who run things, all kinds of things, have calibrated anything and everything in this vast, global economic system of ours to maximize one thing only: short term profit. One great management idea after another, from JIT to Six Sigma to privatization of public services, has been implemented to–reduced to its essence–maximize return on capital, especially for our beloved billionaires. No consideration is given to resilience, “excess capacity” for future or peak needs, social impacts, etc. We have seen how this applies to everything from toilet paper to masks to ICU beds to school classroom space.

      At first, Covid panicked our elites and stampeded them into a stock market crash (important because that’s the scoreboard for their game). But the Fed came to the rescue, dwarfing the response to ’08, and happy times were almost back. All that was needed was to get everyone back to work making money for the stockholders. And of course, that would mean re-opening schools because universal daycare would cost the billionaires too much.

      Vaccines were the perfect solution. No need to update ventilation systems in public or private buildings. No need to interfere with money-making activities dependent on crowds. No need to restrict travel. This complex, delicate and very inflexible system could survive!

      Now we’re back into those first few months of Covid. The vaccines are never going to stop transmission. Breakthrough cases help to swell the ERs and ICUs with children now being added.
      All the additional care space added to the tight hospital inventories was only temporary and was quickly dismantled and now it must be rebuilt. Longer term, variants continue to pile up with the chance always being there of a variant with greatly increased mortality rates not restricted to the old and infirm. OMG!!! What would that do to the bars and restaurants?!? The gumming up of profit-oriented, fragile systems continues to spread, including “essentials” from out-of-season fruit to all varieties of meats to the computer chips now necessary to manufacture almost anything.

      Most of the billionaires can imagine no other option than everybody doing what they used to do for those were the halcyon days for the Big Money Boys. Their employees in the governments and NGOs seem unable to come up with solutions that will get things humming again, and that’s making no one happy. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t the look we’re seeing on faces like Walensky’s more overwhelmed panic than confidence that the task is progressing?

      1. Blue Duck

        Here here! I agree with what you’ve just said.

        My question is, how much longer can it last? The material conditions of the American working class have not been this dire since the Great Depression. How much more can we all take?

        I personally feel like we are reaching a crescendo. Schools going back into a roaring pandemic, inflation rising, growth slowly, consumer confidence plummeting, the labor market going haywire (every restaurant in our town is struggling to stay open because of staffing), the Gordian knot of the central banks, the global import/export process freezing, the continued delegitimization of the governing institutions exampled by the inability to vaccinate certain populations and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the obvious collapse of the climate.

        In decades from now, or even 6-12 months, I think the late summer and fall of 2021 will be seen as the coalescing of several historical trends and forces that combine to form a tsunami. Now what that crashing wave looks like, I do not know. I have hopes that it could become something good. The collapse in Afghanistan makes me wonder if the US is a paper tiger that could be made to heel both domestically and abroad. But who knows. We’re all cursed to live in interesting times I guess.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I am getting tired of this misleading line of argument, particularly after I have debunked it repeatedly and we’ve linked to tons of articles that support the points the site admins and others have made. I am going to rip out all future comments like this one.

        First, death spikes lag infection spikes by about 3-4 weeks. The big jump in pediatric infections is recent.

        Second and far more important, morbidity effects of Covid are severe. They include brain fog accompanied by actual changes in the brain, >50% incidence of serious lung damage, including in asymptomatic cases, and long Covid.

        Third, kids are going to be more subject to multiple infections over their lives than any other cohort. The morbidity effects will multiply.

        Fourth, my sources indicate the pediatric infections are not limited to the obese, diabetic, and/or immunocompromised. There’s a high representation of formerly very healthy kids 0-3 and they are typically severely ill.

  2. Yoghurt

    As the parent of two elementary age children in Massachusetts, I can relate. I am worried about the coming fall/winter when all the kids will be indoors. Under 12, no vaccine. At least they are requiring masks for whatever that is worth in a small room with 25 people. I had to laugh about masks being just as easy as shoes since ours would refuse shoes and socks and kick them off at every opportunity when they were younger. The mask situation is difficult. Kids faces/heads come in all shapes and especially sizes. We have had great difficult finding decent masks that fit properly. It is also an additional expense/chore that many can ill afford. The reaction to masks is definitely out of proportion, but they are a legitimate pain in the rear .

    Our school system likes masks. It’s an expense borne by the parents not the school system. But most importantly, they lean heavily on arguments like “everyone was wearing masks so even if someone came to school with COVID, no one was exposed. CDC says so.” And there is a daily survey where you attest to no symptoms and that kids haven’t been out of state. Since all you get for being honest is your kids denied entry to school, these surveys are worthless. Last spring, the school board brought in an expert who briefed us on aerosols and air changes per hour. I was hopeful. But when he was done, instead of telling us about boxfans with filters, they just went into school’s back celebration. It’s a lot of theatre and CYA. Despite this I still believe we are vastly better off than most.

    It is all vaccines and nothing else. When kids under 12 can’t get vaccine, CDC and news media just prefer not to talk about it. This COVID is here to stay. Vaccines can be a part, but where are the aerosol mitigations, treatments, quick tests, &c? Some things like new ventilation are too expense and hence avoided. Some things are too cheap – like the box fan filter. Mostly it seems to be about doubling down on the initial narrative – nuance and new information be damned.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      Some things like new ventilation are too expense and hence avoided. Some things are too cheap – like the box fan filterSome things like new ventilation are too expense and hence avoided. Some things are too cheap – like the box fan filter.

      Compared to the costs that have been borne by local schools so far, upgrading ventilation systems is not that expensive. We asked our high school to upgrade to a UV sterilization system and we’re ignored. The costs of making sure the schools air is ventilated has been borne by the teachers, who have purchased their own systems for the classrooms.

      1. Carolinian

        I doubt that our new billion dollar high school has openable windows–not that the 60s version that it replaced had them either.

        The 1920s version that the 60s version replaced does have them. We could move the kids back there but it has been changed into a community college.

    2. Carolinian

      they are a legitimate pain in the rear

      Sure about that? I wear a mask for the fifteen minutes I’m in the grocery store but can’t imagine having to wear one all day every day. Seems to me it’s inevitable that the kids will be dropping them below their nose to breathe better and even if they only do this during playtime when the teacher isn’t looking it defeats the purpose. What I’m not seeing in the above article are any studies proving the legitimacy of this policy from a medical standpoint or considering the possible ill effects from dirty mask breeding germs etc.

      In other words it’s a complicated problem that the media as always try to make simple.

      1. Yoghurt

        By “legitimate” i mean that they really are a pain as opposed to an imaginary pain. It’s about finding something that fits a kids face, providing it to each child, every day, and having to wear it for hours. That said, it’s not in any way equivalent to prison or Nazi persecution. I was not trying to make a comment on whether they are effective or not. Sorry if I was unclear.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I wear a mask with a badger seal with one and sometimes two procedure masks for hours at a time. It can get steamy inside when I am exercising in the high humidity Southern summer. That’s as bad as it gets. Mere procedure masks and most other masks leak so much that the idea that wearing them represents a hardship (save economically for the low income) is wildly exaggerated.

        Kids in Asia wear them, look at numerous classroom photos from China. We are unwilling to demand compliance from children.

        1. K.k

          I caught a couple minutes of an interview on the radio with someone from the airline industry. Im not sure, but i think she may have been from one of the unions. She mentioned that some of the most cooperative people on the planes when it came to masking policy were in fact children. It was the adults that would lash out and become disruptive and disrespectful when asked to adhere to the policy.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        I and everyone else at my workplace wear a mask for our entire shift. But we are not kids. One wonders if a kid friendly mask could be designed.

        Separately, one wonders how many parents would have to keep their kids out of school till the school either installed proper ventilation systems or else went bankrupt and into liquidation ( or the public equivalent thereof). How many parents would it take to extort the school into facing such a choice?
        Too many to arrest them all under truancy laws.

  3. Kurtismayfield

    The attitude of a minority of parents has really upset me. The whole “parental rights over children’s health” movement is a sick twisting of the “rugged individualism” trope spread through our society. This is the endgame of Thatcher’s “There is no society”, where only the individual matters and there is now a small very vocal minority that wants to make it their choice to endanger others. It’s a mask that people are being asked to wear in public indoor spaces. That’s it.

    Even in liberal Massachusetts, the Governor is in fear of being re elected and has asked his stooge at DESE to require masks for schools. This way he can say “It wasn’t me” come election time.l, even though the local school boards have been asking for a mandate.

    If there is an “acceptable number” of school age children that will be damaged or killed by the virus, I want to hear it from the people who won’t support masking policies what they think the number is

    1. Objective Ace

      >If there is an “acceptable number” of school age children that will be damaged or killed by the virus, I want to hear it from the people who won’t support masking policies what they think the number is

      We asked that same question about guns and the response was, “they’re in our prayers”, so I’m not optimistic

  4. 430MLK

    I’ve been grappling with this, too. Our daughter (age 10) did fine w/ online learning when the entire school-system did it. But when her classes went back to campus in April, we kept her online. With most of her class now back in classrooms (nearly 90% of her class in this Democrat city went back to in-class learning), she was miserable and the district’s attention to online learning pretty much ceased.

    This year, we pretty much let her go back and are dealing with the ‘roulette’. Double masks. We do a ‘sweat the covid out’ jog after school together (mainly a way to keep her out in the sun for a bit). Already the class next to her has been quarantined. The Fayette County School system, in class for 7 days, already has seen exponential increases in cases, and officials say that there is no way classes will go completely online this year.

    I get that there are no ‘good’ choices, but for the life of me (as this site has so often pointed out), the leadership has been rotten, pretty much putting all their baskets in a non-Trump presidency and a fully vaccinated, barbequing, local public–and calling this science. Where are the outdoor classrooms? Where is the flexibility for students and parents? Heck, I asked last Spring to do a water-quality project with my daughter as a fill-in for her science classes…and was told that any work would not be counted by the school…and that she’d be considered truant if she missed “signing in” to the sporadic online meetings held throughout the school-day.

    1. Blue Duck

      We went with full time home schooling for our sons first grade in the 2020/2021 school year. They did great. We would do 90 mins of work a day, and then spend the rest of the day hiking, canoeing, gardening, doing art, playing lego, play basketball or frisbee etc etc. my sons managed to master the first grade curricula in about 3 months. We didn’t push into second grade curricula so we spent the rest of the time consolidating our knowledge and playing strategic board games . Now they’re back in the classroom for second grade and the poor little fellas are bored as fuck. I feel really bad for them. I want them to be with their peers but the school work isn’t challenging them at all, and I can tell from the principals phone calls that our boys are bored. Their school is a small rural public school and is under resourced like all California schools. I wish I knew how to help my kids better dealing with being under challenged and bored. If the pandemic collapses in on itself again we’ll probably home school again. But I’d rather they go to a school that could meet their academic needs.

      1. cocomaan

        Really interesting to hear it from your perspective. I’ve heard similar stories even from families keeping kids home from schools with greater resources.

        Unfortunately, public education is really suffering under a lot of bad leadership and bad incentives, so people are making the costly decision to abandon it.

        It seems to me that the well to do in my area of the world are sending their kids to expensive private schools, not even giving public schools a chance.

        Hope that your sons can get the education they need!

        1. Craig

          I have 3 in high school, and they simply cannot self study and I can’t home school. Even if I could, the requirements for those home schooled now are WAY above anything expected of the professional teachers. Last year was fully remote. The assignments most teachers gave were absolute garbage (and still enormously time consuming). Our kids failed end of grade tests in shocking numbers.

          As horrible as last year was, this year scares me as much or more for many different reasons. We’re all stampeding back to class with fully packed rooms and loose cloth masks. They’ve made a big show of hand sanitizer stations and making the kids eat lunch in their 4th period classes to assist in contact tracing. They’ll need it.

          Our schools and our elected officials have simply failed us. All of them, red and blue.

      2. Utah

        They won’t let kids skip grades (just like they don’t like to hold kids back) but they will let them accelerate. So they can work on material faster than their peers. Talk to the teachers, have the school psychologist do tests, you can get them into an accelerated program if you push for it. The school won’t do it on their own because they don’t get funding for it, unlike IEPs and 504s. I’m not sure it works great. This is what I did 4th- 6th in a rural school (graduating class of 28 kind of small) Then we moved to a regular town and my parents didn’t let the school know that I was years ahead in math and English language arts, so I got bored again. On the plus side, I had a college reading level in seventh grade, so they continued to let me read whatever I wanted. Accelerating them opens doors to being able to get college credits sooner, and you can help them get associates degrees by the end of high school.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Probably public education will go into liquidation.

      The upper class rulers and the public education dictocrats themselves will come together to forbid every structural or engineering solution which could solve or even mitigate the problem. Probably someone at very high levels is counting on that very refusal to drive so many parents to home schooling that the public schools will be driven into liquidation. On purpose, with malice aforethought.

      Somewhere Bill Gates cackles in silent glee.

  5. Activist #MMT

    I have 12 and 15 year old boys. First year of middle school, first year of high school. The older one was all virtual last year. Not Great for him. We’re very relieved he’s going to start a new year (setting aside Covid), in person, in a new district that has a great reputation. The younger one went in 2 to 3 days a week at the start of the year, and five days a week at the end of the year. He’s fine with masks. He chooses to wear it in the car.

    My wife and I also work in schools. The policy for my own district is pretty bad. The assumption is that vaccines protect you 100%. You have to wear a mask and you can never take it off… unless you were vaccinated. If you were exposed to someone with Covid (as determined by contact tracing), then you have to quarantine… unless you were vaccinated. Then you only have to quarantine if and when you’re symptomatic.

    Russian Roulette indeed.

  6. Insanity is.....

    Listening to shit-for-brains “experts” is what turned this once-great nation into a failed state — and the bleating from the PMC is to now double down on that disastrous course??!

    What’s that classic definition of insanity again…?

    In his usual brilliant and trenchant way, John Michael Greer addresses this very issue in his latest essay:

    So, another classic definition that now applies to the late, great USSA:

    “Karma is….”

    1. Henry Moon Piee

      He’s always a fun read. And he links to the Bourgeois Kings essay that made the rounds here yesterday.

      And that poll about dividing the country into four or five pieces surprised me. The South appears ready to go with the Left Coast not far behind. We poor Midwesterners are like the wallflower at the dance.

      1. Shonde

        However, notice on that map, we Midwesterners get most of the Great Lakes. Where did I read that water is the new oil?

  7. lyman alpha blob

    Last year our district did the “hybrid” model with kids masked in school two days per week. Once or twice per week on average the superintendent would send some breathless message about someone affiliated with the school in some way (they were always very vague) having caught the rona. As far as I know nobody was seriously affected, and word does tend to get around on these things.

    Yours odds of death in Russian roulette are 1 in 6. Your odds of death from the rona are significantly lower, by at least an order of magnitude, maybe two. While we shouldn’t ignore the risks, hyberbole doesn’t help the situation if the goal is to get people to act responsibly, especially when combined with blaming it on Bubba. That just tends to make people tune out.

    1. GM

      Your odds of death from the rona are significantly lower, by at least an order of magnitude, maybe two.

      The problem is you will be forced to play the game again, many times

      1. Activist #MMT

        Right. Kids and parents are given no choice. They have to expose their kids to this game daily. It’s 1 in 6 compounded daily, for each of the 180 days in the school year. And in the case of my own home, bugs from four different schools come to our home each night.

        1. Eric377

          Well, yes, schools operate in an environment with communicable disease. Don’t really celebrate that, but we’ll deal with it.

  8. allan

    Parents get coached on how to escape mask and vaccine rules [AP]

    An Oregon school superintendent is telling parents they can get their children out of wearing masks by citing federal disability law. A pastor at a California megachurch is offering religious exemptions for anyone morally conflicted over vaccine requirements.

    And Louisiana’s attorney general has posted sample letters on his office’s Facebook page for those seeking to get around the governor’s mask rules.

    Across the U.S., religious figures, doctors, public officials and other community leaders are trying to help people circumvent COVID-19 precautions. …

    Hard to believe that the Culture of Life™ turns out not to have been about life.

  9. Sam Adams

    How about just accepting the powers-that-be determined rug-rats will die. There will be a reduction in population that will be unable to sustain the wider social network, but they determined they will be fine.

  10. Glossolalia

    I would be very worried if my kids were in a public school, where funding probably precludes any sort of physical improvement like ventilation, and even more so if it were in a red state where the state government is probably actively working to undermine any safety measures.

    My kid is in a private school in a very follow-the-science area and the school’s invested in enhanced ventilation, as well as mask requirements and weekly testing. Even prior to vaccines we were able to have the younger grades in person for the majority of the 20/21 school year with only a handful of covid cases. Of course that was pre-Delta, so we’ll see. My son reported that by the end of the school year the staff became really complacent about enforcing the masks and a good number of students (mostly boys) would walk around all day with them under their chins. Hopefully the staff will realize they need to give a bit more of a shit this year.

    1. Eric377

      My kids went all year to parochial school. Masks, but no upgrades to ventilation. Temp checks for a couple months. The one COVID incident that touched either of my kids classes was clearly home transmission and nobody else seemed to get it. Zero classwide quaratines for any class in school all year. They preemptively did planned virtual weeks after Christmas break and spring break. Masks optional this year. Staff vaccination not mandated but seems like every teacher plus principal and staff are publishing in school news that they vaccinated. Thursday is first day back.

  11. Dan

    I’ve got two children in an elementary school in Oakland, CA. Very affluent area where every house has either a Tesla or a BLM sign in the driveway or both. Vaccination rates are likely 80-90% among adults.

    School started August 9, with kids masked at all times and cafeteria closed (lunch is on the playground in class cohorts only). As far as I can tell mask wearing on campus is 100%. Rapid testing is available 2 days/week on campus.

    Here’s the score for the first 10 days:
    – 6 emails from the principal informing us of a positive COVID-19 test for a “member of the community”
    – one whole class sent home for two weeks after a cluster of 3 kids tested positive
    – one of our kids’ teachers sent home for 10 days after being exposed to a covid-positive person at his kid’s preschool

    I hate to say it but this appears to be the best case scenario, a slow burn of vaccine breakthrough cases that if we’re lucky will just shut down one class at a time. But we’re not into winter yet.

    I have no more doubts that COVID-19 spreads among vaccinated people, and am worried about declines in vaccine efficacy, since our community was mostly vaccinated between March and May and we’ll have declining immunity interacting with the onset of flu season. God help us!

    1. Blue Duck

      What is your school doing with distancing in the classroom? We are up in Sonoma county and there is no distancing in the classroom or cafeteria. I know the California guidelines has no requirement for distancing but the CDC recommends 3 feet. I’m considering asking the school to distance but I’m not sure it’s worth it. What you’ve described above is what I expect will happen in our school before august ends, and I have doubts about whether schools will be open by the time october rolls around.

      1. Sue inSoCal

        Dan and Blue Duck, and cocomaan, I spoke with a friend in Sacramento who lives with her daughter and grandchildren. Her experience was the same as Dan’s. To boot, her household of kids, all 3 under 12, and their mother (who’d been vaccinated) contracted Covid from school. Their concern was ruling out the variant. Suffice it to say it was a complete mess with quarantining, illness, and checking for antibodies. And yes, there is nothing set up to return to remote learning. I don’t have children, but if I did, I do believe I’d look into home schooling and ditch this crapshoot.

        Fwiw, one of my children was allergic to eggs and thus I couldn’t complete her MMR vaccinations, etc. The school district gave me the what for until I explained the circumstances! This was 35 years ago. How insane we have gotten, imho.

      2. Objective Ace

        If ventilation is bad distancing won’t make much of a difference. Push for ventilation first then distancing

    2. Eric377

      Not trying to be provocative, but would a fast burn maybe be easier to work through than a slow burn? I could see just a very tough September and then the classes filling back up with unvaxxed but natural immunity. Depending on duration, rest of school year could be way easier. Not wishing for it, but I kind of think something like that went on generally in Wisconsin last fall. Cases and the rest ramped hard down mid-November, a month before any vaccination and 2 before much volume.

      1. Raymond Sim

        ” I could see just a very tough September and then the classes filling back up with unvaxxed but natural immunity.”

        If you’ve read the content here and you honestly think that, you should stop listening to your brain, it is a bad brain.

        1. Eric377

          So are you in favor of slow burn I guess? My state (WI) had a tough fall 2020, but it turned in mid-November and somehow one of the coldest states in the union basically did not participate in the awful winter surge. Further, there are knowledgeable folks out there who are suggesting that the incidence of COVID already in school-age kids is much higher than many think. Gottlieb for example was speculating a leverage of 10:1 to 20:1 of unconfirmed pediatric cases right now. Call it what you like, but I see it very possible that schools + delta will be a fast burn. Two of mine are at school right now for orientation + pictures before first full day Thursday. Not say it is a fantastic prospect, but I’m guess when it hits your school it will be real hot.

  12. chris

    In theory, we’re ready for the COVID related challenges to come in our school district. Students and teachers are required to wear masks. 80% of families and 12+ citizens in our county are fully vaccinated. Families who insisted they can’t return to in person learning have a separate digital online option that won’t compete for resources with the in person schooling. The schools have had their ductwork and systems improved, the filtration of the systems has been increased. We’ve eliminated the economizer options that would mix fresh air with contaminated air. We’re discussing options for rapid testing several times a week. We have requirements for people who choose to not vaccinate or can’t vaccinate.

    So… on paper. This is as good as it gets. I have no idea how these plans will adapt once they deal with reality. We’ll see in a week!

  13. Maritimer

    I am always amazed that folks are so willing to send their children off to be “educated” by Government. Here is John Gatto, noted public school critic:

    “Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted – sometimes with guns – by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880’s when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.”

    He has a lot more to say on the subject at:

    Having gone through Government compulsory 12 grade education myself, I do not think much of it. I think of myself rather as an education survivor.

    1. Blue Duck

      Five years ago I would have called you crazy. However, after watching my sons in the US public education system over the last three years, I have to agree. My sons are vibrant, intelligent, energetic and extroverted. They question everything, including boundaries and authority. They’ve just started second grade and have already mastered third grade math and read years above their grade level. They’ve been identified as gifted but the school has no program to extend their learning. Suffice to say they’re bored and unchallenged at school. We constantly get calls from the principal who is a difficult and manipulative man. We’ve had much success in the past dealing with the vice principal who loves our kids, but the principal seems to have it in his head that it is he alone who is going to deal with them. The fact that our sons education is at the mercy of a bureaucratic tyrant and an institution that seems determined to ruin schooling for them makes me wonder what the fuck we are doing. We home schooled them for first grade. I don’t want to do it again unless we have to because it was exhausting for me. But I just don’t know how we are going to meet our kids educational needs in the stultifying California school system.

    2. chris

      I’m sad that was your experience. I got a great education through public schools. My kids are too for the most part.

      I know that’s not what every family sees. To me this is why we need to keep fighting for the reforms we need, the funding we deserve, and the people we need as teachers who aren’t brainwashed culture warriors.

    1. chris

      Sarc/Clearly it’s when the people and families who have been suffering from the opioid epidemic are the only ones dying of COVID-19./Sarc

      Most likely when we meet one or more metrics from the CDC and WHO for transmission and spread.

  14. mark

    There are numerous schools around the world that have already had over a year of in person learning without masks. They have not found worse outcomes vs either remote learning or in person learning with masks. Two areas that I am familiar with are British Columbia and Sweden. There are many more examples in this country and other countries. Can someone help me understand why a parent should be more worried about their child getting Covid vs. the social and scholastic disruption the child will experience?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Those “numerous schools” were almost certainly in countries that then didn’t have Delta and/or were like South Korea that had strict quarantines and contact tracing and thus had very low community spread.

      Covid pre Delta also result in pediatric hospitalizations. We now have a meaningful number and they are rising.

      In other words, your factoids are irrelevant to the US now.

    2. Late Introvert

      Why can’t it be both? Obviously you are badly misinformed about the long term effects of COVID19, and you are also not a parent. “The child”, wtf? Who talks like that?

    3. Sean

      Agreed it’s time for people to put their big boy pants on.

      We won’t stop the spread. And Yves was right with how she started this article saying masks are mostly ineffective.

      You will get covid. Do everything you can to maximize your chance of surviving.

      Time to go back to life.

      1. Late Introvert

        Sounds like you need to read again what Yves wrote, but people who use the phrase “big boy pants” aren’t likely to be careful readers. Effective masks are available. Good luck with that getting COVID, though, and since you won’t be properly masked you will sure to spread it far and wide.

  15. VietnamVet

    What is tragic is that a functional public health system would lower the Russian Roulette risks. This includes cheap ventilation (fans in the walls and doors), air filters, UV lights, school bubbles, and weekly infection tests. Testing daily before leaving home is preferable but there was no crash program to develop an accurate paper test for coronavirus infection. Every bubble needs a public health trained member to keep track of everyone and maintain the records plus safe quarantine sites for the ill. Masking and social distancing mandatory. Vaccinated teachers will be significantly safer in a bubble.

    Unfortunately, in today’s world; kids, teachers, and essential workers are just not as important as baseball players — not worth spending any money on. I’ve gone from a pessimist to an optimist after reading yesterday’s “Farewell to Bourgeois Kings”. The collapse of the Potemkin Kabul is proof that the predatory capitalism will fail, Americans willing.

  16. John Beech

    Florida residents here. Voted for DeSantis. Won’t again.

    Meanwhile, Lynn accepted a year’s sabbatical rather than go back to school this year. Special Ed. coordinator. Means she chairs meetings and ensures the IEP for her three school dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s (so the school system doesn’t lose any money). Basically, state and Fed money depends on this. Meetings include parents, administrators, classroom teachers, ESL, psychologists, nurse, Speech and Language pathologists, travel time between schools, etc. Big deal to get this right.

    So last year she worked from home. WebEx. Worked really well because the usual frictions of getting 8-10 people in a room weren’t present (hellos, good byes, people running late, parents who want to keep talking, etc.). Upshot? Last year, for the first time ‘ever’, she closed 100% of the IEPs for her three schools. Point being, remote working is more effective for the county.

    Didn’t matter, they said this accommodation wasn’t available this year. Note, I’m asthmatic and grown daughter living at home is diabetic, so the ones at great risk are us more so than her who is healthy as a horse.

    Money wise, between her salary and our now paying the health insurance out of pocket (almost $1800/mo), it means a swing of close to $100k for our household. Fortunately my business is on a good footing so the financial aspects are manageable – but – I pity those for whom this route isn’t an option.

    Bottom line? What DeSantis is doing is despicable. His political calculus is obvious. What may not be is voters like us who have turned against him. Enough to turn him out of office? Dunno. Probably not because you can’t cure stupid. After all, this ‘is’ Florida.

  17. Tina

    I’m a high school math teacher in Mesa County District 51, central to this article. It should be noted that the State directs tests be run to Ct of 40 for anyone “unvaccinated” and 28 for “vaccinated” so we are back to the high number of questionable positive tests in these kids. The situation on the ground is not dire when you look for kids or even adults showing real symptoms there aren’t many. Lots of positive tests being called cases. Now there IS a legitimate worry amongst grounded pediatricians with a few RSV positive kids lately. More than you’d expect in a population of our size (about 65,000) I surmise.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A Canadian scientist at McGill, their top university, who runs PCR tests all the time as part of his job debunked your claims:

      The danger when seeing high Ct values (e.g. 38-40) is that the signal you are eventually getting may not be specific: to go back to Mr. Holmes, it could be amplifying a somewhat similar sentence from a different story. This is the kernel of truth that COVID contrarians have jumped on. But the reality of PCR technology is much more complicated: we can’t simply set a universal Ct value beyond which we declare all tests to be negative. The Ct value is, in a way, relative.

      Different laboratories have set up different PCR tests to look for the coronavirus, using different probe-and-primer combinations to look for different genes in the coronavirus’ genome on different PCR machines. Unsurprisingly, when 26 Ontario laboratories that test for the coronavirus participated in a proficiency test, they saw a variability of Ct values of up to eight cycles across them when testing the same specimen. Samples that are known to be positive and negative for the coronavirus are run alongside the unknown samples, and their behaviour during the run also affects interpretation of the results. This is why reporting the Ct value is not recommended in Canada: on its own, it does not mean much.

      In a way, it’s not unlike chicken soup. Many families have their own recipe. As long as it’s been internally validated, meaning that it looks like chicken soup and tastes like chicken soup and the people eating it are happy with it, it’s a perfectly functional chicken soup. PCR tests come in many different flavours, but as long as they are validated (by using a known quantity of virus, diluting it many times and running these samples to see what Ct values they generate), they are reliable. They are not perfect, because no test is perfect, but they are absolutely not the futile garbage some folks on the Internet would have you believe.

      The pandemic saw a rise in armchair experts, people who had never stepped foot in a laboratory suddenly learning about PCR and thinking, as in true crime dramas, that they had cracked the case wide open. But the interpretation of PCR tests for the coronavirus relies on a lot more than a single Ct value: it depends on all of the above “chicken soup” variability, plus the type of specimen collected, whether or not samples are pooled in a single well to save on reagents (with positive pools being tested individually afterwards), and on pre-test probability, meaning whether or not the person being tested has symptoms and whether or not they were potentially exposed to the virus. The blind reliance on Ct values unfortunately shows a misunderstanding of the complexities of molecular diagnostics. Ct values are not elementary; they require expertise to interpret.

      On top of that, you are assuming all the tests run are PCR tests. For many if not most purposes, the much faster antigen test is acceptable for establishing a positive or negative Covid status. There’s an argument in favor of a faster test, since finding Covid cases faster leads to faster isolation and reduces contagion.

      See more:

      1. Raymond Sim

        “For many if not most purposes, the much faster antigen test is acceptable for establishing a positive or negative Covid status.”

        If done with sufficient frequency! And ‘most purposes’ I’m assuming would be the things needed for executing competent public health policy?

        I personally wouldn’t rely on anything but quarantine to protect a loved one, if I had a choice.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Most people who get tested are not symptomatic. They are getting tested to satisfy job or other requirements.

          I got the antigen test 3x to satisfy NYC’s quarantine requirement when traveling for my hip. When I went in for my surgery, the hospital required a PCR test and allowed it to be up to 5 days before the surgery, which was beyond dopey. Median incubation period for wild type Covid is a teeny bit over 5 days and IIRC for Delta, more like 4 days. And I was expected originally (with 1 hip replacement) to be in the hospital 3 nights, which was extended to 5 due to getting 2 hips done.

          So I easily could have contracted Covid AFTER I got the test and brought it into the hospital…particularly since I got on the plane AFTER I got the PCR test.

          An antigen test would have made much more sense, with a second antigen test later the same day if they were worried about false negatives. The PCR tests were dangerously late. I was sure I didn’t have it due to being recently vaccinated plus my povidone iodine fetish but they can’t rely on that.

    2. John Beech

      Tina, both first cousin Cathy, who died in February, and first cousin Donna who passed back in August had underlying conditions. Both died due to COVID19, both alone and intubated. Both scared out of their minds. Both left husbands and family distressed beyond belief. Both passed in Alabama (where we’re from), and where COVIDIOCY rages amongst relatively poorly educated citizens.

      Every kid in America has a vaccine card. Why? Because every school system has a vaccine requirement. These include Rubella, mumps, chicken pox, Polio, and more. It’s the how behind smallpox being history in America, as well as the scourge of polio. Yet this progress is at risk because of people electing to take medical advice from politicians. It’s beyond sad. Sigh.

  18. Tina

    I”m not assuming anything. The tests are swabs sent to the county for PCR, not antigen from a blood draw nor on-site CUE.

    The cycle threshold might be argued but there’s no justification for the arbitrary difference based on being given the shot or not. If 40 is the number then run all the tests at 40. If 26 is the number run them all at 26.

    Anyway, the blessed one, Dr. Fauci himself said Ct isn’t meaningful at such high number when asked on the July 16, 2020, This Week in Virology podcast.

    “What is now sort of evolving into a bit of a standard if you get a cycle threshold of 35 or more, the chances of it being replication-confident are minuscule. It’s very frustrating for the patients as well as for the physicians [when] somebody comes in, and they repeat their PCR, and it’s like [a] 37 cycle threshold, but you almost never can culture virus from a 37 threshold cycle. So, I think if somebody does come in with 37, 38, even 36, you got to say, you know, it’s just dead nucleotides, period.”

    The NYT has also reported on this >35 cycle hypersensitivity.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You don’t know what you are talking about. The antigen tests are from a nasal swab too and have the same regulatory status as the PCR tests.

      You’ve just completely discredited yourself.

      Agnotology, which we informally call Making Shit Up, is a violation of our written site Policies.

      California most assuredly is NOT restricting citizens to a PCR tests run at county labs. I picked Santa Cruz for fun. It in turn links to private testing sites like CVS stores and they offer both PCR and antigen tests:

      LA County has a long discussion of test types, including a comparison of the antigen test v. PCR test:

      So any Covid stats for your county (# of positives, test positivity rate) will most assuredly include PCR and antigen test results from private labs.

      And you were not originally objecting to the differential (which I do agree is nonsense). You were using that to try to discredit the 40 cycle and suggest the tests were generating a high level of false positives. The McGill scientist says you can’t conclude that from number of cycles alone, depends on how test was done (there are differences in testing equipment, sample prep, etc.) The LA County discussion of the PCR tests has similar verbiage with links to sources.

      On top of that, what you SHOULD have been concerned is that a lower cycle threshold for the vaccinated would generate false negatives, particularly since Israel shows infection rates proportional for vaxxed v. unvaxxed (ie, the vaccines are not preventing infection but bad outcomes) and that there are more reports of severe breakthrough cases and not just among those with co-morbidities (ie, the combo of Delta + waning vaccine efficacy over time = protection against bad outcomes waning much faster than anticipated).

      In other words, you’ve shifted the grounds of your argument, which is bad faith and a second violation of our written site Policies.

      I trust you will find your happiness on the Internet…elsewhere.

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