CDC chief not sounding too eager to get schools reopened ASAP

Take 10 minutes to watch the interview below between Jake Tapper and CDC director Rochelle Walensky, which can be paraphrased this way:

Tapper: This is a national crisis. Kids need to be back in class immediately. If that means tolerating a higher degree of risk, shouldn’t we do that?
Walensky: Sorry, only near-perfect safety will do.

Which, coincidentally, happens to also be the position of the teachers unions that own the Biden White House.

Here’s how absurd Walensky’s recommendations got on another show this morning:

“One of the things that’s really been emphasized in the school reopening is how unsafe some of our school ventilations are,” Walensky said on “Fox News Sunday.”

In addition to worsening the risk of coronavirus, she said, “that’s a problem for other respiratory viruses, for children with asthma, for exposure to mold … there’s a lot of work we need to do in order to get our schools to a safer environment.”

Mold? As a Twitter pal said, if we’re keeping schools closed now due to fear of exposure to mold and other viruses, not just COVID, shouldn’t there be class-action suits against school systems nationwide for having exposed kids to that risk with poor ventilation for so many years?

She does a lot of nodding when Tapper reminds her of how heavy the psychological and developmental burden has been on kids during the pandemic but doesn’t seem willing to bend on any of the safety guidance in order to ease it. Universal masking in schools is crucial, she insists. Right, says Tapper — but how can we get kids to mask up in schools if the schools aren’t open in the first place? Community rates of infection are also important, Walensky stresses. The less prevalent the virus is locally, the more safety measures can be relaxed and schools can reopen. Right, but, uh…

We’re in the red zone practically everywhere. And even in communities where infection rates are high, there’s no reason to think teachers or students are at greater risk of being infected inside school than outside of it. Private schools have been open across the country for months, throughout the terrible winter America just endured, and I’m unaware of evidence that they’ve contributed in a significant way to outbreaks or wider community spread. So why shouldn’t public schools open too?

The NYT surveyed 175 pediatric disease experts recently about whether it’s safe to reopen schools now and many were more gung ho than Walensky:

Depending on various metrics, between 48 percent and 72 percent say the extent of virus spread in a community is not an important indicator of whether schools should be open, even though many districts still rely on those metrics. Schools should close only when there are Covid-19 cases in the school itself, most said.

“There is no situation in which schools can’t be open unless they have evidence of in-school transmission,” said Dr. David Rosen, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis.

The risks of being out of school were far greater, many of the experts said. “The mental health crisis caused by school closing will be a worse pandemic than Covid,” said Dr. Uzma Hasan, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey.

At one point Tapper frankly tells her that he feels dispirited listening to her because the bar she’s setting in terms of safety measures and community spread is so high that realistically it can’t be cleared. It’s a recipe for hybrid learning at best for the rest of this school year and possibly again in the fall, when the combination of vaccine-resisters and new strains of the virus may produce another epidemic. The GOP has been slow to capitalize on this issue but we should hear much more about it with impeachment behind us, especially now that the CDC’s guidance on school reopenings is out. I hope Democrats are enjoying their Trump-era romance with suburban voters. It might be a short one.