Time for another rant by a liberal who's furious at liberal COVID policies

Time for another rant by a liberal who's furious at liberal COVID policies
AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File

A rule of thumb in media is that you can’t properly write a story about an emerging trend unless you can cite at least three recent examples of that trend.

Well, we now have three examples in the past week of Democrats questioning their party allegiance due to exasperation at COVID restrictions championed by other Democrats, particularly restrictions in schools. First came Angie Schmitt writing in the Atlantic last Friday. Then came Rebecca Bodenheimer in a piece for Politico on Tuesday. Now a Twitter thread from earlier this week by Elisabeth Stineberg has gone viral. I can’t remember where I read it, but someone said a few days ago that “COVID moms” may emerge as the constituency that ends up knifing the Dems this fall.

Seems plausible. They knifed Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, after all.

I rarely post long Twitter threads but Stineberg’s deserves full exposure, as she makes a point that Schmitt also made in her Atlantic piece. It’s not just the madness of protracted school closures unjustified by the science that’s driven her to despair. It’s the demagoguery coming at her from her own allies on the left for challenging the orthodoxy that it’s dangerous to have kids back in class. I remember thinking when Trump called for opening schools in the fall of 2020 that Democrats were destined to oppose him, not because he was wrong on the science but because partisan polarization impelled them towards doing the opposite of whatever he wanted to do. Dems have never quite shaken that illogic on schools and COVID, nor have they shaken the tribal undertones of their position. Ask Stineberg. She’ll tell you.

How many “COVID moms” are out there? A lot.

A lot:

David Leonhardt of the Times has been on a mission lately to try to deprogram his educated liberal audience from its paranoia about COVID outbreaks in schools. It’s true that many conservatives underestimate the risk from the virus, he reassured them in today’s piece, but it’s also true that liberals waaaaay overestimate the risk to kids from being in class. Look no further than Sonia Sotomayor, who recently overstated the number of children hospitalized for COVID by a factor of 20. Leonhardt did the math: “Over the past week, about 870 children were admitted to hospitals with Covid, according to the C.D.C. By comparison, more than 5,000 children visit emergency rooms each week for sports injuries. More than 1,000 are hospitalized for bronchiolitis during a typical January week.”

Kids have more to lose from COVID restrictions than they do from COVID, he concludes. Imagine the sort of hate mail he must be getting for that succinct, and correct, statement of the science. One now backed by every influential figure in the Democratic-controlled federal government.

It would be nice if keeping children in class were a simple matter of threatening to sue the teachers unions until they get off their asses and open the schoolhouse doors. It isn’t. For starters, the great, great majority of American schools are open now despite the spread of Omicron:

That checks out, roughly. Burbio says that a shade under 5,000 schools are closed out of around 100,000 nationwide. But just because schools are open doesn’t mean kids are in class. Again, the problem Leonhardt and Stineberg are coping with isn’t hypercaution from the top of the liberal hierarchy; influencers like Joe Biden continue to call for kids to be in class. The problem is the bottom of the hierarchy. Rank-and-file Democrats have internalized the lesson that COVID is a dire threat to their children so deeply that some parents are keeping their kids out of school even though the building is open and class is in session. Between their anxiety about kids getting infected and kids who are already infected needing to stay home for a few days, school attendance is collapsing:

New York City, the nation’s largest school district, saw its overall attendance rate fall below 70% when classes resumed after the winter holidays, far beneath the district’s pre-pandemic average of over 91% students at school each day. Many students missed class because of fears of contracting the virus or because they or a family member had tested positive, teachers said…

Heather Hill, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, said some teachers she knows around the U.S. are teaching new material despite high absenteeism, though more slowly than usual. Some teachers are trying to keep absent students up to speed by holding after-school Zoom calls or having students in class stream video to their peers at home. Others have set up a camera in the back of their classroom, she said…

Research shows students’ standardized test scores suffer with each additional absence, she said. An average student with 10 absences during the school year would be expected to score about 3 percentile points lower than an average student who missed no school, she said.

Boston and Chicago have also seen attendance as low as 70 percent lately. “There’s never been anything like this,” said one New York teacher to the WSJ about the degree of absenteeism. What is this country going to look like when the under-educated “COVID generation” is running things?

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023