San Fran doctors: Opens the schools already!

Out in San Francisco, public pressure is mounting to reopen the public schools and send students back to in-person classes. But it’s not all coming from conservative provocateurs and angry parents. A coalition of doctors, many of whom are specialists in the fields of infectious diseases and adolescent health, have issued a statement condemning the current plans for having students return to the classroom. While acknowledging the risks posed by the virus, they point out that the isolation and lack of social interaction caused by the shutdowns is causing its own host of medical issues as well as impacting the children’s progress. Rather than waiting for any sort of herd immunity definition to be achieved, these medical professionals want the schools reopened by the end of the month. But will anyone in the government or the teachers’ unions listen? (CBS San Francisco)

A group of Bay Area doctors are calling for California schools to reopen as soon as possible.

”We have a proposal put through for a March 1 opening, and we have Gavin Newsom advocating for kindergarten through sixth grade to go back to school in February,” says UCSF Dr. Jeanne Noble. “Frankly, those both fall short.”

Noble is a Professor of Emergency Medicine, and just one of the thirty UCSF health care professionals – from infectious disease experts to adolescent health specialists – calling for a reopening of California schools as soon as February 1. They say 10 months of lost learning and the mounting social isolation caused by the closures outweighs the risk posed by reopening.

So who is opposing this plan? If you guessed that it’s the local teachers’ unions, give yourself a cookie. One elementary school teacher is quoted in the article as she dramatically states that she knows the current conditions are “not good for any child.” But she then goes on to say that it’s even worse for a child to lose a parent or a grandparent.]

The unions are demanding mass vaccinations and a number of other requirements before they will be willing to send the teachers back to work. The spokesperson for the group of doctors counters by saying that while they support early vaccination for teachers, vaccinations are not a requirement for going into the classroom. With the proper social distancing and PPE, classes can be run safely.

It seems to me that you can boil this issue down to a couple of fairly basic points. We’re talking about the relative level of safety of in-class education and how it might be impacted by an infectious disease. Who are you going to trust when looking for an answer? A lengthy list of infectious disease specialists and pediatricians or some union reps? Posed in that context, it really doesn’t seem like that tough of a call.

Teachers’ unions representing public schools all over the country have been fighting tooth and claw against going back to work ever since the new school year began. That’s an easy call for them to make since their salaries and benefits are covered by the taxpayers and they are still getting paid even if they are sitting at home. The same can not be said for all of the parents who are forced to either find alternate childcare resources or miss work themselves because their children can’t attend class each day.

The group’s full letter can be found at the link above, along with the lengthy list of signatories and their professional credentials. They’re specifically addressing the situation in the San Francisco Bay area, but this could certainly be a model for any other school districts around the nation. The virus doesn’t behave all that differently based on where you go to school.