Don’t tell me what to do.
But don’t hold me accountable for what I do, either.
That seems to be the position of school officials on reopening classes during the Coronavirus pandemic.
On the one hand, school boards don’t want a state or federal mandate about how to reopen schools in the fall.
On the other hand, they don’t want to be sued by children, families or staff who get sick or die as a result of reckless reopening plans.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is behind a push at both the state and federal level for temporary, limited liability protections in case students or staff become infected with Covid-19.
The organization is asking state legislatures and US Congress to pass bills including such protections.
At the same time, the organization is pushing state governors and the President to pass the plan through executive orders.
None of which should fill residents with confidence.
After all, would you want to eat at a restaurant where the chef refuses responsibility if diners get sick?
Would you want to fly on an airline that doesn’t guarantee you’ll make it to your destination in one piece?
If school officials are worried that students and staff may catch Covid-19, they should pass reopening plans that greatly reduce the likelihood of that happening.
When hundreds of new cases are being reported in your county every week, you shouldn’t be opening the school buildings even with a hybrid model balancing both in-person and distance learning.
You should keep students learning online.
Safety should be the first concern of every school board member making these decisions.
Even one new case of Coronavirus is too much.
The fact that so many school directors are afraid of being sued means they are afraid their plans will not stop people from contracting the disease.
And that’s a real problem.
So far, children have been hospitalized at a lower rate than adults when infected. However, until recently children have been kept mostly isolated. As they have been further exposed to the virus, some have developed complications. Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said there are 43 confirmed cases of a serious inflammatory syndrome in young people throughout the Commonwealth. Nineteen additional cases are under investigation.
We need to take this issue seriously.
If schools were reopening safely, why would they need protection from lawsuits?
Frivolous litigation is always an issue, but there is nothing to suggest that living through a global pandemic makes it more of a problem.
If school directors can prove they took every precaution to guard against people getting sick, their districts should be fine.
In Pennsylvania, this has lead to discussions of the reopening guidelines issued by Gov. Wolf.
“I keep hearing the expression, ‘We are simply giving guidance or recommendations,” state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, said. “In the end, is it not true that what you say is a recommendation, ends up being a mandate because school districts are afraid of being sued and taxpayers losing millions of dollars?”
Dinniman – who I often agree with – seems to be saying that districts should be free to ignore safety guidelines. And they are.
But doing so should come with a price.
The guidelines – which are too lenient in my opinion – at least set up some benchmarks.
They designate a county as low, medium or high risk depending on cases per 100,000 residents and percentage of positive tests in the last seven days.
However, these guidelines miss a vital component of epidemiology. One week’s worth of data is insufficient to get an accurate picture of viral spread. Covid-19 symptoms take up to two weeks to show up.
You could have low numbers this week and decide to reopen school buildings to a hybrid model, but then next week have a surge. And those people would have been sick when you reopened – you just didn’t know because it took another week for their symptoms to develop.
Follow the scientific consensus.
When disaster strikes, you don’t dither. You don’t give people options when there’s a killer shark in the water. You close the beaches.
But the very question of whether it is government’s responsibility to keep people safe has been called into question here.
We are continually ignoring the dangers of the moment in which we live to secure a false sense of normalcy.
We refuse to take the proposer precautions to lower the infection and instead try to live with it.
Take yesterday’s decisions by The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to beginning the fall sports season on Monday.
Fall sports like football, soccer, tennis, field hockey, girls volleyball, etc. can start up if school boards decide to do so.
However, two weeks ago Gov. Wolf recommended that sports be postponed unit January 2021.
Though the PIAA originally voted to postpone the start of the season by two weeks, yesterday’s 25-5 vote put the season back on track.
We are acting like spoiled children who want to do what they want and refuse to be held accountable for their actions.
Sadly it is our children who will most often pay the price for adult recklessness.
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