We Must Act Collectively

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the US and other countries, it becomes apparent that non-pharmaceutical interventions work only if these are all observed simultaneously. Most schools are currently planning to hold virtual classes only. This intervention has been recently associated with a 62% reduction in COVID-19 incidence rate and a 58% reduction in the number of COVID-19 related deaths. These reductions are clearly substantial, but these are obviously associated with effects from other interventions. Students are asked to sacrifice significantly this coming Fall with schools remaining closed for face-to-face instruction. It is a travesty if schools remain closed while bars remain open during this time. The reopening of schools hinges on the current incidence of COVID-19 in the community. Schools remain virtual so that community transmission is avoided. It is only fair that the community practices the other necessary interventions so that there is hope that students would get to see their classmates and teachers face-to-face in the near future. The New York Times has recently published a study from the COVID-19 modeling consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, that estimates the probability of a student arriving at school with the coronavirus. And for most of the US, the results are disconcerting:

Above copied from the NY Times

States like Texas and Florida will see more than 10 people arriving at school during the first week infected with the virus. In these states, the risks are clearly high for school openings. Schools therefore should remain closed in these places. 

Transmission obviously requires only one infected individual and, unfortunately, there are only few places where this risk is small. Here is the estimate for Fairfax county:

Above copied from the NY Times

If schools open in Fairfax county with a limited occupancy of 100, the risk becomes close to zero.

Above copied from the NY Times

In our own community, the number of COVID-19 cases is significant.

Above copied from Fairfax County

There 2.5% COVID-19 incidence. This of course includes cases that have recovered, but one must also take into account cases that have not been discovered. The percent of cases that have recovered in Virginia is also low, about 10 % at the moment. With 2.5% the risks are actually substantial using the Austin model:

Above copied from 

We know that school closures have detrimental effects but we should also know that schools cannot reopen without our participation. Once again, it is a travesty if bars, indoor dining, gyms, and churches are open while schools remain closed.


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