Openings Should Be Guided By Health Metrics, What We Open Should Be Guided As Well

Fairfax County Public Schools will pause its reopening plans. Expanding in-person earning will be delayed. The updated COVID dashboard of the county shows 400 new cases in the past 24 hours. Unfortunately, this simply portends an exponential growth in the next few weeks. It is true that some are now experiencing a fatigue with these non-pharmaceutical interventions. How long do we have to wait? Are these working, anyway? These interventions only work with majority compliance. And we are failing because we are not recognizing what it takes to open schools, what it takes to control this pandemic. I receive every morning an update from the New York Times. Here is a part of this morning's edition:

Schools obviously involve indoor gatherings. Closing schools is therefore a non-pharmaceutical intervention to help control the spread of the coronavirus. If only the schools are closed while restaurants, bars, gyms and churches remain open, then we are basically fooling ourselves. The coronavirus is not choosy when it comes to what type of indoor gathering it uses to spread. Closing restaurants and bars at midnight or even earlier, for instance, 10 pm, is stupid because the coronavirus does not pick a specific time of day to spread. A half-baked approach is destined to fail. As long as we allow indoor gatherings, we will never reduce the spread of the coronavirus. As we keep our bars open, we will never see our schools open. And the data from Europe shows that we are making the wrong choices. We want to make exceptions all the time. The virus does not make exceptions.

Here is the announcement regarding Fairfax County Public Schools from one of its school board members.

November 16, 2020
Dear Parents, Caregivers, and FCPS staff,
The current health metrics for COVID-19 cases in our community now exceed the threshold to expand our in-person learning. Therefore, we are pressing “pause” and will delay expanding in-person instruction to Group 5, which includes Early Head Start, pre-K, kindergarten and select students who receive special education services, who were scheduled to return on Tuesday, November 17. Any new pilot programs/classes scheduled to start tomorrow, November 17, will also pause. We are monitoring health metrics daily, but Group 5 will remain virtual until at least November 30. We will communicate additional updates closer to that time.
We made this decision as soon as new health metrics were released and are communicating it to you immediately as promised. We always anticipated the need to potentially adjust our return to school plans as necessary during this ongoing pandemic.
Students and staff who have been attending in-person classes (Groups 1-4), and our existing pilots, will continue to do so. CDC Guidelines allow us to keep small cohorts of students in schools. If metrics change that impact in-person instruction for Groups 1-4, we will update you as soon as that information becomes available. Specific health metrics that guide our decisions on when new groups of students can return for in-person instruction, what is required to continue in-person instruction, and what would initiate a group being transitioned to distance learning are posted online.
We urge our community to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus: wear face coverings, maintain social distancing, and stay home when ill. More information on how to keep you and your family healthy is available here.
Please join me for the most updated information during a virtual Return to School Town Hall from 6-7 pm this Thursday, November 19. Watch the event on your device on the FCPS website. Submit your questions in advance to or call in during the Town Hall at 1-800-231-6359.
These next few months will be not be easy. Know that I am committed to keeping you informed and updated as conditions change that impact FCPS students, families, and staff. I sincerely appreciate your continued support of our students.
Scott Brabrand, Superintendent