Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO — SeaWorld has decided it will not seek to overturn a court ruling that has kept its trainers from getting into the water with the parks’ killer whales.

The company’s decision not to appeal the orca ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court was found in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The decision was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

Since the ruling, the park has “made significant safety improvements” in trainer safety, SeaWorld said in a statement.

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation and court case involved the park in Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego voluntarily pulled its trainers from the water after the 2010 death of a trainer in Orlando, officials said.

In April, by a vote of 2-1, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., rejected an appeal by SeaWorld of a citation issued by OSHA after its investigation into the drowning death of the trainer.

SeaWorld had argued that proximity of the trainers to the killer whales was central to the appeal of the orca shows and without that proximity the shows would lose popularity.

But the court majority concluded it is too dangerous for orcas to be closely interacting with trainers. Safety measures taken after the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau are inadequate, the majority added.

Last week, SeaWorld San Diego announced plans to nearly double the size of its orca environment. It also promised to contribute an additional $10 million to research on the species and to establish an independent advisory committee of scientists to oversee its orca program.

The new space, described as the first of its kind, is slated to be completed by 2018, officials said. SeaWorld parks at Orlando and San Antonio, Texas, will follow with similar orca projects, officials said.

SeaWorld San Diego has ten orcas. The orca show at Shamu Stadium has long been the marquee attraction.

Battered by bad publicity from the documentary Blackfish, which asserts that SeaWorld mistreats its orcas, the company’s earnings and stock price have taken a beating.

It was announced last week that shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which has 11 theme parks, dropped 33 percent after its earnings fell below expectations.

The Orlando, Florida-based company conceded for the first time that attendance at its theme parks has been hurt by negative publicity caused by a drumbeat from animal activists about the alleged maltreatment of the orcas.

Standard & Poor’s last week announced it had lowered SeaWorld Entertainment’s credit rating to BB- from BB, pushing the rate further below investment grade into the area of junk bonds.

Photo: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/MCT

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.