Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday claimed that the precipitous drop in support among parents for in-person schooling during the pandemic is the result of a "coordinated effort" to convince parents not to send their kids back to school.
The results of a Gallup poll released on Aug. 3 showed support for in-person schooling down to 36 percent, a drop of 20 percentage points from the previous month. The same poll showed an increase of 21 percentage points for remote learning.
Donald Trump and his administration have been pushing for schools to reopen despite advice from medical experts against it. Some schools that have opened have had to quickly close back down due to transmission of the virus among students.
From the Aug. 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
TRACE GALLAGHER, Fox News: It seems to me, and I want to put these Gallup polls up on the screen, it seems to me and to a lot of Americans that this push to get in-person learning is losing a little bit of steam. You see there from May 25 to June 8, 56 percent of the population said they wanted in-person, full-time school, and you move forward to July and now it's down to 36 percent.
So, the whole push seems to be losing steam. What does the administration think about that?
BETSY DeVOS: Well, we know that it's a coordinated effort and a campaign to continue to sow fear. And yet when you look at facts and when you look at the science, we know that the important thing for kids is to be able to get back into school, into their classrooms, back with their peers, back with their teachers, and learning in person.
And for most students this is the case.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
On Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt discussed the coronavirus crisis and the threat it poses to children on Monday morning with Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency physician in Austin, Texas. Earhardt told Kathuria she had been under the impression that COVID-19 didn't pose a major threat to kids — and Kathuria schooled the Fox & Friends co-host on how dire a threat coronavirus can be when children are infected.
Noting a report that more than 97,000 children had tested positive for COVID-19 in the second half of July, Earhardt told Kathuria, "We're all worried about sending our kids back to school. What is that going to look like for our country, and for our elderly grandparents and things like that? 97,000 kids have tested positive. We all — that was such a shock to me, because I had heard kids really don't get it. If they do, they're all going to be OK."
Kathuria explained, "You know, that was just in two weeks — so about 100,000 new cases in pediatric kids just in two weeks. And I can guarantee you that number is actually much higher."
This is what happens when you get all your coronavirus information from Fox docs and Trump F&F Host Ainsley Earha… https://t.co/mcFPkRonNI— Lis Power (@Lis Power)1597063828.0
The emergency doctor went on to explain that kids who have been infected with COVID-19 but aren't showing any symptoms can easily infect older Americans.
"We don't really test kids that often," Kathuria noted. "They're usually asymptomatic, they have very mild symptoms — but they're still shedding this virus. So, that is going to artificially be low no matter how good we are about testing right now. So, you know, that's what we're worried about right now, is sending these kids to schools and sending them home. And it's not the kids so much we're concerned about — obviously, we are — but it's their grandparents, their parents, when their parents then go to work, who they're spreading this to."
Earhardt asked Kathuria if children infected with COVID-19 are experiencing "minimal side effects" — to which the doctor responded, "So, that's the majority of them. The likelihood of death and the likelihood of critical illness is lower, but it's possible. I mean, a seven-year-old just died in Georgia, with no medical problems. We hear about this, and we see it all the time. Kids get sick, they get multi-system inflammatory syndrome from this. They can get ill from this; the likelihood is just lower. So, they're not immune to this. They definitely can fall ill."
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
President Donald Trump has been adamant in calling for schools to reopen in the fall, and many Republicans are afraid to publicly disagree with him. But journalist Erin Banco, in an article published by the Daily Beast on August 10, reports that some Trump aides — behind closed doors — are seriously worried about the risks of reopening schools at a time when so many new COVID-19 infections are being reported.
During a recent appearance on Fox News' morning show, Fox & Friends, Trump claimed that children were "virtually immune" to coronavirus — which is nonsense. Children are, in fact, susceptible to COVID-19 and can easily spread it to others even if they don't have any symptoms. And Trump said of the pandemic, "This thing's going away. It will go away like things go away."
A Trump senior official, presumably interviewed on condition of anonymity, is fearing that if schools reopen in the fall, not enough precautions will be taken. That official told the Beast, "If you have Trump going out there and saying everything is fine, there's a risk that that's what people are going to think going back. There's a real possibility that counties won't implement all the measures outlined in the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and will just say, 'Look, we're doing the best we can, and that's it.' There's no one to enforce that stuff."
On Sunday, August 9, news broke that nine people had tested positive for COVID-19 at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia; days earlier, photos of crowded hallways in that school had been posted on social media. And a Trump senior official, discussing that school, told the Beast, "This is exactly what I was afraid of. This is inevitably going to happen when we send kids back to school, but the real question is whether school districts are prepared for this and whether they will take it seriously."
Another Trump official told the Beast that Trump isn't about to change his mind about schools reopening.
"So much emphasis has been put on supporting this idea of getting kids back to school that they aren't going to backpedal down," that official told the Beast.
Trump's aggressive push for schools to reopen comes at a time when Florida, California, Texas and other Sun Belt states are facing a brutal surge in coronavirus infections. Dr. Deborah Birx — who is part of Trump's coronavirus task force, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci — recently warned that the pandemic had entered a "new phase" in the United States and that counties with an increased community spread should not reopen their schools in the fall. Trump was furious, claiming that Birx was caving in to pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On August 3, Trump tweeted, "So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!"
So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on… https://t.co/E0d5Oy4CIY— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1596462296.0
But the figures speak for themselves. As of early Monday morning, August 10, the COVID-19 death count — according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore — had reached 162,938 in the U.S. and 731,570 worldwide.
The academic year has barely begun, yet several schools have already faced setbacks because of coronavirus outbreaks.
Elwood Junior-Senior High School closed its doors on Monday just days after reopening after at least one staffer at the school tested positive for coronavirus and other staffers were forced to quarantine, the Indianapolis Star reported.
The superintendent of the school, Joe Brown, sent a letter to parents over the weekend stating that the school's reopening plan was working even as he admitted that the district had "more positive cases from staff members than we anticipated." The school will hold virtual classes all week and plans to physically reopen next Monday.
On Thursday, the first day of class at Indiana's Greenfield Central Junior High School, health officials notified the school that a student who had attended classes that day tested positive for coronavirus, the New York Times reported.
Four students at Indiana's Lanesville Junior-Senior High School have tested positive since classes began on Wednesday, the Louisville Courier Journal reported on Saturday. The school was physically closed on Monday as students participated in virtual classes, and the school was scheduled to reopen on Tuesday. However, nearly 50 students will be quarantined when the school reopens.
In Georgia, 260 school employees in the state's largest school district were forced to quarantine because they either tested positive for coronavirus or were in close contact with someone who did, CNN reported on Monday. The Gwinnett County School District, located in the Atlanta suburbs, is scheduled to reopen for online classes on Aug. 12.
The Gwinnett County news follows a report of a coronavirus outbreak at a Georgia summer camp in June where 260 people tested positive for coronavirus, including almost half of the children between the ages of 6 and 17.
Shaker High School in Colonie, New York, was closed on Monday after a staffer with the school's Extended School Year program tested positive.
Two elementary schools in Campbell County, Virginia, were forced to shut their doors during the last week of summer school when two teachers tested positive for coronavirus, WSLS, a local NBC affiliate, reported on Thursday.
Trump's demand that schools reopen contradicted Dr. Deborah Birx, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, who told CNN on Sunday that, "In the areas where we have this widespread case increase, we need to stop the cases, and then we can talk about safely reopening [schools]."
She added that in areas with high caseloads, "we are asking people to distance learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control."
In late July, Florida teachers sued the state to block an order forcing schools to reopen for in-person instruction in August. The state ordered that all schools need to reopen for all students and threatened to withhold funding from schools that did not comply. Teachers argued that the order does not comply with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationally, the American Federation of Teachers — a union representing 1.7 million school employees — issued a resolution on Tuesday supporting any chapter that decides to strike based on unsafe conditions.
More than 4.6 million people have tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic began, and at least 155,366 people have died.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
Donald Trump and his administration have been demanding that schools reopen in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic as it ravages large swaths of the country — often using the argument that millions of children rely on schools to provide them with the nutrition they otherwise do not get at home.
"Thirty million American students rely on schools for free and reduced meals," Trump said at a July 23 news conference, listing off one of the reasons he wants kids to go back to school even as schools struggle with finding the space and the resources to safely reopen for full-time in-person learning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also listed nutritional needs as a reason for full school reopening in a document Trump demanded from the government health agency.
"Extended school closures can be harmful to the nutritional health of children," the CDC wrote in a July 23 post titled "The Importance of Reopening America's Schools this Fall. "Schools are essential to meeting the nutritional needs of children with many consuming up to half their daily calories at school."
However, the Trump administration has advocated for cutting food assistance programs in ways that would lead fewer low-income children to get free lunch at school.
For example, in 2019, the Trump administration proposed a rule to try to take away food stamps from millions of Americans. That would have led nearly 1 million kids to lose their free school lunch.
The Trump administration also created a public charge rule that would bar immigrants from living in the United States if the government determined they might be in need of public assistance programs, such as food stamps.
That rule is being challenged in court, but it could prevent immigrants seeking citizenship in the United States from enrolling in the food stamps program, which would mean their children lose access to free lunch at school, NPR reported in February.
Democratic Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), the vice-chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, called the Trump administration hypocritical for trying to use the need to help feed students as a reason to reopen schools before it's safe.
"Using lunches as a reason to reopen schools while depriving them of the resources needed to combat the virus isn't just hypocritical. It also flies in the face of warnings from public health officials, including the director of the CDC, who have made clear that this pandemic is going to worsen in the fall," Levin said in a statement to the American Independent Foundation.
"Sending kids back to classrooms without providing schools the guidance and help they need to reopen safely won't lead to well-fed students. It will lead to sick children, educators, and parents," Levin added.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
Reprinted with permission from DailyKos
In the battle of Donald Trump vs. the coronavirus, the virus has ultimately prevailed at every turn. Trump bowed to that reality this week, suddenly re-upping White House coronavirus task force briefings and abruptly canceling his precious in-person GOP convention scheduled for next month in Jacksonville, Florida.
Trump's repeated failures to outwit science followed by his patent admissions of those failures have now cast his aggressive push for reopening the nation's schools in the purest of Machiavellian terms. In short: Trump's track record on placing the health of the American people above his own political fortunes stinks, and that has not been lost on the country's parents, teachers, and school communities.
In an AP/NORC poll this week, fully 80 percent of respondents—including more than 3 in 5 Republicans—said they were either extremely or somewhat concerned that reopening schools this fall will lead to new outbreaks in their communities. And just 1 in 10 Americans said daycare centers, preschools, and K-12 schools should reopen without restrictions.
"School shouldn't even be considered right now," Patty Kasbek, a 40-year-old Oklahoma mom of two school-aged children, told the AP. Kasbek expressed a deep desire to return her kids to school but added, "We need to get this under control before we play with the virus. It's just too dangerous to put our kids out there like guinea pigs."
That's about the shape of things, and pollsters are finding similar concerns among parents of all socioeconomic levels—regardless of how badly they want to get the economy up and running, writes The New York Times. "I have yet to see any data where there are appreciable numbers of people who say, 'Yes, I want my kids back in school,'" said veteran GOP pollster Glen Bolger. "They want their kids back in school, but not right now."
Yet, once again, Trump is plowing ahead on "gut" instinct, ignoring all the warning signs along the way. That hasn't worked out well for him in the past, nor has it worked out well for America.
And Trump's obstinance—not to mention his massive failings on the virus—have given opponent Joe Biden a wide lead on the issue in national polling. Last week's ABC News/Washington Post poll found that roughly two-thirds of the country distrusts Trump on the pandemic, an issue on which Biden consistently outpolls him.
More generally, the same poll found Biden holds a double-digit lead among Americans on who "better understands the problems of people like you," 52 percent to 35 percent. And the more Trump pushes for school reopenings without widespread support from medical experts and education professionals, the less trustworthy he will seem.
MOBILE, Alabama -- As the coronavirus surges across the Deep South, my sixth-grader's school has set a mid-August reopening. Like so many other parents, I'm dogged by uncertainty, wrestling with choices and consequences, trying to plot a path through a frightening thicket of unknowns: How vulnerable are children? Do pre-teens infect each other as easily as adults do? What if my child gets a mild case but passes the virus to me, and I get seriously ill?
At least I have choices. If I choose the "brick-and-mortar" alternative, I have the reassurance that my daughter's school has the resources to sanitize frequently, to monitor students' social distancing, to keep track of presumed infections and require those students to quarantine.
If I can't abide the risk, the school will also offer remote-learning alternatives.
Like many middle-class households, mine has several digital devices, and my daughter uses them with a familiarity I can only envy. If I choose not to send her back to the classroom, she will be miserable with many more months of isolation. But she won't fall behind academically, because I have the time and resources to make sure she doesn't.
So many households are not so lucky. As the pandemic has exposed other social, cultural and economic inequities, so it has laid bare the inequalities of the American educational system. While our mythology presents education as the great equalizer, schools are burdened by the same economic and social divides that beset most of our institutions.
Many schools simply cannot assure parents -- or teachers -- that they can reopen safely. But many parents don't have the academic skills or the financial resources to bolster their kids' education at home. With remote learning, those students will fall further and further behind.
President Donald J. Trump, however, is incapable of acknowledging any of the extraordinary burdens that the pandemic has heaped on families. A deranged narcissist without the slightest hint of empathy, he can't imagine the fear, the anxiety, the helplessness that so many families are feeling.
He sees the pandemic only through the lens of its effect on his reelection chances, so he demands that schools reopen. They will then provide child care so parents can resume work, which, he believes, will prop up the economy and mitigate the dire unemployment reports. That's all the president cares about.
He sees average American workers as pawns in his desperate campaign gambits, subjects who ought to obey his every command. Never mind that he and several of his allies won't risk their children and grandchildren to the caprice of coronavirus in crowded classrooms.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), for example, is among those pushing for schools to reopen, but his grandchildren won't be in them. He told Fox News recently that their parents "are going to be more focused on distance learning right now to make sure their children are safe." That sort of open hypocrisy is, well, bracing.
Many parents do, in fact, desperately need schools to reopen. Despite the slander of those such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who portray the unemployed as lazy grifters, many workers want to return to work. And many essential workers -- mail carriers, grocery clerks, hospital housekeepers -- haven't been able to stay home. But they don't want their children and grandchildren to contract a deadly virus.
If Trump were competent, he would have started to prepare public schools to reopen back in March. He would have urged Congress to set aside billions to help schools build temporary classrooms for social distancing, hire more custodians and employ nurses on site. School districts would have had more assistance for things such as transportation, so school buses wouldn't be crowded.
Instead, the president has insisted -- with only fleeting acknowledgments of the seriousness of the crisis -- that the coronavirus will just disappear.
And he is now bent on punishing those schools that won't follow his orders, threatening to withhold federal money from them if they don't reopen on their regular schedules.
Many Americans, though, are unwilling to allow the president to push them off a cliff. According to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 60% of parents with school-aged children said it's better to open schools later and minimize the risk of infection. They know better than to trust Trump with their children's well-being. He's already shown he doesn't care if they live or die.
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