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

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO — Two brush fires on military bases in northern San Diego County have burned more than 14,000 acres and aren’t yet contained as the region enters its fourth day of being scorched by multiple blazes.

The Las Pulgas fire on Camp Pendleton has burned more than 8,000 acres, officials said, forcing evacuations and road closures. The Tomahawk fire at Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook adjacent to Camp Pendleton has burned more than 6,300 acres.

No structures have been destroyed in either fire, and the only reported injury was a firefighter treated for heat exhaustion.

Of the 10 large-scale fires burning in the region, structures have been reported lost in two: the Cocos fire in San Marcos and the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad.

San Marcos homeowner James Harkins, surveying his neighborhood, called it “moonscape.”

“There ain’t nothing here,” he said. “Just white ash and white ash and white ash.”

Firefighters hope their battle will be aided Friday by an expected decrease in the speed and erratic nature of the winds in the area as the Santa Anas dissipate.

The region’s most “active” blaze remains the 1,200-acre Cocos fire, in which numerous homes in San Marcos and Escondido were destroyed as erratic winds sent flames in several directions.

More than 1,000 firefighters are assigned to the Cocos fire, with some coming from fighting other fires in the region.

Evacuation orders, meanwhile, have been lifted for the Poinsettia fire, in which several homes and a 22-unit apartment building were lost.

Evacuation orders were also lifted for Fallbrook which, for several hours, appeared imperiled by the Tomahawk fire.

Some evacuation orders remain in place for the Cocos fire. Several hundred people were at evacuation centers, as well as more than 80 dogs, cats and birds taken in by two shelters.

The Red Cross reported serving more than 3,400 meals to people forced to evacuate.

In Carlsbad, firefighters checking on hot spots reported finding a badly burned body in a scorched transient encampment. The medical examiner has yet to determine the identity or cause of death.

In Escondido, police late Thursday arrested two teenagers on suspicion of setting two small fires inside the city limits. The two attempted to flee on bicycles but were overtaken, officials said.

Also in Escondido, the Calvary Assembly Church was gutted by fire, but officials said the blaze does not appear to be connected to the Cocos fire. The cause of the church fire is under investigation, and authorities said no arrests have been made in the matter.

Investigators are also continuing to probe the cause of the brush fires in the area.

AFP Photo/Jorge Cruz

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.