Anticipated vaccination (first dose, 50% vaccinated): August 2021
I am really stunned at the ongoing school situation here in King County. It has been roughly a year since the Pandemic started – 2/29 was the day the first local person died, just up the road from me, thanks to a man who came here from Wuhan and then attended a nursing home party.
Edmonds School District, which borders Seattle, just announced that grades 3-12 will not return to school in any capacity this year. I expect Seattle to follow suit shortly and announce that grades 2-12 will not return to school this year. Most of the other school districts will do the same.
Currently, most schools in the area remain fully closed. There are a couple of exceptions – Bellevue and Red.mond. Belle.vue is the best local school district, and it does not surprise me in any way that they were the first to reopen. After a standoff with the teacher’s union and mini-strike, they reopened to grades K-2, 3 half days a week. In other words, the kids spend 30% of their time in the classroom and 70% at home. (The teachers’ strike resulted in reducing school days from 4 to 3.) They expect to expand that to four half days, or 40% of time in school, in a few weeks. I don’t know the details in Redmond, but I believe it’s similar.
Some 37% of Seattle teachers have stated that even after being vaccinated, they do not want to return to the classroom.
For the record, the governor has allowed schools to open since September. Guidance has been that they could facilitate community spread above VERY low levels of Covid until around November, when the guidance changed. The updated guidance says that K-5 should be open regardless of Covid levels, and other grades should be phased in as levels drop. Levels are quite low here now.
Private and parochial schools have, for the most part, been open since fall. Bri.ony (1st grade) returned to school around the beginning of October, first every other week, then full time. Isla returned to school in November, first part time, and recently they expanded to full time. The kids wear masks and eat lunch at their desks, and there is no gym. However, they have three outdoor recesses a day which gives them plenty of time to stretch their legs and socialize in a more relaxed manner. There has been one case of Covid which did not spread beyond the child who tested positive, despite extensive testing in response.
What is going on with schools where you are? Sarah – I know your kids are in school. Do they wear masks? What other changes have they made to keep things safe? Anybody else? What grades are in public school in your area? Full time or hybrid? What measures are being taken for safety?
I just can’t help but wonder if all the parents whose kids are in school full time are aware of what’s going on in many parts of the country. And I can’t help but wonder if parents in the Seattle area and other places where kids are not in school AT ALL know that in many cities and towns and counties around the country, kids have been in school full-time since the fall. Not just K-2, but K-12. Protests have started to spring up in the Issa.quah area, but it’s been very limited. More than a hundred thousand people protested George Floyd’s death locally – deservedly so – but only a few dozen think it’s as bad or worse for hundreds of thousands of kids to be out of school for a YEAR and counting? Especially given the disproportionate impact on less privileged kids? Why are people not more upset about this?
I predict that in the Seattle area, most kids will not be back in school more than 50% time next year. And I predict that local schools will likely close grades six and up completely next winter. I hope I’m wrong.
Here’s the thing. All the signs I’m seeing predict Covid will bottom out this summer, while schools are closed and people get vaccinated. But variants resistant to vaccination will start to dominate and spread, and we’ll likely see a lot more deaths in the next 12 months. For the first 12 months, Covid killed about 500,000 people, making it the third leading cause of death in the country, after cancer and heart disease. I would guess we will see between 100,000 and 200,000 more deaths in the next twelve months. And that Covid will hang out with accidents (170,000 annual deaths), chronic respiratory disease (156,000 deaths), stroke (150,000 deaths), and Alzheimer’s (120,000 deaths) in causing about 150,000 deaths a year. Many of those deaths will be “borrowed” from other categories, but we will still see excess deaths due to pressure on hospitals, which have basically no excess capacity over what was required pre-COVID, and other factors, like lack of preventive care, isolation of the elderly in nursing homes and retirement communities, and so on. The question is, how do we want to live given this threat? For me, once a vaccine is widely available to everyone over 18, I’m ready to return to regular life, or something very close to it, and devil take the consequences. That means visiting my parents, no masks for kids in school, athletic competitions, international travel, large marathons, etc., the whole nine yards. Do you agree? Or will you want to be more cautious?