I was due for another Covid rant . . .

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?


13 thoughts on “I was due for another Covid rant . . .

  1. Daniel Uhlig

    In Switzerland, my kids missed about 6 weeks of school last spring and have been in person since then. All fall, all winter. Lucky but kind of crazy. Some older kids (HS) had some remote school but not a lot. Masks are required in 5th grade and up. Restaurants have been closed (take away only) since December and will be so until at least late March. Shops and museums closed in December and will hopefully open up again Monday. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors, and ski resorts stayed open throughout the winter.

  2. Karen Feigh

    Around here there is absolutely no consensus. Most suburban districts have been partially in person since mid fall. The farther from Atlanta the more in person teaching was happening. Atlanta city schools have only just reopened in the past few weeks, for elementary only. They are open 4 days a week. If the go over 60% students coming back in person (they can opt for only virtual) them they will start to stagger in person says…

    We pulled Nolan out of public school because of this and he and his sister are in a local Montessori school and have been fully in person since August. Mask on all day, two recess times including aftercare. Classes are fully separated into pods. So no special classes like music or Spanish which is sad, but we are happy they are in person.

  3. Sarah

    Our school are fully open, all grades. There is a virtual option for families that choose it, but no hybrid — it’s either all in-person or all online. Emma did the 1st quarter virtual, but has been in person since October. All kids and staff wear masks. They do eat in the cafeteria, where I think they keep an empty seat between each kid. They have recess twice a day.

    At the elementary level, they stick pretty much to their own class, and don’t have much mixing even within the grade level. They do still have their block classes — PE, art, music. School assemblies have shifted to things they can do in the classrooms. (For example, they recently did a dance-a-thon fundraiser that would normally culminate in a big gym party, but instead they broadcast to each classroom and the kids danced in their classrooms.) No parents or family members or visitors are allowed in the school.

    It’s tougher at the middle and high school level, since they aren’t in single classes all day. The numbers seems to correlate with that — there have been more cases in the middle and high schools than at the elementary schools. For the most part though, cases seems to stay relatively isolated. One elementary school did have an outbreak — something like 12 cases within a single grade — back in the fall, but that was it.

    We get an email when there is a case at the school. Emma’s school has had 5 or 6 cases, I think? A couple staff, a couple kids. All signs point to these people catching it somewhere else, not at school.

    There are many things that Texas does backwards, but yeah, I’m VERY, VERY thankful that our schools are open.

    Re: your last point, I’m not ready to go full-on return to regular life, but I think within the coming months as the vaccine is hopefully more readily available, it will be reasonable to do a bit more. That said, I don’t think I’ll be going to a baseball game or Disneyworld anytime soon. And I think wearing masks will be a smart thing to do for quite a while.

  4. admin Post author

    Hey Sarah – my question is what you’ll be comfortable doing when the vaccine is widely available to everyone over 18. I would anticipate that will happen sometimes between August and October. Let’s say September + a couple months for a second dose if needed plus immunity to build. So we’re talking November. That’s nine months from now. Do your comments still apply about baseball and Disneyworld? Interestingly, both of those are (I think) outdoor activities. (I haven’t been to Disneyworld, so I guess I’m not sure if it’s fully outdoors.)

  5. admin Post author

    Also, just wanted to add that a major road block for public schools is that eating is off the table because kids would have to take their masks off. (Private schools do not have this issue.) So no one can go to school for more than half a day.

    All classes at my kids’ school are podded, so no interaction between classes. This is obviously also a stumbling block for middle school and high school, since the public schools are treating impermeable pods and nonnegotiable.

    As I posted earlier, my kids’ school shut down for a week when we got a case of Covid. But we’ve only had the one case so it wasn’t a big deal.

  6. becca

    Our schools in Alexandria are reopening in March (phasing by grade per week with youngest and special needs kids first). Its only for families that “choose” hybrid learning and it is only two days a week. I believe Fairfax (which is the larger district we are surrounded by) is doing something similar.

    I am horrified schools aren’t open. The private schools in the DC metro area have never really closed (except for a month or two right when the pandemic started). The elite children of DC are still getting a world class education. I also recognize my view point is colored by being from a white middle class family that puts an extraordinary high value on education. Every time they survey the city, they find people “like me” think schools should be open. But the working class and minority families almost universally say to keep them closed — you’d think this would be different as they need the services schools supply more; but there could be a lot going on here, their communities are more at risk for covid, and more at risk for bad outcomes if they get covid; and they may be valuing health over education for a variety of socioeconomic reasons or just common sense.

    We are also having problems with teachers here. They were prioritized for the vaccine and our current vaccine rates say all teachers that want a vaccine should be fully vaccinated by the end of March. However, after the vaccine started, one of the teachers unions (apparently there are upwards of 4 in the bigger school districts) started being quite vocal that they did not think schools should return until everyone has the vaccine — including children! who aren’t even eligible yet — you know for the safety of the kids. Then there were some nasty local editorials about how if teachers weren’t going to be returning to school they should be taken off the vaccine priority list. It got very very ugly fast (let’s say that teacher caught on video saying “parents just want free babysitting” is a commonly heard refrain around here regarding keeping schools closed). And yes, we do rely on schools for child care, that’s another problem with our system — and women’s careers primarily are being pummeled because of this and it will take years to recover.

    And that’s when they made this 2 day compromise.

    Maybe I am starting to think like a lawyer now, but I don’t see how there aren’t parent groups suing under either state constitutions (or the sketchier precedent federally on this) and saying their kids are being denied their right to a public education. With the CDC putting out guidance saying schools *should* be open now I feel like there’s a wedge to put the states on notice that schools should be open.

    One bright spot is there’s increasing talk of school going through the summer. And I think that’s a really good idea.

  7. becca

    Oh, also, Daniel what are you doing in Switzerland?!

    I think the going back to school thing is way more important in the lower grades. In fact, if you need to spread the little kids out spread them into the high schools. My brother and sister have been doing hybrid high school and they seem to be thriving (I mean, family dynamic is at play here — my brother, who graduated virtually last year, has used his free time to get a lot of skiing in; my sister is building robots on a nasa project and learning to fly… all things that the traditional 7-4 school schedule would make really difficult they were able to slide in because of the benefits of asynchronous learning. My sisters marching band still practices, believe it or not, so they see other students that way.). Teenagers in their generation are less social in person anyway, they seem to have more of their life online than i can imagine and don’t seem to have formed the type of bonded social groups i had at that age..

  8. Daniel


    I have been working in Luzern for the last 18 months (and hopefully another 16 months). The aerospace company (Aurora Flight Sciences) I work for has a small office in Luzern and I asked about transferring for a couple of years. Fall of 2019, we all moved over to experience Switzerland and all that there is here. Kids are learning German (and Swiss German) and we traveled around Switzerland and Europe a bit. The locked down has limited international travel, but hopefully the borders relax again soon.

  9. admin Post author

    Becca – I can’t believe that you didn’t know Daniel was in Switzerland.

    I think the excuse that minority parents don’t want their kids going back is a bunch of bologna. Even if SOME minority parents don’t want their kids going back, what about the others who do?

    I also feel the papers massively fearmonger and overstate the risk to minorities from Covid as compared to whites. For example, 65% of deaths in King County (Seattle) are white, though whites make up only 59% of the population. By contrast, 6.3% of deaths are among Black residents, while Blacks make up 6.4% of the population. Hispanics and Asians are at lower risk of death compared to their population.

    Blacks and Hispanics ARE disproportionately likely to be hospitalized for Covid. (Black: 11% vs 6.4% pop, Hispanic: 17.7% vs 10% pop) It’s interesting because by extension, if you are hospitalized with Covid and white, you are MUCH more likely to die than if you are hospitalized and Black or Hispanic.

    The reason whites are more likely to die is because they are older. Controlling for age, the numbers change, but the fact of the matter is, if you are white, you are more likely to be older and to interact with older relatives.

    I’m not saying these concerns aren’t real, just that they are massively overblown by the press – reading headlines as a Black person I’d think Covid was sure to kill me due to my race – and that it’s absolutely not justification for keeping schools with large minority populations closed. (I know you’re not saying that it is.)

  10. becca

    Daniel – so jealous! You know I worked at a gas turbine company there for 9 months after college and I definitely didn’t stay long enough though my german and swiss german is totally non-existent… so jealous of that opportunity! i have so many emotions when i think of life in switzerland.

  11. Daniel Uhlig


    I know you worked here after GT. It is a great chance for us to experience a bit more of the world. Sometimes it is tough on the kids. We have not seen family for over a year. Luckily my parents visited in February just before Covid. Henry speaks the best German of the family. Peter is a little quieter but I think he speaks better than me now. We are looking forward to the border opening again.

  12. Sarah

    Jen, re: your question. I guess later this year once everyone who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated, I’ll be pretty comfortable going back to my normal routine. (Assuming the case numbers and hospitalizations drop accordingly with the vaccines, which seems a safe assumption.)

    We do have travel plans in July that I suspect we will be able to keep. Going to NC for a week in a mountain house with my family, so not exactly Disneyworld though.

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