“The virus is real. The pandemic is real and is caused by the virus. Period.” —James Hildreth
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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 180 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

Trump Threatens to Cut Funding if Schools Do Not Fully Reopen

The Deadly Duo

Part 5: Trump Opening the Schools
to the Coronavirus and Death

Elliot Benjamin

The reality is that the deadly consequences of opening up the schools is far worse then keeping kids at home.

This part of my "Deadly Duo: Trump and the Coronavirus" Integral World essay series continues where I left off in Part 3, where I wrote about the deadly duo's “accelerating devastation” [1]. To my utter shock and horror, that is shared by many other people, Trump is insisting on a widespread opening up of the schools in the United States in time for the Fall 2020 school year, inclusive of cutting federal funding of schools that don't fully reopen [2]. In fact, a number of schools have already opened up for business, with immediate alarming results in terms of students testing positive for the coronavirus [3]. As described in the excerpts that follow, it has been portrayed by students, teachers, parents, counselors, school administrators, and public health experts, that what Trump is promoting is nothing less than actions that will result in the sickness and death of multitudes of innocent children, along with their teachers, school staff, and families.

As described in some of these excerpts, yes it is true that there are enormously negative consequences of children not returning to school, inclusive of massive levels of anxiety, depression, drug abuse, and child abuse. However, it is also portrayed in these excerpts that in spite of this, the reality is that the deadly consequences of opening up the schools is far worse then keeping kids at home. Furthermore, I believe that Trump's reason for insisting upon the opening of schools, complete with threats to withdraw federal funding to schools that do not open, are entirely politically motivated; i.e., by opening the schools Trump is hoping to improve the economy and consequently to improve his chances of getting reelected in November [4]. But let's now take a look at what some of these school teachers, counselors, administrators, mental health experts, parents, and students, who are directly involved in the deadly dangers of opening the schools, have to say about this.

The first excerpt is from the superintendent of a small school district in Arizona, who poignantly discloses his conflicting feelings about the enormous decision he is faced with, inclusive of an impactful portrayal of the deadly consequences of opening up his schools [5]:

“The governor has told us we have to open our schools to students on August 17th, or else we miss out on five percent of our funding. I run a high-needs district in middle-of-nowhere Arizona. We're 90 percent Hispanic and more than 90 percent free-and-reduced lunch. These kids need every dollar we can get. But covid is spreading all over this area and hitting my staff, and now it feels like there's a gun to my head. I already lost one teacher to this virus. Do I risk opening back up even if it's going to cost us more lives? Or do we run school remotely and end up depriving these kids?. . . . Just last week I found out we had another staff member who tested positive. . . . Some of my staff members were crying. They've seen what can happen, and they're coming to me with questions I can't answer. 'Does my whole family need to get tested?' 'How long do I have to quarantine?' What if this virus hits me like it did Mrs. Byrd?' We got back two of those tests already—both positive. We're still waiting on eight more. That makes 11 percent of my staff that's gotten covid, and we haven't had a single student in our buildings since March. . . . I don't understand how anyone could expect us to reopen the building this month in a way that feels safe. It's like they're telling us: 'Okay. Summer's over. It's been long enough. Time to get back to normal.' But since when has this virus operated on our schedule? I dream about going back to normal. I'd love to be open. These kids are hurting right now. I don't need a politician to tell me that. . . . I get phone calls from families dealing with poverty issues, depression, loneliness, boredom. Some of these kids are out in the wilderness right now, and school is the best place for them. We all agree on that. But every time I start to play out what that looks like on August 17th, I get sick to my stomach. More than a quarter of our students live with grandparents. These kids could very easily catch this virus, spread it and bring it back home. It's not safe. There's no way it can be safe. If you think anything else, I'm sorry, but it's a fantasy. Kids will get sick, or worse. Family members will die. Teachers will die.”

The second excerpt describes the thoughts and feelings of three teachers from the states of Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania about opening their schools in the fall [6]:

“'Melinda,' who has asked to use a pseudonym in order to protect her job, is a high school English teacher in Worcester County, Massachusetts, the state's second-largest school district. She works in a school with a predominantly Latinx. . . student population and a large number teens from low-include families. . . . Looking ahead to the new school year, Melinda thinks any form of in-class learning would be a mistake since students and teachers can't realistically space out in a crowded classroom. Though she realized distance learning can be challenging for students, parents, and teachers, she believes it's the most effective way to keep everyone safe for the time being. . . . Even if in-class instruction resumes in the fall, regardless of the lack of precautions, Melinda says she and many of her colleagues still plan to show up. 'I have to be there,' Melinda said. 'I have no financial ability to say no. 'Teachers are' broke. We're living paycheck to paycheck. I know some teachers who have filed for bankruptcy. We just don't have the money. We're trapped.'

Ashley, a kindergarten teacher in Oklahoma, primarily teaches Black and Latinx students. . . . 'But I also am concerned that there just aren't enough resources to keep us safe.' When students do return to school, Ashley said she still has questions about what kind of protections will be put in place for teachers and their students. As far as she knows, her school's nurse doesn't have enough hand sanitizer and masks. Going virtual isn't an excellent choice either. When her school switched to distance learning in the spring, she quickly noticed students falling behind. . . . As her school district prepares to begin the new school year, Ashley said safety should be the top priority. Despite the challenges with distance learning, if it were up to her, schools would go all-in on online learning in the fall. 'So much of this back-to-school debate has focused on students and how much less likely children are to get sick,' she said. 'However, children can and have become very sick from COVID-19. Aside from the kids, I value my and my co-workers' health and lives. Admin and teachers' lives matter, as do the rest of our staff. Our secretaries, custodians, and cafeteria staff make little and are not on salary.'

Chip is a seventh grade teacher at a Title 1 school in Norristown, Pennsylvania, which has a minority-majority student population. . . . Last spring, not long before his school switched to a distance learning model, the father of one of his students died from the coronavirus. Like other teachers, Chip has several concerns about heading back to school in the fall. . . . '[Teachers are] almost being forced into this situation' he said. 'I feel like teachers, who were widely appreciated back in March and April and May, are kind of being told, 'Hey, you know what? We appreciate you, but you need to risk your life.' That's a heck of a position. . . . Let's say someone riding the bus with my son has COVID, then it gets spread throughout his school. Then, my son brings it into our house and I then go and take it into my 150 students that I see in a two-day span. If I get tested today, it could take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks to get the results. You're looking at two full weeks of exposure. . . My 11-year-old told me, 'I'm not really comfortable going back,' to which his mom and I had to tell him, 'We have to work. We don't have a choice.' The parents of Chip's students are in a similar predicament. 'My problem is that in the district that I teach, I have a lot of parents who need their kids to go back to school so they can work, which means that I have to go back to teach in order for my kids' parents to work, whether or not people feel safe about it,' he said. Regardless of his challenges with distance learning, he says in-class instruction should 'absolutely not' resume in the fall. 'As a common-sense safety factor, I feel like we need to go virtual until at least winter break. . . . I have some concerns about [students falling behind] obviously, but we can always catch them up,' he said. 'We can't bring them back to life.'”

The third excerpt is from a school counselor in Iowa who fully appreciates the severely detrimental consequences of keeping kids at home in the fall, but nevertheless advocates for schools not opening [7]:

“I didn't want to do this but some of y'all need to hear it. Stop invalidating teachers' feelings about their safety. Stop using child abuse, food insecurity, and mental health to do it. That is some serious misdirection. I work for the largest district in Iowa. A majority-minority district. I have a degree in social work, a Masters in counseling, and work in an elementary school. Let me tell you about what I do when I'm at work: I sit and listen to kids tell me about this abuse you're talking about. Sexual abuse. Mental abuse. I have heard it all, and way more times than you want to know. Some kids are telling me for the first time. The first time they've told anyone. Other times are 'Mr's Hogan it's happening again.' I make multiple mandatory reports a month to a DHS that is underfunded and whose social workers have overwhelming caseloads. Before we left in March I was doing suicide assessments nearly weekly. I have taken food and clothes from my house to bring it to students. I have to be the one that calls a Mom to tell her that her child has slits all over her wrists. And I still won't let you use this as a reason to force teachers and students back when it's unsafe. THIS IS NOT ON TEACHERS. The same politicians (hey, Reynolds) that want to hurriedly reopen schools under dangerous conditions are the same ones who always want to cut down and mismanage social services, mental health services, and their funding. . . . Do not come at teachers and schools. Their job is to educate. Mine is to help these kids and families and I'll do home visits if I can, I will do my best to connect them with the resources they need and I know my colleagues will too.”

A number of public health experts have warned about the dangers of opening up schools in hard-hit parts of the country, though one school district superintendent in Mississippi is nevertheless said he felt “comfortable” proceeding with his school start date in spite of his dire depictions of what is happening [8]:

“'It's simply not possible,' said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor college of Medicine in Houston, adding that 'there's just too much virus transmission' across a significant portion of the United States, particularly the Sun Belt, for schools there to avoid major outbreaks. 'As soon as you open classrooms, within two weeks, teachers and students will get sick, bus drivers will get sick, and staff will get sick. . . . And all it's going to take is one teacher admitted to the hospital in the school district, and that's it, it's going to be lights out and no one will show up to work.'

. . . . Even if children are less likely to get seriously sick, 'every child that I know lives in a home with an adult,' said Dr. Harry Heisman, a clinical associate professor of health policy and behavioral sciences at Georgia State University. 'The idea that you can safely reopen schools and not in fact worsen spread is not based on science. . . . It's based on wishful thinking.' In some cases, the virus has arrived in schools even before the students. In Gwinnett County, Ga, the largest school system in the state, teachers returned to work on Wednesday in preparation for starting classes remotely on Aug. 12. But as of Thursday, about 260 employees had been excluded from work because they tested positive or had potentially been exposed to the virus. . . . At Corinth High School in northern Mississippi, students are filing into classrooms according to seating charts to limit their contacts with others. They eat breakfast and lunch at their desks. English and math classes are taught in big open spaces, like the cafeteria. Still, at least three students have tested positive for the virus since school started last week, and about 40 are in quarantine. 'I've been in the business over 40 years—I have never experienced anything like this,' said Lee Childress, the district's superintendent, 'It's kind of like drinking out of a fire hose because it's happening so fast.' Still, after a summer of preparation, he said he felt comfortable proceeding with the regular start date. 'It doesn't matter if you open schools in July, August, September or October. . . . It's something that every school is going to have to address.'”

The next excerpt describes how a former Trump supporter teacher in Oklahoma has changed her mind about Trump based upon his forced insistence about opening the schools [9]:

“Nancy Shively, an Oklahoma teacher who voted for Trump in 2016, not only said she regrets voting for Trump but shared that she fears for her life. 'When the pandemic hit, the incompetence of the man for who I had voted and the complicity of everyone around him forced me to admit that I could no longer maintain any kind of self-respect as a Republican.' She added that she is not the only teacher afraid of falling victim to the virus and references a young teacher with chronic health issues. Many teachers have no other source of income and are thus left no choice but to teach and risk their lives amid the pandemic. 'I am still haunted because, deep down, I fear that with the 2016 vote I may have signed my own death warrant. . . . Well, just watching the failure of leadership in our country, beginning with the president, over the course of this pandemic, it's not just my death warrant I might have signed, but there's 150,000 Americans who are dead because of this. . . . I have to take responsibility for my personal vote that enable that.' Reopening schools is not only a risk for teachers and children to contract the novel coronavirus, but for those who care for and come into contact with them. . . . 'My school district has no mask mandate and two nurses for more than 2,400 students in five school buildings. How is that going to work?' According to Shively, cases drastically increased countywide and in her small Oklahoma town following Trump's rally in Tulsa. While Shively agrees that it is important for children to be in school, she not only questioned the risks associated with opening schools but emphasized the lack of safety and protocol in place to ensure a spread will not happen, 'Officials from the president down to the local school board are kicking this down the road, pretending it will all be OK. Teachers know it won't.'”

One teacher who is also a parent shared the following in regard to the negative consequences of opening the schools [10]:

“For parents who are struggling without in-person school, any solution that puts their kid in a classroom seems like a welcome reprieve. And because administrators want to please you, they're dressing their in-person plans up in their Sunday best, marketing them as spectacularly as they can in emails and at board meetings. But here's the unfortunate truth, the reality that superintendents aren't bragging about on social media, and parents really need to hear it as soon as possible; you're being lied to . . . . 1. There will be no socialization. . . . 2. Your kids are going to be unhappy. . . . 3. Your kids will likely be taught by someone who is unqualified. . . . 4. If your school doesn't have air conditioning, your kids are going to cook. . . . 5. Your kid is still going to be staring at a screen all day. . . . 6. You're about to have a teacher shortage. . . . 7. The teachers aren't on board. . . . 8. this isn't going to last.”

And this final excerpt describes the incident of two Georgia high school students being suspended for posting photos of packed hallways in their school, and includes some preliminary alarming immediate pandemic statistics from some schools that have already opened up:[11]

“'Day two at North Paulding High School. It is just as bad. We were stopped because it was jammed. We are close enough to the point where I got pushed multiple go to second block. This is not ok. Not to mention that 10% mask rate.' As schools open across the country, reports of the coronavirus are coming in. One school in Indiana was open for less than a day. . . before a positive case was confirmed; one county in Georgia had more than 200 cases, or contact cases, among district employees. . . before students even returned to the classroom. In one Mississippi school that's been open for about a week, 116 students have already been directed to quarantine. . . after one student tested positive for the virus.”

Conclusion

And in regard to Trump's promotion of the idea that children don't transmit the cornonavirus, it turns out that there have been recent research studies that most definitely conclude this idea is dangerously “fake news” [12]:

“New research indicates that, although they don't suffer the same degree of ill effects as adults, children aged 5-17 are actually bastions of COVID-19 contagion to other children, as well as adults such as parents, grandparents, and teachers. . . . During Wednesday's briefing, Trump continued to advocate for schools opening in the fall. In support of this he claimed that 'a lot of people' say children don't transmit' coronavirus. 'They don't catch it easily, they don't bring it home easily,' Trump added. 'And if they do catch it, they get better fast.' Devos has gone even further, spewing uninformed, truly malignant nonsense. . . . [quote from DeVos:] 'More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves, so we should be in a posture of—the default should be getting back to school kids in person, in the classroom.' . . . Two separate new studies examining the transmission of COVID-19 by younger children now strongly indicate. . . . those statements are categorically false. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be the case: Small children spread the COVID-19 virus quite efficiently, even more so than adults. . . . [the children] may be major drivers of the pandemic as well. . . . According to the results, children 5 years and younger who develop mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms have 10 to 100 times as much SARS-CoV 2 in the nasopharynx as older children and adults. Whenever these young children cough, sneeze, or shout, they expel virus-laden droplets from the nasopharynx into the air. . . . 'It definitely shows that kids do have levels of virus similar to and maybe even higher than adults. . . . It wouldn't be surprising if they were able to shed' the virus and spread it to others. . . . Both studies appear to have been further validated by the horrific experience. . . of a single Georgia YMCA summer camp this week in which nearly half of hundreds of youth campers were infected in a matter of days, despite many 'social distancing measures' purportedly in place. In evaluating that incident, the CDC on Friday released a report. . . . These findings demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among persons in all age groups, despite efforts by camp officials to implement most recommended strategies to prevent transmission. Asymptomatic infection was common and potentially contributed to undetected transmission, as has been previously reported. . . . This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. . . and, contrary to early reports. . . might play an important role in transmission. Any parent who has ever raised a preschool or school-aged child is familiar with the varying and often unpleasant viruses they bring home, particularly when those children are still toddlers. These studies show that it is equally likely, even in spite of the most valiant attempts to 'socially distance' such children, that it will be effectively impossible to keep them from efficiently transmitting the disease to their parents or siblings when they come home, to say nothing of the potential transmission to teachers and other adult staffers. . . . 'If children from ages 5 to 17 are as or possibly even more contagious than adults, then opening schools in areas where daily rates of infection remain moderate to high is extremely risky and unwise.' While pushing schools to reopen regardless of the risks, neither Donald Trump nor Betsy Devos have displayed the slightest interest in the health and safety of our children, of parents or teachers. . . . The wisest course of action for any parent or teacher when Trump or DeVos pretend to give advice. . . is to do the exact opposite of what they recommend.”

References

1) See Elliot Benjamin (2020), “The Deadly Duo: Part 3: The Devastation Accelerates, But Perhaps With a Bit of Silver Lining?” Retrieved from www.integralworld.net/benjamin108.html

2) See Peter Baker, Erica L. Green, & Noah Weiland (2020), “Trump Threatens to Cut Funding if Schools Do Not Fully Reopen.” Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/us/politics/trump-schools-reopening.html

3) See Laura Clawson (2020), “Unshocking New Pattern: School Opens, COVID-19 Cases Emerge, Students Forced to Quarantine.” Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/8/6/1967030/-116-students-in-one-Mississippi-town-quarantined-after-COVID-19-outbreak

4) See Anita Kumar & Nicole Gaudiano (2020), “Trump Wants to Reopen Schools. Hint: It's Not Just About Education: Trump Has Ramped Up a Push to Return Children to the Classroom As He Tries to Restore the Economy For His Reelection Campaign.” Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/08/trump-reopen-schools-353245

5) See Eli Saslow (2020), “I'm Sorry, But It's a Fantasy: Jeff Gregorich, Superintendent, On Trying to Reopen His Schools Safely.” Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/01/schools-reopening-coronavirus-arizona-superintendent/?arc404=true

6) Carolyn Copeland (2020), “We're Trapped': As Schools Get Ready to Resume for the Fall, Anxiety Rises for Teachers.” Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/7/28/1964633/--We-re-trapped-As-schools-get-ready-to-resume-for-the-fall-anxiety-rises-for-teachers

7) Witgren (2020), “'THIS IS NOT ON TEACHERS.' Mic Drop By a School Counselor.” Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/8/2/1965984/--THIS-IS-NOT-ON-TEACHERS-Mic-drop-by-a-school-counselor

8) Sarah Mervosh & Shawn Hubler (2020), “As the Coronavirus Comes to School, a Tough Choice: When to Close: As Schools in the South and the Midwest Reopen This Week, Officials Must Decide What Steps to Take as Staff Members and Students Test Positive.” Retrieved from https://bdnews24.com/education/2020/08/04/as-the-coronavirus-comes-to-school-a-tough-choice-when-to-close

9) Aysha Qamar (2020), “Teacher's Viral Essay Shows How Trump's COVID-19 Failures Are Turning Republicans Away From Party.” Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/8/6/1966547/--I-may-have-signed-my-own-death-warrant-Teacher-terrified-of-COVID-19-regrets-voting-for-Trump?detail=emaildkre

10) LeftOfYou (2020), “Reopening Classrooms? Parents: You're Being Lied To.” Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/8/4/1965998/-Reopening-Classrooms-Parents-You-re-Being-Lied-To

11) Marissa Higgins (2020), “Two High Schoolers Say They've Been Suspended for Posting Photos of Packed Hallways Amid Pandemic.” Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/8/6/1967120/-Two-high-schoolers-say-they-ve-been-suspended-for-posting-photos-of-packed-hallways-amid-pandemic

12) Dartagnan (2020), “Just In Time For School, 2 New Studies Conclude Small Kids Carry and Transmit COVID-19 Just Fine.” Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/8/1/1965794/-Just-in-time-for-school-two-new-studies-conclude-small-kids-carry-and-transmit-COVID-19-just-fine





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