Tell Your Local Lawmakers:
Reopen Schools Safely
Dear [Your Local School Board Member & Lawmakers]:
I want to see our schools reopen but rushing to reopen schools, rushing to reopen schools, just like the rush to reopen the state, without first ensuring measures are in place to break chains of transmission and mitigate COVID spread, will lead to the same rise in preventable cases, suffering, and deaths we’ve seen since May, but this time, among our children, teachers, and their families.
The interventions needed to safely reopen schools are the same interventions the medical community has been saying for months are required to safely reopen our economy.
- < 10 new cases per 100,000 persons per day for at least 14 days in a row. You want low incidence AND stability. A major challenge is the silent spread of COVID-19 through populations. The virus can be transmitted in the 2-3 days before symptoms begin (the presymptomatic window) and can be spread even by infected persons who never develop symptoms at all (asymptomatic people). This is not a pandemic that can be controlled simply by isolating symptomatic people.
- Expanded contact tracing and regular reporting to inform school reopening. Parents, school staff need to know that people coming in contact with COVID are isolating, and not endangering children, teachers or families. If contact tracers are behind on notifying those exposed to COVID then people don’t know if they have been in contact with COVID and should isolate. If contact tracing is keeping pace we can be more confident those exposed to COVID are isolating, and not in schools endangering others.
- Ensure rapid and regular testing. A test today only shows whether you are infected today, and that does nothing to determine whether you get infected tomorrow. If testing is behind or slow then people don’t know if they should isolate and contact tracers will struggle to notify exposed people before they endanger others.
- Mask and distancing requirements with penalties for people who endanger others. When people refuse to wear masks or stay apart it threatens everyone else. When people ignore speed limits they are fined for endangering others. In this health crisis not wearing a mask and not staying apart endangers the lives of others. Parents need to know that people around their children (staff, other children, visitors) are required to wear masks and keep 6 feet apart or face penalties for endangering their children and family.
- Have accountability for employers and people who endanger others: Require employers to have safety measures in place to protect workers and the public and a way to hold them accountable when they don’t. If an employer is endangering the public or their workers, workers need a way to hold them accountable. Educators must have safe working environments and employers or parents who routinely endanger them must have consequences that protect the safety of our teachers.
- Other interventions where physical distancing is a challenge. touchless restroom facilities when possible; proper air quality and ventilation; plexiglass shielding in areas of higher density (office pods, desks near each other), plans for buses (reduced density of passengers, mask requirements), and adoption of other recommendations by health experts.
The burden of responsibility for keeping our children, staff and their families safe in this pandemic can not be dumped solely on teachers and parents. Successfully reopening schools depends on successfully mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and breaking the chains of transmission before they reach the schools. That can only happen with reliable contact tracing, rapid and regular testing, near 100% follow through on masks and social distancing and accountability for those endangering others.
What are the results in our community and commitment to these interventions? If these conditions are not being met we are being reckless and unsafe in reopening our schools and we will see avoidable increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths among our children, teachers and their families.