Join elementary school teacher, Kristen Morjal, in sending this open letter to Gov. Lee and Local Leaders:
Delay In-Person School Until COVID-19 Spread Is Under Control!
Dear [Your Representatives] and Gov. Lee:
Delay reopening in-person classes at schools and embrace virtual learning until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.
Reopening in-person classes while COVID-19 is spreading uncontrolled through our communities needlessly endangers our children, teachers, and families. We’ve seen what happens when a state rushes to reopen: Tennessee is now experiencing a new peak of this pandemic with entirely avoidable increases in hospitalizations and deaths.
This time data should drive a safe reopening and opening schools under these circumstances is contrary to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Harvard Global Health Initiative and contrary to the expert advice of many Tennessee health experts.
Our teachers, parents, local employees, businesses and mayors cannot safely do their jobs until Gov. Lee does his job to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Health experts have warned for months that Gov. Lee must get the coronavirus under control, and that begins with a statewide mask mandate and delaying in-person classes to give that mandate time to work. If we want our schools to reopen safely and the economy to grow, Tennessee needs a statewide virus containment strategy rather than leaving parents, mayors and school boards to figure it out on their own.
Science, not politics, should lead decision-making. To reopen our schools safely health experts have said we must first contain the spread of COVID-19 and see:
"14 days of low incidence and stability. Schools should not open unless there are fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 persons per day for at least 14 days in a row. There must be 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."
We cannot rush reopening our in-person classes at school and expect a different result than what happened when we rushed to reopen businesses without a plan to contain the virus.
If we do not get COVID under control, our state will spiral further out of control to where the only options we will have left will be choosing between another state shut down, or simply accepting thousands of more, completely AVOIDABLE hospitalizations and deaths among our children, parents, teachers and their families.
What are you doing to stop the rush to reopen in-person classes without first seeing the state contain COVID-19?
- Kristen Morjal, and your name
Kristen is a Tennessee Elementary School teacher sending this letter to Gov. Lee and local leaders. Join her.
“Our state is now experiencing the worst we have ever encountered during the pandemic and opening the schools and rejecting mask mandates under these circumstances is insane and irresponsible.”
- Dr. Amy Bono, Tennessee, on behalf of 2,000 Tennessee doctors
Rushing to reopen the schools without first Tennessee getting COVID-19 under control will bring the same result Tennessee has seen since the rush to reopen the state in May: avoidable spikes in hospitalizations and deaths, but among our state's children, teachers and their families.
In-person classes should be delayed until Gov. Lee first does his job of getting COVID-19 under control.
How Tennessee Reopens Safely According to Health Experts
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.
- Less than 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.
Rushing to reopen the schools without first Tennessee getting COVID-19 under control will bring the same result Tennessee has seen since the rush to reopen the state in May: avoidable increases in hospitalizations and deaths, but this time those increases will be concentrated among avoidable hospitalizations and deaths among children, teachers and their families.