Economist Emily Oster’s op-ed in the Washington Post strikes me as important. In the piece she points out two things. First, that the reports of cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty, and staff of schools report cases contracted by people who are in the schools not necessarily disease contracted in school and, second, that if people were contracting disease in school you would expect the school figures to run ahead of those of community spread. They’re tracking the level of community spread.
Other countries have managed to keep schools open even while locking everything else down. They see the essential need for in-person schooling and have been willing to invest the resources necessary to make sure this continues safely. In the United States, especially as infection rates continue to rise, it’s not surprising that teachers are afraid to return to the classroom. They understandably want and deserve better personal protective equipment, testing, contact tracing and ventilation.
But what the data increasingly shows is that the best way to protect teachers and students isn’t to shut down schools. It’s to focus on all the measures that will keep them — and their families, friends and neighbors — safe outside the classroom.
which I agree with broadly. My speculation is that those arguing to close the schools are weighting the risks to faculty and staff more highly than the costs of the lack of in-person schooling to students. I hope Dr. Oster’s examination of the data will help to sway that calculation.