That number constitutes “by far the highest increase since this pandemic began.”
The report notes that as of November 19, nearly 1.2 million children (age 17 and under) have tested positive for the virus in the United States. Those cases represent 11.8% of all cases in the country.
In terms of current trends, AAP found that during the two weeks between November 5 and 19, there was a 28% increase in child COVID-19 cases, with 256,091 new cases during that period.
The report points out that, while severe illness is rare among children, “there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
As COVID rates skyrocket in North Carolina and more educators lose their lives to the virus, an unmistakable trend is starting to emerge: school districts falling all over themselves to claim the infected employee didn’t get coronavirus at work.
When Stanly County teacher Julie Davis died last month, superintendent Vicki Calvert quickly issued a statement saying, “there is no information from the local health department indicating Mrs. Davis contracted the COVID-19 virus from any staff member or student on campus.”
Davis’s family spoke of her extreme vigilance in avoiding situations where infections could occur, wearing a mask whenever out of the house and doing all of her shopping by curbside and drive-through. She was apprehensive about returning to school because of the increased risk but did so anyway.
Julie Davis got sick at the end of September and passed away on October 4. Her brother said Davis was convinced she got the virus at school. A student who attended the school (not one of hers) had tested positive, and she was unaware of any other time she would have been in the same space with someone who had COVID.
Last Friday a 51 year-old elementary art teacher at a Fayetteville charter school died of COVID. Her name was Mary Ward.
The school’s superintendent said school officials didn’t believe Ward contracted the virus at work. However, her daughter said, “We don’t really know [where she got the virus] because she never really went out. She definitely wore her mask, she definitely hand sanitized. She did everything the CDC told us to.”
On Monday, Winston-Salem teacher assistant Teresa Gaither passed away after serving students at Easton Elementary for 23 years. A school spokesman wouldn’t confirm the cause but was eager to explain that she didn’t get it at work, saying, “At this time, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health has given WS/FCS no indication that Ms. Gaither’s cause of death was related to her employment.” Her colleagues confirmed that Gaither died of COVID.
In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where the district has just begun reporting COVID infections by school, a WBTV report this week said school officials “do not believe students and staff are testing positive because they are back inside the classroom. They say students are staff and getting sick from circumstances outside of the school.” (typos not mine)
Here’s what public relations-minded school districts are implying when they claim that a COVID infection had nothing to do with school: Somewhere, somehow that individual made a careless error which led to their illness. It had nothing to do with insufficient safety protocols, asymptomatic carriers, or a lack of resources.
There’s nothing to see here, folks. Mask up and wash your hands, everyone. Just lean in and we’ll be fine.
Could we please have the decency to admit that, in many of these cases, we have no idea where they got it? While it is possible these educators contracted the virus outside of school, it’s just as likely that they didn’t. We simply don’t know.
What we do know about this virus is that the only way to truly stay safe from it is to avoid crowded public places, perform regular disinfection and ensure proper ventilation and clean air flow when we must share space with others. Those conditions are hard to come by in a public school.
These educators who have lost their lives during the pandemic have been forced to choose between increasing their risk of infection by returning to in-person instruction and not being able to feed their kids or pay their mortgage.
Many of our educators have been vocal in calling for a return to school only when we can be reasonably certain it’s safe, with maximum social distancing, effective contact tracing, safe HVAC systems and sufficient staff. In far too many cases they’ve been forced back to the classrooms they love with none of those things.
In light of their dedication to serving our children despite a raging pandemic, it’s the least we can do to stop blaming our educators for getting COVID
Watching Tuesday night’s election results roll in real time was an excruciating experience for North Carolina educators.
After a long, pandemic-style campaign season where education advocates worked so hard to influence outcomes on behalf of public schools, we were filled with hope that we were on the brink of big change. Some of us believed that we were about to take back one or both chambers of the General Assembly and the superintendency. I entertained the notion that I would wake up on Wednesday to a new reality with people in key positions of power who share the view that strong public schools are the foundation of a democratic society, people who want to partner with teachers to create policies that lead to better outcomes for our kids.
Early votes showed up first and gave cause for optimism. Then in-person votes began to be tallied, and the long, slow, inevitable burn that we’ve become so accustomed to in North Carolina set in. That feeling that the tide is coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
By the end of the night here’s what the political landscape looked like for public education:
*Our next state superintendent will be Catherine Truitt, an individual with a clear pro-charter and privatization agenda who has a history of disparaging education advocates and throwing stones at NCAE.
*Our lieutenant governor is going to be Mark Robinson, a homophobic conspiracy theorist who doesn’t believe systemic racism exists and who makes Dan Forest look almost reasonable.
*Dan Folwell stays on as treasurer. He’s got a history of playing reckless games with state employee health care and a troubling lack of empathy.
*Republicans will retain their majorities in both the House and Senate, and it’s likely that Phil Berger will stay as the leader of the Senate and continue to unilaterally block any real progress on education policy issues.
I’m going to be honest–my initial reaction on Wednesday morning was to question all the time and effort we put into this election. The endless hours of researching and writing, phone banking and working the polls, just to end up at the same point where we were started.
Then I started my teaching day, and I was immediately reminded of my “why.”
I looked into the faces of my students and thought about their many needs which are going largely unmet by a system that cares more about stuffing money into the pockets of corporations than giving them the high quality education their constitution demands.
The truth is, we do have some things to be grateful for. We re-elected Roy Cooper and not Dan Forest, who had vowed to immediately lift mask requirements and push everyone back into school at a time when COVID infections are dangerously high. Republicans didn’t take back the super majority, which means Cooper still holds veto power over troublesome legislation. It’s not the disaster we were experiencing five years ago in this state when Pat McCrory was governor and legislators could do whatever they wanted.
Howard Zinn famously remarked “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” And as we enter the next chapter of North Carolina’s history with Phil Berger still wearing the conductor’s hat, those of us who have dedicated our lives to serving children in public school have a choice. We can just sit down in exhaustion and defeat and let it play out.
Or we can lean on each other, roll up our sleeves, and continue to fight for the schools we all deserve.