Safe Schools for Indiana Students
Safe Schools for Indiana Students
WHEREAS the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the deep unwillingness of federal, state, and local governments to protect the public health of the people of the United States and the State of Indiana, resulting in the death of more than 130,000 Americans and 2,820 Hoosiers; and,
WHEREAS ample historical evidence demonstrates the efficiency with which COVID-19 can spread throughout a school, even in countries that have far better controlled the pandemic, infecting young people and adults alike. These cases include, but are not limited to:
Mascouche, Quebec, Canada: “Twelve out of 27 children contracted COVID-19, as did four employees.” (Montreal Gazette, May 5, 2020)
Skellefteå, Sweden: “The Kelley School in Skellefteå has reopened after two weeks of closure. Nearly 1 in 4 of the teachers sampled tested positive for covid-19, according to the region's testing. As Läraren.se told us at the end of April , a teacher of the age of 60 has also died in the suites [sic] of the disease. Most of the infected teachers who have been infected work at the high school level.” (Lӓraren, May 6, 2020, translated from Swedish via Google Translate)
France: “Just a week after one-third of French schoolchildren went back to school in an easing of the coronavirus lockdown, there has been a flurry of about 70 Covid-19 cases linked to schools.” (The Independent, May 18, 2020)
Amsterdam, Netherlands: “An elementary school in the Netherlands closed in the city of The Hague on Wednesday after two teachers tested positive for coronavirus and seven students developed gastrointestinal symptoms.” (Reuters, June 3, 2020)
Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada: “Almost an entire class of students at a Trois-Rivières school contracted COVID-19 despite physical distancing and other prevention measures.” (Montreal Gazette, June 4, 2020)
South Africa: “Over 700 South African schools have already been affected by Covid-19 since reopening just weeks ago. The Department of Education has revealed that 523 learners and over 1,000 teachers had been infected.” (Briefly, June 28, 2020)
WHEREAS other countries, including those that have handled the pandemic better than the U.S., have ordered schools to close soon after reopening due to a rise in local cases, including, but not limited to:
Israel: “Five schools and kindergartens were closed Friday due to coronavirus infections, according to the Ministry of Education. In total, 92 educational institutions have been shuttered since students and teachers went back to school last month. More than 13,000 students and staff are in self-isolation, and 304 people have tested positive for the virus.” (Haaretz, May 6, 2020)
“On Tuesday, in testimony to the Israeli parliament, Dr. Udi Kliner, Sadetzki’s deputy, reported that schools—not restaurants or gyms—turned out to be the country’s worst mega-infectors. (Again, this should be of interest to Americans who have been told by a presidential tweet in all caps that "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!")” (Yahoo! News, July 8, 2020)
Seoul, South Korea: “More than 500 schools closed again Friday to students after briefly reopening, as South Korea moves to stamp out a resurgence of the coronavirus in the capital, Seoul, and its surrounding metropolitan area.” (CNN, May 29, 2020)
Beijing, China: “Beijing raised its level of health alert to the second highest on Tuesday, ordering schools to close and urging people to work from home as China’s government pressed to extinguish a spike in coronavirus infections menacing the capital.” (New York Times, June 16, 2020)
WHEREAS in the United States, the number of COVID-19 cases in schools, childcare facilities, and young people continues to rise. Cases include, but are not limited to:
New York City: “30 teachers among 74 [Department of Education] employees to die of COVID-19.” (ABC 7 New York, May 11, 2020)
Queen Creek, Arizona: “Nearly two dozen students and eight staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at Canyon State Academy, a boarding school for at-risk youth in Queen Creek.” (AZCentral, June 30, 2020)
Lake Oswego, Oregon: “A child care center in Lake Oswego is the first in Oregon to experience a publicly reported outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, with eight children and 12 teachers testing positive.” (Willamette Week, June 30, 2020)
Oregon: “Coronavirus infections rising fastest among kids younger than 10, dimming prospects for Oregon’s school reopening plans.” (The Oregonian, July 1, 2020)
“One 11-year-old and two teenagers died from COVID-19-related complications in Florida and more than 7,000 other children under 18 have tested positive for the disease since the pandemic began in March, according to Florida’s Department of Health.” (Miami Herald, July 1, 2020)
As of July 9, 2020, more than 17,000 children under the age of 18 have contracted COVID-19, 213 children have been hospitalized, and 4 have died. (Florida Department of Health, July 10, 2020)
“As parents nationwide wonder if it's safe to send kids back to day care, Texas is grappling with a surge of Covid-19 cases from child care centers. At least 1,335 people have tested positive from child care facilities in Texas, the state's Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday, citing figures from Friday. Of those infected, 894 were staff members and 441 were children. The cases came from 883 child care facilities that are open in the state, DHHS said.” (CNN, July 6, 2020)
Nueces County: “Eighty-five infants under age 1 have tested positive for coronavirus in one Texas county. And local officials are imploring residents to help stop its spread as the state becomes one of the newest hotspots.” (CNN, July 18, 2020)
Missouri: “Missouri leaders knew the risk of convening thousands of kids at summer camps across the state during a pandemic, the state's top health official said, and insisted that camp organizers have plans in place to keep an outbreak from happening...Missouri is one of several states to report outbreaks at summer camps. The Kanakuk camp near Branson ended up sending its teenage campers home. On Friday, the local health department announced 49 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus at the camp. By Monday, the number had jumped to 82.” (ABC News, July 7, 2020)
Norwalk, Connecticut: “Summer school classes held at Norwalk High School are switching to distance learning for the rest of the week after a person in the building tested positive for COVID-19. The district announced on social media on Tuesday night that “a member of the Norwalk High School community who was in the building for summer classes” tested positive for coronavirus. The person diagnosed was in the building on Monday, July 6 which marked the first day of summer school.” (The Hour, July 8, 2020)
Burlington, Iowa: “The Burlington Community School District suspended its in-person summer school program after two days when eight students recorded temperatures of 100.4 degrees or higher. There were about 60 students enrolled in the North Hill Elementary School program, which began Monday. Classes were suspended Tuesday and moved online until further notice.” (Des Moines Register, July 8, 2020)
DeWitt, New York: “At least 16 children and adults have come down with the coronavirus after it spread from contact at a DeWitt family in-home child care. The cluster of the coronavirus cases has made people in four families sick, including six children at the child care, one sibling, seven parents and two grandmothers, according to Heidi Feathers, who operates the licensed in-home child care with two other parents.” (Syracuse.com, July 9, 2020)
Lake Zurich, Illinois: “36 students at Lake Zurich High School have tested positive for the coronavirus after a cluster of cases were identified at the school’s sports camps… Coronavirus cases and deaths in Lake County had previously slowed in recent weeks, a trend that public health officials attribute to residents following social distancing and masking guidelines. However, new cases continue to be identified in communities across the county, and an increase in social gatherings could result in cases climbing again, health officials warned.” (Lake & McHenry County Scanner, July 14, 2020)
California: “‘They didn’t have any symptoms,’ said Antonio Labrador, the director of the center. The kids’ parents felt some symptoms on June 24 but dropped their children off at the daycare anyway. When they felt sick the next day, June 25, the whole family got tested. Everyone was positive for the coronavirus. That meant that the kids could have been spreading the virus at the center as they played with other children the previous day...The Investigative Unit has obtained new data that shows 998 positive cases of the virus at child care facilities across California in the four months between March 11 and July 12.” (NBC Bay Area, July 15, 2020)
WHEREAS a growing body of research suggests that young people are plenty capable of contracting and transmitting COVID-19, endangering themselves, school staff of all ages, and other higher risk individuals. This research includes, but is not limited to:
“We conclude that a considerable percentage of infected people in all age groups, including those who are pre- or mild-symptomatic, carry viral loads likely to represent infectivity.
Based on these results and uncertainty about the remaining incidence, we recommend caution and careful monitoring during gradual lifting of non-pharmaceutical interventions. In particular, there is little evidence from the present study to support suggestions that children may not be as infectious as adults.” (MedRxiv, June 9, 2020)
“Younger people are making up a growing percentage of new coronavirus cases in cities and states where the virus is now surging, a trend that has alarmed public health officials and prompted renewed pleas for masks and social distancing.” (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
“Our findings show that symptomatic neonates, children, and teenagers shed infectious SARS-CoV-2, suggesting that transmission from them is plausible...Our data show that viral load at diagnosis is comparable to that of adults and that symptomatic children of all ages shed infectious virus in early acute illness, a prerequisite for further transmission. Isolation of infectious virus was largely comparable with that of adults, although 2 specimens yielded an isolate at lower viral load.” (Emerging Infectious Diseases, June 30, 2020)
“A contact survey in Wuhan and Shanghai, China, showed that school closure and social distancing significantly reduced the rate of COVID-19 among contacts of school-aged children.
In the case of seasonal influenza epidemics, the highest secondary attack rate occurs among young children. Children who attend day care or school also are at high risk for transmitting respiratory viruses to household members.
The low detection rate for household contacts of preschool-aged children in South Korea might be attributable to social distancing during these periods. Yet, a recent report from Shenzhen, China, showed that the proportion of infected children increased during the outbreak from 2% to 13%, suggesting the importance of school closure...We showed that household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was high if the index patient was 10–19 years of age.” (Emerging Infectious Diseases, July 16, 2020)
WHEREAS a growing list of medical professionals and epidemiologists have announced their opposition to reopening school this fall, or they have walked back prior support for opening, including, but not limited to:
National Nurses United: “With coronavirus cases establishing record infections, and hospitalization cases and deaths exploding across the U.S., National Nurses United today urged all school districts and policy makers in states where the pandemic shows no signs of slowing to postpone returning to an in-person learning model...Nurses advocate that public health decisions—such as reopening schools—be driven by the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle asserts that we should not wait for scientific proof of harm before taking action to protect people’s health. Better safe than sorry.”
Alison Galvani, Yale University epidemiologist: “Reopening schools would be adding fuel to the fire...From a public health perspective, I think it would be reckless to reopen schools until we have dramatically suppressed the number of daily cases.”
Arthur Caplan, Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone: “Sending our children back in the middle of a plague that's out of control not knowing whether they will get sick or how infectious they're going to be is really indefensible. It's a gigantic...experiment.”
NPR on new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics: “The American Academy of Pediatrics once again plunged into the growing debate over school reopening with a strong new statement Friday, making clear that while in-person school provides crucial benefits to children, ‘Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics.’ The statement also said that ‘science and community circumstances must guide decision-making.’ The AAP is changing tone from the guidance it issued just over two weeks ago. Then, the organization made a national splash by recommending that education leaders and policymakers "should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
WHEREAS a growing body of evidence suggests that COVID-19 can easily spread within school- and classroom-like environments, including, but not limited to:
“Speech droplets generated by asymptomatic carriers of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are increasingly considered to be a likely mode of disease transmission. Highly sensitive laser light scattering observations have revealed that loud speech can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second. In a closed, stagnant air environment, they disappear from the window of view with time constants in the range of 8 to 14 min…” (PNAS, June 2, 2020)
“The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby...Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimize recirculating air and add powerful new filters. Ultraviolet lights may be needed to kill viral particles floating in tiny droplets indoors...But in an open letter to the W.H.O., 239 scientists in 32 countries have outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people, and are calling for the agency to revise its recommendations.” (New York Times, July 4, 2020)
“Alison Galvani, director of Yale University's Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, and colleagues used coronavirus transmission models to determine the extent to which silent transmission contributes to the spread of Covid-19. They based the study on existing research, which indicates asymptomatic infections account for 17.9% to 30.8% of all infections. Assuming 17.9% of cases are asymptomatic, the team found that presymptomatic people would account for 48% of transmission, and asymptomatic people would account for 3.4% of transmission. If 30.8% of cases are asymptomatic, they found that presymptomatic people would be responsible for 47% of transmitted cases and asymptomatic people would account for 6.6% of transmission, respectively.” (CNN, July 7, 2020)
WHEREAS we have no confidence that the State of Indiana will adequately provide the supplies, personnel, facilities, and facility renovation needed by August to keep our school communities safe while the pandemic continues to run rampant throughout Indiana and the United States, and;
WHEREAS we have no confidence that the State of Indiana and its individual School Corporations’ reopening plans could be implemented faithfully, even if they were adequately funded and staffed, due to the challenges of monitoring student and adult behavior across hundreds of classrooms on dozens of campuses, and;
WHEREAS any plan for reopening schools anywhere must account for the epidemiological context within which schools plan to reopen, e.g. positive test rates, number of new cases per day, number of total cases, hospitalization rates, mortality rates, percentage of population tested for infection and antibodies, scope of contact tracing, and others. No reopening plan should rely solely or mostly on promises to physically reduce the rate of transmission on campus (e.g. mask requirements, physical distancing, physical barriers) without meeting strict epidemiological benchmarks in the greater community, and;
WHEREAS 14 days is generally recognized by the public health community as the outer bound of COVID-19’s incubation period. Lauer et al. (May 2020) found that 97.5 percent of cases that eventually develop symptoms do so within 11.5 days of infection, estimating that 99 percent of cases will do so within 14 days of infection. The Centers for Disease Control also recognizes this outer bound.
WHEREAS we do not subscribe to the disingenuous claim of elected officials that teachers and student families must risk their health and lives in order to reopen the economy, when these officials have willfully refused to take sufficient measures to safeguard our public health
THEREFORE, be it resolved that, the petitioners below formally demand that school campuses remain closed and distance learning continue until the counties assigned to specific school corporations report no new cases of COVID-19 in the county for at least 14 consecutive days.
THEREFORE, be it further resolved that, the petitioners below formally endorse the demands of the Refuse to Return petition:
We demand that our cities, counties, states, and federal government implement the public health measures that should have been widely implemented months ago to stop the growth of this pandemic, including but not limited to:
Mass testing of both symptomatic and asymptomatic people,
Nationwide contact tracing,
Mandatory mask requirements,
Suspension of all non-essential travel, and
Suspension of all non-essential business activity.
We demand that all education stakeholders collectively negotiate the terms of campus reopening upon completion of these 14 or more days.
We demand increases in school funding needed to afford the following:
Additional technology for students to equitably access their teachers’ digital curricula,
Licenses for a broad portfolio of state-of-the-art educational applications and subscriptions,
Supplemental professional development needed for teachers to become more proficient with these applications,
Sufficient, disposable personal protective equipment for all school staff and students upon return to campus,
Additional mental health professionals needed to help students heal from the traumas of this pandemic and to readjust to campus life socially and emotionally, and
Anything else school staff decide they need to resume effective distance learning in fall and eventually a safe return to campus after at least 14 consecutive days of no new cases of COVID-19 in our counties.
We demand that our states, counties, cities, and school districts are prepared to resume distance learning in case COVID-19 resurges in our counties. We also demand that federal, state, and local governments are prepared to quickly implement all necessary public health measures in response to a resurgence in our counties.
Our elected officials have proven incapable of ending this pandemic by their own volition. They have chosen instead to acclimate Americans to the daily death of our neighbors so they can resume their fairy tales of economic growth. Therefore, it is our responsibility to exercise our power as workers to force our leaders to do what they have refused: end this pandemic.