By Tim Hunt
Following the science or doing what I say not what I doUploaded: Dec 17, 2020
The most unusual holiday season of our lives is roaring upon us as public health officials in the Bay Area and California strive to keep us “safe” by acting like grinches.
It’s striking to see the restrictions that are being applied here and compare them to what’s going on elsewhere in the country. One common factor—blue state governors, His Highness Newsom included—are far more authoritarian than governors in other states that have focused their efforts on vulnerable populations and trusted people to make smart decisions themselves.
Yes, the virus is spreading rapidly and yes there are issues with intensive care unit space. There are other devastating health and economic effects of the shutdown as well.
Closing schools—perhaps necessary at the onset without any real knowledge—and then delaying reopening is severely damaging some children for life. Poorer, younger students, often Brown or Black, have limited internet capability and are falling further and further behind. The state has a huge education gap between Asians and White students and those Black and Brown.
Prison officials know that the number of students reading below grade level in the 3rd grade is a sadly accurate predictor of the demand for prison beds 15 years later.
A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that 24.4 million students from the age of 5 to 11 lost an average of 54 days of instruction in the spring. The researchers said that equated to 5.53 million fewer years of life because of lower educational success. That’s nearly four times the estimates 1.47 million years of life that would have been lost should schools have remained open.
A McKinsey study that examined three scenarios (including in-person schooling resuming in January) found a $110 billion annual earnings hit that disproportionately effects Black, Hispanic and poor students. The report pointed out that greater educational achievement is linked to improved health, reduced crime and incarceration levels and increased political participation.
The school shutdown has seen teen suicide and depression soar. I previously reported that suicides in one summer month in the Bay Area totaled more than all of 2019. The CDC surveyed Americans about their mental health in May and June. It found 1 in 4 teenagers had seriously considered suicide in the last month. That’s almost 2 ½ times higher than the rate was in 2018. Suicide is the second leading cause of deaths after accidents for teenagers.
Pleasanton was set to resume in-person and hybrid instruction Jan. 7 and the county has approved the plan. Until the county moves back into the red tier for 14 days, schools cannot reopen. Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday evening to reopen pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade as soon as it is allowed. Grades 3rd through 5th will open a week later followed by middle and high schools a week after that. A plan for middle and high school reopening will be presented at the Jan. 14 board meeting.
The frustration that some Pleasanton parents are feeling resulted in a demonstration last week. The district has been operating small groups of students onsite who were identified as having particular needs. As I have previously reported, one friend is monitoring four students, two of whom had never logged on prior to returning to the campus in October
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released the results of COVID-19 tracking from September into November last week. It showed that 74% of the spread was traced to social gatherings. Health care situations accounted for 7.8%, while elementary and high school students were less than 0.5%. Restaurants and bars accounted for 1.43%. So why is Cuomo closing bars and restaurants and indirectly encouraging the activity he’s decrying—we are social creatures and want to gather.
Assuming these numbers are similar for California then the mandate to close outdoor dining is absurd. Politics and power are at the core. Last week, it was striking to see a Los Angeles restaurant owner, who had invested thousands in an outdoor dining area, shutting down while a catering crew was setting up right next to her restaurant to service a film crew.
Yes, contrary to the first order, the television and movie industry, thanks to a strong lobbying push, is now considered essential.
You see photos of Newsom dining at the French Laundry in a private room with no masks, no social distancing and plenty of wine flowing (the tasting meal is $350 at the Napa Valley landmark), there’s no credibility left.
The disasters with Employment Development Department paying millions in checks to prisoners and still facing a huge backlog in legitimate claims from frustrated citizens call out how poorly his administration is functioning.
The good news is that these fiascos may drive a spike into his political ambitions.