Thursday, April 16, 2020

Some of You May Die, but That's a Risk I'm Willing to Take

From reading this, that seems to be the attitude of Bill de Blasio. Sure, it may be risky leaving schools open. After all, they're old, neglected and overcrowded. We're facing a deadly virus and forcing kids to walk the halls packed like sardines is incredibly risky. Yet Bill de Blasio had another priority:
As pressure mounted last month to shut the schools, de Blasio resisted the call, saying he feared the closure would hurt families who need their children to be in school while they’re working.

In other words, we are babysitters. That's a popular perception, actually. I sometimes see even teachers saying this. However, I'm not a babysitter. Babysitters don't prepare lesson plans. They don't follow a curriculum. They aren't observed by supervisors regularly and rated.

There are a whole lot of reasons we aren't babysitters. Were that first and foremost what we were here for, no one would care whether students passed tests, let alone standardized tests. We're also role models for students. Like many of my colleagues and students, I didn't understand exactly how risky it was going into the building that last week. Knowing what I do now, I wouldn't have.

This notwithstanding, one thing is quite clear. Mayor de Blasio valued our services as "babysitters" more than he valued our lives, those of our students, or those of their families. Were that the only issue, it would be bad enough. Alas, it's not:

The Special Commissioner for Investigations for city schools is probing the Department of Education’s bid to squelch coronavirus infection information in the chaotic days before schools were closed.

The investigation comes in response to a report by THE CITY revealing an internal memo advising school officials to not report cases of teachers or staff who tested positive for COVID-19 or were likely infected to the city Health Department.

How can even de Blasio rationalize that? We'd all heard that if there were a confirmed case of COVID 19 in a school, that school would've been closed. Of course, this was woefully inadequate, Between students and staff, there are 5,000 people in our school building alone. Getting through the halls between classes is an adventure more suited to sardines in a can.

What was the difference between schools with confirmed cases and those without? The only one I can think of is in some schools, people were tested. In most they were not. I'd estimate the odds of someone having been infected in our building hovering around 110%.

Given that, of course, de Blasio should've closed the schools way sooner. It appears, though, that not only did he fail to do that, but he also actively prevented schools from meeting even that very low standard. On March 10, there was a memo telling schools not to contact the Department of Health and Mental Services.
“At the moment, there is no reason for any school to call DOHMH to report potential or confirmed cases,” the memo states. “DOHMH is receiving information…about positive test results strictly from laboratories. We can support our colleagues at DOHMH by keeping their phones clear to speak with laboratories.”

Evidently, our "babysitting" services are of great value to the city. Our lives, those of our students, and those of all vulnerable people with whom we come into contact? Our parents? Students' grandparents? Let's not worry about them. The important thing is that their parents keep going to their workplaces and risking their lives as well.

Now doctors are hypothesizing that 80% of students carry the virus. Of course, we can't verify that because there aren't enough tests. Also, students likely as not have no symptoms whatsoever. What does that say about us? To me, it says we're all likely walking around with this virus. And while it's good we're walking around, it's no thanks to Bill de Blasio, who's sent a few dozen of us to the grave, and many more of us to sick beds or hospitals.

The chancellor was clearly instructed to tow the party line, and appears to be a good soldier. When presented with our petition, then containing 108,000 signatures, he demanded 108,000 signatures from epidemiologists. I'd almost gotten over that when I read this:

Confronted about this at a news conference, Chancellor Richard Carranza defended the memo, stating, “With increasing numbers of people coming out, what we don’t want to do is inundate the Department of Health with these cases.”

Yes, perish forbid the Department of Health should be compelled to do their jobs. Better to let a deadly virus infect more and more students, teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors, secretaries, school aides, custodians, nurses, social workers, therapists, administrators, and their families.

And if that's not what you did, Mayor de Blasio, I'm all ears. If that's not what you meant, Chancellor Carranza, feel free to let us know. Comments are now officially open.

Tell us why that's not thoroughly unconscionable.
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