Opening Schools and the Pandemic Highlights the Lack of Infrastructure Funding

Kids need to go back to school, this is not in doubt. When kids return to school their parents can return to work, thereby helping the family as well as the economy in general. Getting our lives back to normal is difficult during this 2020 CoVid-19 pandemic. This virus is highly contagious and unforgiving. The need to prepare for school openings puts mankind against the virus. With proper preparation we can safely open schools, but there is so much the West has not done in school buildings that makes school openings very dangerous. In Ontario masks are not even required below Grade 4.

China has gone a different path. They have tested everyone in their population and therefore isolated all those with the CoVid-19 virus, symptomatic or asymptomatic. China knows its population is safe and the virus eradicated, and therefore can safely open schools. Backing this up is a rigorous testing and contact tracing machine that is very efficient. I have faith that the Chinese system is safe and will work, but we shall see.

Western countries have gone a different tact, opting to not test everyone. There are an estimated 30 to 40% of CoVid-19 patients who are asymptomatic. We are not testing for these cases, and hope they do not infect others. Instead we rely on a probability that CoVid-19 will be a slow burn and not light up once schools open. We also hope that kids that get the virus are fewer and have less serious implications, but this is not necessarily so. Our knowledge of this virus is limited and we learn more with time. There is a strong possibility that kids who contract the virus will pass it onto their parents and grandparents. This virus is very contagious.

Mitigation of the virus we do know: stay at home, social distancing, hand washing, wear a mask. Yet these methods cannot be easily done in schools. Schools bring kids together so that they learn, which is the opposite of social distancing. We are asking young and older adults to not gather in groups larger than 10, yet think it is fine for kids to attend a class of 30? How is that logical?

Even if we could social distance at a school, the ventilation in schools will be abysmal. These schools, built in the 60s, are old and inadequate for heating and cooling. There are many schools who cannot provide sufficient heat in the winter, much less provide adequate ventilation to prevent the spread of CoVid-19. These required upgrades will take years to do and will require vast sums of money, funding that by necessity we must do. For a 2020 September opening this is impossible. For those kids that can social distance at school, they run the risk of an inadequate circulation system that will encourage the spread of CoVid-19.

Masks are mandated by law when adults are indoors. Yet for schools this is only a requirement for those above grade 4. It will be difficult to get kids to wear masks, but this is one of the necessary mitigation strategies that we need to keep them safe. In Ontario, this will not be done. Kids have the ability to learn and will learn when required.

Pushing school openings when the conditions are unsafe really under-estimates the ferocity of the CoVid-19 virus. We know enough to know how it spreads, but continue to place bets as to how to control it. Until there is an adequate vaccine, our lifestyle needs to change. This includes radically altering the schedules such as school openings. Not heeding to the virus shows an arrogance that will come back to haunt us.

It may be true that kids are not infected as easily as adults, and that kids rarely die, but this does not take into consideration the damage the virus can do, something which we still do not fully understand. Kids may not die but might have life-long injury. Do we want to risk this, just for the sake of a short-term adherence to out human schedule?

Kids may be hindered in their learning, parents may not be able to make as much money, the economy may not be as strong, but this is the trade-off to keep people safe in the short-term. The implications for following our status quo is that the virus will grow, and shutting the economy down. People who are sick and/or scared do not spend money or go out. People will stay home to protect themselves. The economy will suffer. Opening schools inadequately and hoping for the best does not pay the CoVid-19 virus the respect it deserves, and to our detriment.

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