From the Reopening Front

Andrew Rotherham:

It’s easy to knock (and a favored sport for some) Politico for focusing on horse race politics – but the debate about reopening schools has become horse race politics not substance so this is a pretty good overview:

President Joe Biden’s vow to reopen most schools during his first 100 days is crashing into demands of one of his party’s most powerful constituencies: teachers’ unions. And the friction is creating an early test for the Democratic Party’s commitment to following the advice of scientists when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

That about covers it. And already reductionist claims that would have occasioned knowing clucking and tsk tsking had the chronically fact challenged Trump Administration made them are now greeted with crickets. John Bailey unpacks some of the weediness with the Wisconsin study and the idea that all we need is money, for instance, in his indispensable daily Covid newsletter (you can subscribe here).

The bottom line is the White House and CDC are not in the same place on reopening and there are a lot of politics. A few weeks ago such dissonance was seen as an existential threat to the republic, today a shrug. It’s entirely reasonable for political officials to disagree with scientists, we just shouldn’t be so situational about our response to it. And in general, this is not a great look for the sector. Let’s hope the White House is at least getting some concessions on other issues.

Few things:

– Some people are dismissing the calls for ventilation to be a priority. This seems like a mistake given what we know about air quality in schools in general and then also the evidence on ventilation and Covid-19. Arguing against the idea that money is the only thing schools need to reopen is not the same as arguing money doesn’t matter for short and long terms response efforts here.

– Does not seem like we’re doing a good job disentangling a massive Covid-19 testing plan for schools as a confidence building measure versus as a public health strategy. And there is a lot of money in play at a time when equity strategies like targeted tutoring could also use an infusion of billions of dollars. There might be more cost effective ways to build public confidence?