It’s Still About the Prevalence: The Schools Edition

In a really good article about how the U.S. screwed up school re-opening, Melody Schreiber makes a very important point (boldface mine):

No one’s advocating another year of remote learning. But there are a number of things we could be doing to make schools safer and respond to local outbreaks. One of the biggest lessons from last year—one that continues to be overlooked—is that schools are only as safe as the communities they’re in. Stopping the spread of the virus within communities is one of the most effective ways to ensure safety in school. Yet, Tomori said, “we started back in the middle of a giant surge.”

In other countries with more effective pandemic responses, policies are pegged to community spread. In times of high transmission, schools go virtual, states and counties impose mask mandates, public gatherings are limited. “That makes it easier to get a handle on what’s going on in a school, because you have fewer people who would potentially be bringing the virus in,” Tomori said.

From the beginning of this godawful shitty mess, the U.S. never appreciated the importance of prevalence– that is, how much COVID-19 is in the community. Because as some asshole with a blog kept writing, the best way to not get infected is to not be in contact with infected people. There is no immaculate infection. This applies to schools too.

This, unfortunately, is why we need vaccine mandates and, if protection against infection persists, third doses: America is too dysfunctional and fucking stupid to adopt flexible and intelligent policies. Instead, we have to hope we can get enough people vaccinated and that vaccination is effective enough against transmission.

As people liked to point out in the Democratic primaries, we are not Denmark. And we certainly are not.

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