[Vision2020] Virus Positivity Rate Key to Opening Schools

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 16 12:35:32 PDT 2020

For those who don't get the DNews, here is my Thursday column in long form.
This version appeared in Pocatello's Idaho State Journal this morning. Read
my other columns on the virus at
How many more deaths, declining economy, and delayed in-class schooling are
we going to tolerate??

*Virus Positivity Rate Key to Opening Schools: Only 15 States have Reached
the 5 percent Threshold*

              As far as my current research indicates, schools world-wide,
except those in Israel and the U.S., have reopened with few problems. The
reason for their success is that they have followed protocols established
by their public health officials and they have leaders who respect science.

Over the years I’ve written about the Nordic countries (I lived in Denmark
for four years), so I will focus on those nations. Readers can check out my
columns on them at webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/ThirdWay.htm.

*Nordic Countries Bend the Infection Curve*

On March 11, Denmark was the second European country after Italy to enforce
a strict lockdown. Within a month, health authorities were so successful in
bending the infection curve that they recommended that schools reopen.

Danish children ages 2-12 went back to daycare and primary schools on April
15 in “protective bubbles” of 12. Students ages 12-16 returned to school on
May 18, but universities will be closed until August 1.

 Because of stringent health protocols and high levels of testing
(253/1,000 in Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Finland have kept the
number of positive cases to between 0.1-1 percent of people tested.
Iceland’s rate is 0.1 percent with only 10 deaths.

*Outlier Sweden Suffers 5,783 Virus Deaths*

With far fewer people tested (59/1,000), Sweden’s positivity rate has been
between 2-3 percent. The U.S. average now stands a 4.8 percent of cases
testing positive. The higher this rate is the more difficult it is to trace
contacts, quarantine, and control the virus, which the U.S. has done in 35

Sweden did not close its schools to children ages 16 and under, but the
high schools and universities have remained closed. From February 24 to
June 14, there were 1,124 Swedish children ages 1-19 infected with

Only one child and one teacher have died (still too many), but their
“remain open” policy has cost the Swedes dearly in all other age groups.
They have suffered 5,783 deaths in a population of 10.2 million, while the
Nordic countries have had a total of 1,214 with 17 million.

*Infection Rate must be below 5 percent*

One of the principal criteria the CDC has required to open businesses and
schools is that the virus positivity rate must be below 5 percent. Only 15
states have achieved this goal, but most of the Northeast and New York are
now below one percent. Four states in the South, Nevada, and Idaho are at
the top with rates ranging from 16 to 26 percent. For comparison,
Pakistan’s positivity rate is 22 percent.

*New York’s Infection Rate is 0.78 percent*

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo, holding daily briefings based on public
health data, has been an exemplary leader in fighting COVID-19. Once the
virus’ epicenter, daily deaths in the state have gone down from a high of
799 on April 9 to 5 on August 8.

New York’s virus positivity rate is now an incredible 0.78 percent—matching
the Nordics but not beating Italy at 0.6 percent or Iceland’s 0.1 percent.
Cautiously, Cuomo is allowing schools to open at the discretion of local
officials and according to strict guidelines.

*LA, Chicago, and San Diego Schools Remain Closed*

The virus positivity rate in Los Angeles County now stands at 8.6 percent,
so school officials have wisely decided against in-class instruction. With
a rate that has risen to 5.8 percent in Cook County, Chicago schools will
also be closed. The head of Chicago’s teachers’ union has declared that,
because of the virus and bad ventilation in poorly maintained schools, she
does want her teachers to return to classrooms.

For good reasons, San Diego schools will not re-open for in-person classes.
The virus positivity rate in San Diego County is 11% with 84 percent of
those infected below the age of 60. Among those testing positive are 3,847
children (11.2%) and youth ages 0-19, and one quarter of the total (40
percent in Alabama) are in the 20-29 age group. Those in this latter group
tend to be people who do not follow coronavirus best practices.

*Over 339,000 Children have been Infected*

According to a recent study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics,
there were at least 97,000 testing positive for COVID-19 in the last two
weeks of July alone. The age range across the states averaged 0-17. There
have now been nearly 339,000 children infected since the beginning of the
pandemic. The states with the highest child infection rates are Missouri,
Oklahoma, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana.

In Alabama, 7,000 children have tested positive, and two infants and one
teen have died. In Georgia, two children (ages 5 and 7) have died of the
virus. In one Texas county there have been 85 infants (one year and under)
who have tested positive for the virus.

In Florida, where the positivity rate is now 17 percent, the median age for
that testing positive has dropped from 65 in March to 35 at the end of
June. By July 15, over 31,000 of those infected were below the age of 18.
The CDC estimates that 45 percent of children are asymptomatic and just as
able to transmit the virus as adults.

*MIS-C: A Deadly Virus-Related Disease*

All around the world doctors have reported a COVID-related disease called
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. So far 570 cases in
previously healthy American children ages 0-20 have been reported.
Alarmingly, the reported indicated that “40 percent were Hispanic or
Latino, 33 percent were Black, and 13 percent were white. Ten died and
nearly two-thirds were admitted to intensive care units.”

*Schools have the Virus in Five States*

As classes have begun in some states, there have been virus outbreaks in
Tennessee (8.4%), Indiana (9%), Georgia (11%), and Mississippi (26%).
(Infection rates noted.) In Georgia, 70 students have tested positive, and
1,130 students and 38 staff are in quarantine, and 22 schools have been
closed in Mississippi with 34 students and staff infected and 100 in

In Indiana, 504 students have been quarantined in three different school
districts. In Tennessee three school districts have closed after at least
39 cases had been confirmed. The current total is over 2,ooo in quarantine
and 331 cases. Sadly, masked teachers in Georgia have been mocked by rude
and misinformed students.

After three people connected to Florida’s Fort Braden School died of the
virus, principal Jimbo Jackson, who has tested, along with several family
members, positive, has announced to parents: “I cannot guarantee your
safety in this environment.”

The Florida Education Association has sued Gov. Ron DeSantis citing the
state constitution’s requirement that schools must be “safe and secure.”
Teachers in an Arizona school district have threatened to strike because of
high infection rates. My union, the American Federation of Teachers, has
encouraged its members to withhold services unless their schools are safe.

*COVID-19’s Long Term Effects*

Covid-19 is far worse than the flu: not only is it more deadly than the
flu, it also has, in some cases, long lasting effects. Those with
cardiovascular problems are more likely to get the disease, and even in
some of those healthy who survive, heart and lung problems continue. A
study published in the *Journal of the American Medication Association:
Cardiology* found that among the 100 virus survivors, 78 had cardiac
problems and “myocardial inflammation in 60 patients, which was independent
of preexisting conditions.” British researchers have found brain damage in
some children who had recovered from the virus.

*Just Think: Cuomo instead of Trump*

Just think if someone as competent and proactive as Andrew Cuomo were
president instead of Trump. We would have had many thousands fewer virus
deaths and our economy would not have crashed at a record annual rate of 33

Nick Gier of Moscow was President of the Idaho Federation of Teachers from
1982-2020. He taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years.
Email him at ngier006 at gmail.com.


A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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