Mr. de Blasio: Open Up Those Elementary Schools!

We know now that young kids aren't particularly susceptible to catch, transmit, or suffer from Covid-19. Time to give them (and their parents) a break.


On March 13, back when the country's largest K-12 system was still open, I pulled my diligent 6th grader and pre-K hellion out of New York City public schools, for fear that they might contract the coronavirus. This Monday, 115 days later, I just about wept with joy after shoving the 5-year-old through the door of her summer day camp.

Why the reversal in attitudes? In part because of the reversal in New York's fortunes—back then it was the global epicenter of the pandemic; now it has among the best trendlines in the country. And yes, we have 16 weeks' worth of experience in how psychologically punishing a long quarantine is on a family of four, when the nearest relative is 3,000 miles away.

But most pertinently, the world just knows much more than it did four months ago about the science of coronavirus transmission. Namely, that elementary school-age children rarely contract it, rarely succumb to it, and rarely transmit it. The studies are preliminary, to be sure, but as a thorough piece in Science magazine Tuesday concludes after looking at two dozen countries where schools are open, "younger children rarely spread the virus to one another or bring it home."

That's why it was a such a gut-punch today when relentlessly hapless New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that public schools would not fully re-open this fall, instead accepting students 1-3 times per week and doing the rest remotely.

"We won't let you down," the mayor tweeted today, unconvincingly. "Through a mix of in-school and at-home learning we can make more space in every classroom and building. That means most kids coming to school 2 days a week….What we WON'T do is ignore the science and recklessly charge ahead like our president."

Ah, the president. Donald Trump, as is his habit, has charged into the school-opening debate with all the grace of a hippopotamus on a high-wire.

As Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) dutifully observed, "The federal government should not be dictating when or how our kids go to school."

But as Amash's old friend and neighbor Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary, also recently observed, "A couple of hours a week of online school is not OK, and a choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all."

So what happens when you sidestep the stupid politics, and try to assess in good faith the available science against the real-world concerns of parents, students, and educators? One of the most compelling such exercises came in late June when The New York Times interviewed Sean O'Leary, a University of Colorado pediatrics infectious disease specialist who helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics' new school-opening guidelines, whose bottom line is: "the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school."

O'Leary, who has a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old, and who (along with his wife) contracted and suffered symptoms from COVID-19, told the Times that, "There are a couple of things we know now that we didn't know when we closed schools down in March. One is that masks really do seem to work. They are very effective. Two, physical distancing works as well. If they are taking as many precautions as they can, I think the risk is pretty low."


This virus is different from most of the respiratory viruses we deal with every year. School-age kids clearly play a role in driving influenza rates within communities. That doesn't seem to be the case with Covid-19. And it seems like in countries where they have reopened schools, it plays a much smaller role in driving spread of disease than we would expect….

What we have seen so far in the literature—and anecdotally, as well—is that kids really do seem to be both less likely to catch the infection and less likely to spread the infection. It seems to be even more true for younger kids, under 10 or under 12. And older kids seem to play less of a role than adults….

There have been a total of four [Covid cases] in [Colorado] child care centers, and we do have a lot of child care centers open. In almost every one of those cases, transmission was between two adults. The kids in the centers are not spreading Covid-19. I'm hearing the same thing from other states, as well.

And other countries, too—one of my wife's brothers works in a daycare center in France that has reopened with no spikes, and her other brother's oldest kid went back to school in Switzerland more than a month ago. It is also true, of course, that different countries have different levels of testing, contact tracing, quarantining, and of course cases and deaths.

None of these policy decisions are easy, which makes one ache even more for basic executive competence on the governmental level. And, as O'Leary rightly observes, "How this gets rolled out in August or September when schools reopen is really dependent on what is going on at that time with the virus."

But as most every parent of kids between 5 and 10 can attest, another school season of cabin fever, Zoom-wrangling, and behavioral backpedaling will drive not just parents but probably children to start day-drinking before noon. A key driver in the overall anxiety is uncertainty—New York didn't get around to even setting up rules for private summer day camps until a couple of weeks ago. It's hard to plan much of anything in a dual-earner family when you don't know what's legally possible with the education and supervision of your elementary schooler.

Older kids have pathologies of their own, and will suffer in their special ways the results of going to school half time or less. But at least they can somewhat manage themselves, or at least pretend to while recording dances on Tik-Tok.

For now, let's keep learning from summer camps and the global experience about what happens to the pandemic when kids are allowed to comingle a bit, and let's move heaven and earth to allow willing parents to send their children to class this fall. Mr. de Blasio (or is it Mr. Cuomo?): Open up those elementary schools.

NEXT: Did Trump's Coronavirus Stimulus Save 51 Million Jobs? The Claim Relies on Shaky Math and Questionable Economics.

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  1. “younger children rarely … bring it home.”

    “Hey, Kiddo — I need something from Home Depot. How about running on over and picking it up for me? You can stop in for a Slurpee on the way back!”

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  2. You complain that Trump asked for schools to re open, he didn’t order them open he suggested, you mention that he doesn’t have the authority to do such even though he didn’t but then you claim you want “more executive competence” on the matter. why would you want more of what you say he doesn’t have the authority to do? make up your mind or is this more say anything for TDS sake

    1. And cheeky to quote Amash saying the federal government shouldn’t be “dictating when or how our kids go to school,” when you know that’s not the situation at all. It’s the states and localities that do that, and Trump’s just saying they should give families what they’re due.

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  3. Can’t we just build a wall around New York and call it done?

    1. Only if we get rid of the bridges too.

      If they want social distancing we should give it to them.

    2. Stupid threading:
      The only way in will be by stealth hang glider…and then you have to rescue the president and Escape From New York City.

      July.8.2020 at 8:30 pm
      Oh, but you’ll have to find somewhere else to land, since a bunch of crazy Islamists flew planes into the Twin Towers.

    3. As we saw in the enlightening 1981 documentary, mining the bridges will do the trick.

  4. After watching the Community Education Council meeting, I am convinced keeping kids away from NYC schools is the best thing for them

    1. And these people think they know what’s best for you.

    2. DeBlasio hasn’t really thought this through yet. It’s harder to steer children who aren’t in the classroom all day long and under the supervision of a parent instead of the system.

      It can also force parents to make decisions about private or homeschool so that they can at least have some kind of plan and know they won’t have to rearrange their schedules as the political winds or opinions of public officials change. Lack of a decision is just a different decision, and can lead to consequences that aren’t in line with his collectivist and central government mindset. This could lead to a disruption in the

      1. Force? Supply chain? Intergalactic exchange of neutrinos? For God’s sake man, what will it disrupt?!?

  5. But as Amash’s old friend and neighbor Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, also recently observed, “A couple of hours a week of online school is not OK, and a choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all.”

    Twitter has informed me that DeVos just wants kids to die.

  6. Any chance people will remember all this the second Tuesday in November?

    1. Careful, Dude — don’t miss out! Election Day is “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November”, or 03 November this year. But, to answer your question, probably not.

    2. Yup. That’s it right there. Many people have been scared stupid, hysterically so, but the people scaring them are lying to them in order to effect the election. Once it’s over, so is the WuFlu boogie.

  7. You have to give it to Comrade De Blasio.
    He’s done everything right when it comes to New York City’s educational system.
    First he made sure it was impossible for under-privileged and poverty stricken parents who want to get their kids out of the failed, expensive, dangerous and broken down public schools and into charter and private schools.
    Now he has wisdom to ensure all kids get left behind by not opening up the schools at all.
    Isn’t having a dedicated socialist turd like Comrade De Blasio in charge just peachy keen?

    1. As a HS teacher I’m not too concerned about my students. But put me, a near 40 year old, into a building with gross disgusting kids and several hundred other adults with no air circulation (as a state run building our air systems are trash… they shut down for weeks at a time every year for the last 6 years)? Yeah… I’d rather be teaching on-line. I admit the risk is small. But you have to concede that it is still greater than me not leaving my house at all… which has been great since I’m a fairly introverted hermit.

      1. Not supposed to be a reply… sorry. Reason’s commenting function has been janky today for me.

        And I should add… my particular district is not mandating masks for kids because they want to avoid discipline problems. It’s a mostly Hispanic school but other schools in the district are majority Black and our Dept. Super Int. is a pretty woke Black guy who wants to replace World History with Latinx Studies or African-American History. My guess is he’s on the “making black kids wear masks is racist” wagon more than anything.

      2. That’s great for you. I’m done teaching long division by day and doing my full time job at night. If I’m switching to online learning, I’m switching to homeschooling completely, and cutting out the middleman. At least then, I can set the schedule that works best for us and not be locked in to useless Zoom classes on someone else’s schedule.

        1. Don’t get me wrong… I work in the public school system so that, hopefully, one day we don’t have one. I encourage my students to question and challenge all the crap they’ve been spoon fed. I would encourage as many people as possible to switch to home or private school versus the state-provided daycare/re-education camp.

      3. The risk of what, exactly? Catching a cold? Do you know how many healthy 39 yr olds have been killed by the Vid? There might be one or two in the entire world, but it’s statistically zero. So grow a pair and go to work, ya pansie.

        1. It isn’t that I’m worried that I could have sever issues. But the actual illness is not all that I am concerned with. I have a family member who is very elderly and I would like to ensure that I am not putting her at risk unknowingly if I were to see her (I may not have “next year” but certainly don’t want to be the reason there isn’t a “next year.”) My wife has asthma… I do not want to increase her risk. It isn’t about “me” so perhaps you can feel macho for taking care of only yourself but I will feel like a man thinking about my family.

  8. Trump is only desperate to get the schools re-opened in a bid for a “return to normalcy” before the election. The Democrats aren’t re-opening the schools because there’s nothing they want more than to prevent a “return to normalcy”. All the science and all the facts and all the advice in the world about what’s best for the kids don’t mean shit when the Democrats would rather see their children dead than to return to school before the election.

  9. Some people are now remembering the days of Michael Bloomberg with fondness. Now ain’t that a kick in the head.

  10. “We won’t let you down,” the mayor tweeted today, unconvincingly. “We’ll find a way to fuck it up even more.” “Through a mix of in-school and at-home learning we can make more space in every classroom and building. That means most kids coming to school 2 days a week….What we WON’T do is ignore the science and recklessly charge ahead like our president.”

  11. Considering how you retreated when you were called racist, would it be possible to get someone with some balls to report on this? Like maybe “Chelsea” Manning?

  12. Di Blasio bringing the curve down to him.

  13. >>Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.)

    (L). lol

  14. I’m soooo sick of reading about de Blasio and Cuomo. Just because it happens in NY doesn’t make it national news. Note to all coastal journalists: The rest of us don’t give a shit about the obvious consequences brought about by your brainless leftist electorate. If you’re tired of living under these windbags with their infinite supply of hubris and complete lack of wisdom, you should do what the rest of the country does. Don’t live there.

    1. As a Coloradoan, you should be careful about encouraging coastal types to move to where you live. They have a remarkable ability to fuck up their own states, then learn absolutely nothing and do all the same shit when they relocate.

      I’ve said for years that Trump is focusing on the wrong wall; I want one between me and California, not between me and Mexico.

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  15. Sending your child to school is now a matter of public health and personal responsibility. Some children get sick every September. Some families don’t vaccinate-remember measles? And how about the faculty and custodial staff? I’m going to keep tutoring from home, well aware that kids really don’t follow all the rules (hey I help with that!) and that our schools struggle to provide space regardless of this dreadful pandemic.

  16. There is an urgent need for parents in particular have to be exhausted and numb come November. If they are not, they might remember who it actually was that told them they were racist if stayed away from Chinese New Year, didn’t shut down public transit, locked them in their homes with their kids, told them they had to work from home, sent COVID patients to grandma’s senior care facility, finally had the police make them wear a mask (if you don’t you’re a racist), kept them from vacationing all summer, didn’t let them go to church for 9 months, and didn’t let their kids go back to school in the fall.

    Furthermore, they have to be receptive to the message that everything is all Trump’s fault because he destroyed the economy by not enforcing things he had no authority to enforce but still exceeded his authority by saying he might enforce but didn’t enforce in a timely manner anyway and DeVos is fine with your kids dying or getting permanent brain damage or having a stroke. And TRUMP KILLED YOUR GRANDMA!

  17. No, we can’t re-open the schools until we spend billions of $$$ retooling the physical infrastructure of education to permanently support social distancing and keep kids safe.


    No pardon me while I go puke.

  18. We only need two things to fully re-open our schools. Unfortunately both seem to be in exceedingly short supply at the moment.

    1 Perspective
    2 Backbones

    Life=Risk. Grow up and get over it already.

    1. That math only works among those with a) a low risk of suffering and b) a lifestyle/family that does not expose them to people who may be at risk. I have point A. I do not have point B. So if I do catch it (low risk) the damage to me may be low but the damage it could cause only family is much higher. Your risk assessment is perfect… for you and you alone. To imagine that others who have a different risk calculus are some how dumb or weak is rather close minded. Now, if you choose to go out and work, good for you. The world needs productive people. I support you and wish you well. But others may not be in the same boat and it is their prerogative to decide for themselves. Will some be too cavalier? We already have proof that they will. Will some be over cautious? Absolutely. But there still isn’t one right answer (lock down or go back to nornal… both are faulty in their own ways for different people).

      1. At some point, we either just get on with it or the damage done to the economy will be far worse than the pandemic itself.

        Those at high risk are welcome to go hide in a hole if they want to as long as they stop getting in the way of the rest of us moving on and getting the economy back up and running.

    2. It is more than this. Just opening schools without a commitment to safety is foolish. It does help if we open in September and close in October because of disease spikes. We can do this right, use precautions, have PPE, and regular testing. If they can test everyone in the WH daily, why can we have more testing at a our schools? Frankly most school kids are working harder than President Trump.

      1. Would you like a cotton swab shoved up your nose once a week?

  19. The only way in will be by stealth hang glider…and then you have to rescue the president and Escape From New York City.

  20. Oh, but you’ll have to find somewhere else to land, since a bunch of crazy Islamists flew planes into the Twin Towers.

    1. “Terrorists Destroy World Trade Center: Snake Pliskin hardest hit.”

  21. We need to get kids back in school and we need to do it correctly. With outbreaks in the South the country is seeing what happen when you say “what the hell” lets just open up businesses. So let me suggest that a commitment to getting schools open and a commitment to listening to the expert on communicable diseases. Both can be done. This country put men on the moon we can do this. First step is to get politics out of the picture. We should not be hearing from De Blaisio, Trump, or Amash. DeVos as Education Secretary and disease experts should be leading the way. They should not be making CDC guideline easier to help the President. And sorry, this is going to cost money, so be ready to spend some.

    1. Experts like Fauci that your side loves so much? Someone who has been wrong about pretty much everything his entire career? Someone who rose to his current position because he hung around in the public sector for almost 40 years and has never been held accountable for anything ever? Experts like that?

    2. Oh lord. You all just blow my mind. You’re immunity deniers. Like we all don’t have immune systems.

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  24. I suggest that Trumps actions during this pandemic are more impeachable and worthy of removal from office than anything else he’s done.

    1. That might be the best chance Republicans have for this election.

    2. What are you taking about? My blue state Governor is a tyrant of the first order! Why are you no Reason at all? Are you a liberal? Government is not to tell us what to do; we tell IT what to do. To you: don’t tread on me. Take your liberal politics and go stay safe under your bed.

  25. Mr. de Blasio, stick your head in a bucket of water and take a deep breath.

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  27. Here’s what I’d like to know: if you actually seriously believe that the Coronavirus death numbers coming out of the greater NYC metro area are completely legitimate (they’re not at all, not even close, but that’s another story), why the fuck would you actually stay there if you had the means and ability to go somewhere else?

  28. The reason not to open the schools is we don’t know the health implications of lots of kids getting it, but opening them up without drastic changes that we can’t afford or organize will lead to a lot more deaths by spreading cv19. The reason to open it is that a vast number of people will be further devastated if they can’t work and have to take care of kids at home. We are screwed either way. I think we need to do what other functioning western democracies are doing, shut down until rates go down, open places that are good, require safe behavior and force wearing of masks and blocking work styles that lead to people getting sick.

    1. You should have read the article. The point was that lots of kids don’t get it, and those who do very rarely suffer serious harm.

      1. Oh I believe my son’s school already had it I. March. They were all sick week prior to lockdown and so were the teachers. That’s what no one is talking about. This is ridiculous.

  29. None of these mayors and Governors can tell science from astrology. They spend all of their time looking into crystal balls.
    Seriously are we going to debate science again here? Science involveS DATA and if you need the MSM, a politician or a pundit health “official” to interpret it for you, you don’t understand it. Let me tell you clearly: THIS IS A COLD and colds kill old people every year. This one was a bad one but we are on down trend, death is minimal and we need to get right back to NORMAL. No silly masks, social distancing or any other made up nonsense. Most of us have already had it or will get it soon, tests or no tests. The spike happened in March. Over and done. You saw the tail end in April when it really hit the nursing homes as they are alway well-protected but viruses are very deadly once they get in.
    -Nurse for many years, two science degrees, very familiar with research and statistics, I’ve worked with all ages and in various specialties and I had Covid. You’re all being horribly duped, our 90 plus year old patients recover fine, die of CHF and are then marked Covid. I’m hardly the first to tell you any of it but Chicken Little got to you first.

  30. There are still plenty of dangerous mind viruses lurking in the schools.
    “In all countries, in all centuries, the primary reason for government to set up schools is to undermine the politically weak by convincing their children that the leaders are good and their policies are wise.” ~ Marshall Fritz
    “And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.” ~ H.L. Mencken
    “Governments have ever been known to hold a high hand over the education of the people. They know, better than anyone else, that their power is based almost entirely on the school. Hence, they monopolize it more and more.” ~ Francisco Ferrer
    “Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

  31. If’n I had my druthers the political mistake for mayor of NYC would be provided a rail to ride out of the city, never to return…This clown is a Clear and present danger to all in his position and should be sent packing before he can create more havoc….

  32. Wilhelm just assumes that all working parents “work” maybe 2-3 hours a day like he does, so what’s the problem?

    Still can’t decide if he’s severely mentally-challenged or just enjoys being the world’s biggest asshole.

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