There is an ACTION ITEM today. Please read through and send some email thank yous. Serving on Health District boards and school boards without compensation is selfless enough. Let’s make sure the people who serve get some praise for their efforts instead of just criticism from a loud, organized minority. If we don’t get involved in this way we will have no excuse when a vocal minority takes over.
Background: Imagine the stress of having to make high-profile decisions about school re-opening during the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no perfect answer, especially in a situation where the best science-based advice has been highly politicized. Everyone wants the schools to re-open this fall for social and economic reasons and, still, no one wants to see large numbers of people sicken and some die as a result. Shawn Vestal captured the complexity in his “Pandemic creates paradox – we must open schools but we can’t open schools”
Still there is a very noisy crowd of local folk protesting and emailing against current science-based recommendations to wear a mask and against the earlier lock-downs. Some (many?) of these folk are convinced, against all evidence, that the pandemic is either a hoax or simply “God’s will” to be endured, some are anti-vaccination and/or simply anti-science. These folks, in their hundreds, are activated through electronic media and some churches. They send emails and letters, make phone calls, and loudly demonstrate in the hope of forcing schools to reopen in person for the sake of their ideology.
To see what the recommendations are for Spokane County I’ve appended Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz’ letter on school re-opening to the end of this email. Spokane County has a number of school districts. Of them, so far, the Boards of the Spokane Public School District (aka District 81 or SPSD) and Central Valley School District (CVSD) have followed Dr. Lutz’ recommendation to start the fall online only, while the Mead and East Valley School Districts have opted to open in person, bucking the science and endangering the wider community, since the coronavirus pays no attention to school, home, or geographical boundaries as it passes among us.
Here’s the ACTION ITEM assembled by Petra Hoy:
I anticipate that the SRHD (Spokane Regional Health District), School Board members and Superintendents will be hearing from the “Covid is a Hoax” and anti-mask, anti-vaxx crowd.
I thought it would be nice if we could show our support for them making this difficult decision and following the scientific advice of Dr. Bob Lutz.
If you’d like please:
1. Write a quick email, something as simple as “Thank you for following the advice of the SRHD and Dr. Lutz. It’s critical that we follow science during this pandemic”
2. It’s okay if you live in another school district or are out of the area. The virus doesn’t care about those arbitrary lines.
3. You can copy and paste these email addresses:
SRHD (Spokane Regional Health District):
Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Adam Swinyard AdamSw@spokaneschools.org
Spokane Public School Board:
Jerrall Haynes, President JerrallHaynes@spokaneschools.org
Michael Wiser Vice President MikeWiser@spokaneschools.org
Nikki Lockwood NikkiLockwood@spokaneschools.org
Jenny Slagle JennySlagle@spokaneschools.org
Central Valley Schools Superintendent Ben Small email@example.com
Central Valley School District Board:
Keith Clark,, President firstname.lastname@example.org
Debra Long, Vice President email@example.com
Cindy McMullen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Dingus email@example.com
Mysti Reneau firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for your help!
Petra (Petie) Hoy
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Bob Lutz’s Letter:
TO: Spokane County Public School Superintendents
Spokane Private School Administrators
SUBJ: Education for Fall 2020
Since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Snohomish County, Washington on January 21, 2020 and the first confirmed cases in Spokane County on March 14, 2020, almost 60,000 cases have been confirmed at this time in Washington State. Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Health order on March 24, 2020 and the closure of K-12 schools March 12, led to a decline in the rate of disease across much of the state. Eastern Washington never saw the average effective reproductive numbers (Re) fall below 1, however, and since early May, it has continued to rise, as well as across the entire state. With this has come increased rates of infections, especially in younger individuals, such that the rate is now greater than it was during March-April. The Institute of Disease Modeling (IDM) report, Schools are not islands: we must mitigate community transmission to reopen schools, stated “community-wide mitigation efforts must improve significantly such that the effective reproductive number is below 1 at the end of August for schools to reopen in September without triggering exponential growth in COVID-19 burden.”
Spokane County’s COVID-19 profile is comparable to other Washington counties. Prior to Memorial Day weekend, there were 432 confirmed cases; since, 3384 cases (an increase of 783%). The incidence rate as of August 1, 2020 is 209.6/100,000/14 days.
Whereas knowledge of preventing COVID-19 has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, to include evidence supporting the use of cloth face coverings, national experience implementing disease prevention efforts for COVID-19 in the K-12 setting is minimal. Internationally, in-person instruction has been most successfully implemented when incidence rates are low, i.e., ≤25/100/14 days, and decreasing. Given the current high level and upward trajectory of COVID-19 rates in Spokane County, cases and outbreaks in schools will likely occur. These could negatively impact community-wide efforts to lower rates, would impose considerable demands and instability on school operations and conceivably outpace our collective efforts to control the pandemic.
Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Beyond supporting the educational development of children and adolescents, schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequity (AAP). While returning to in-person learning is a shared-goal by SRHD, doing so may come at a significant cost likewise shared by the entire Spokane community, especially our most vulnerable. Based on our rates, the existing science regarding COVID-19, and school reopening, I strongly recommend beginning the year in remote/continuous learning for all students. Consider in-person learning for those who have special health or education needs that cannot be delivered through remote learning.
Bob Lutz, MD, MPH