WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
The world population is 7.8 billion people. The U.S. is 330 million people, making us home to 4 percent of humanity.
The world’s total COVID-19 cases is 20 million and climbing. The U.S. is 5 million and climbing faster than most of the world. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s COVID-19 cases.
The total number of COVID-19 deaths in the world is 733,000. Total U.S. deaths are 166,000. That’s 23 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the world.
Around the world the average COVID-19 death rate is 94 per million. In the US, it’s 500 per million, five times worse than average. Our national claim to exceptionalism is false, unless you count being among the worst as exceptional.
The U.S. death toll by the end of 2020 is projected to go as high as 300,000. In the last five months of the year the U.S. will almost double the number of deaths in the first seven months. While the entire world’s number of dead will also keep rising, the U.S. is on track to keep outpacing every other nation.
There is little need to go on about the abject failure of Trump in this crisis. He will go down in history with the likes of Herbert Hoover, who famously did nothing about the Depression until it was too late for everyone, and the U.S. endured years of despair. In any case, we will decide on Trump’s fate in November.
The most critical decision we will make between now and November is about reopening schools.
K-12 students are generally required to attend, and cannot opt out ¬– unlike college students, who can choose not to return to campus until the pandemic is gone. There is a wide-ranging debate across the nation over if, when, and how K-12 reopening should happen.
And since it’s America, we get to try anything we can think of. But are we thinking first of missed education, or of schools sitting empty, or of the difficulty and compromise in distance schooling? Of parents overwhelmed by trying to be teachers as well as parents?
Assessing the actual risk to the children should be first on our minds, as well as risks to teachers, aides, assistants, staff, bus drivers, and cleaning crews.
I’ve read many different ways to approach the reopening, but the one thing they have in common is that students, faculty, and staff will be placed in situations where they will have daily exposure to the virus.
No amount of planning, or wishing, or praying can make that go away.
Last year 56 million students attended elementary, middle, and high schools across the U.S. The 56 million, along with the 4 million teachers and staff, total 60 million people.
If the U.S. rate of 500 deaths per million continues, we could expect 30,000 deaths among this group – and potentially more deaths among non-teaching husbands and wives, as well as parents and grandparents.
But let’s agree children are less susceptible to COVID-19 and cut that number in half, to 15,000 deaths. Since there are about 13,000 U.S. school districts that’s an average of a little over one child per district.
Of course, poorer districts with poorer families will face much higher risks. But nobody can expect an absence of risk.
That’s the price we have to be willing to pay if we reopen too soon. On average, one child or teacher per school district will die. To me, reopening too soon means before this pandemic is crushed, which is not near.