36. A fulcrum seemed crossed by March 15, as fifty-three countries had shuttered schools, and many more had done so selectively, if the extent of such closures continued to intensify in the United States with a rapidity that responded not to the global pandemic, but the intensification of fears, and the lack of a nationwide policy.
And within two weeks of the first school closure responded to fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus grew with no public policy in place. As no declaration of the global pandemic as a national emergency for a period of two months after screening all passengers arrival on flights from China, no model for containment or testing had been developed.
37. In America, schools seemed to be particularly low-hanging fruit in America for the Republican Party: although some mayor’s, as New York’s Bill deBlasio, rebuked the urging of the city’s own Health Department to move to contain the virus’ spread, the fear of community spread of the disease that was only illustrated in March became the basis for triggering school closures across the board. Although there were shortages in protective equipment in hospitals, and no policy about health workers becoming infected, or, indeed, the reporting of illnesses in nursing homes, the site of the school had been identified as something like a ‘super-spreader’ of COVID-19 in ways that made them particularly low-hanging fruit.
The preferred national protocol for non-pharmaceutic interventions arose amidst fears of the spread of avian bird flue and H1N1 that might leave the nation paralyzed: schools were quickly identified as an especially important environment able to foster a virus like SARS-CoV-2; the inherited models of network theory prioritized school closure as a non-pharmaceutic public intervention among the improvised team of medical advisors to the White House back in 2008 charged to think “outside the box” to develop new solutions. But perhaps the thoughts were so far outside the box that the effects of school closures on students–and on learning communities–were not taken into account, in the way that the spread of the novel coronavirus has created.
As testing sites emerged in improvised form in New York City, their locations in churches in addition to public housing testing sites, designed to serve minorities who were increasingly understood to be disproportionately ffectd by COVID-19–black and latino populations being dominant in most all the ZIP codes of high levels of infection and hospitalization, as if to recuperate the longstanding role of the church as a site of community. Have we failed in not exploiting the role of the school as a community center, able to be used as powerful outreach sites?