Strategic Withdrawal

20 November 2020


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

New York City Schools Go Completely Remote


New York City had to end its attempt at in-person learning yesterday in its public schools. The move affects 300,000 children as another 800,000 were learning entirely by computer. The arrangement was that schools could have kids show up so long as the postivity rate remained below 3% in the city. It has crossed that threshold, and Mayor Bill De Blasio was quick to shut them. Meanwhile, bars and restaurants remain open. Yet it is only a matter of time before the entire city closes down more tightly. As New York goes, so goes the nation.

On October 1, this journal concluded an article with "The Second Battle of New York [the First being the spring outbreak] has begun, and the course of the war against Covid-19 in America will be decided in the five boroughs. The Few in the RAF won the Battle of Britain. It will be the Many in the NY public schools who will win this battle. Most of them don't know how much rides on their little shoulders."

The closure of the schools in New York is not a defeat. If anything, it proved that schools can operate if things are done correctly. While the city's positivity rate surged, the rate in the schools themselves was a barely measurable 0.2%. The kids are safer in school than outside. The little soldiers did a splendid job as did the staffs of the schools.

However, driving the closure was the agreement made over the summer among the authorities, educational unions and parent groups that a 3% rate in the city would justify the move. There is nothing special about 3%. It was an arbitrary benchmark. Some accommodation for the fact that the schools had such a low rate, but the deed is now done. In order to keep the agreement that ensures all parties will continue to act in good faith, the kids were withdrawn from the battlefield. It was more a strategic withdrawal than a defeat. The closure now ensures that re-opening will occur with a minimum of rancour.

The fact that bars and restaurants continue to operate at 25% capacity indoors is an anomaly. As one wag put it, "my kids are able to continue algebra class at the corner bar." The authorities are trying to keep businesses afloat at a time when there is no financial support coming from Washington, and from a medical stand point it is foolish. However, the city authorities face political pressure from business to try keeping things operating at some level.

The sad fact is that it will not work. Restaurants and bars require patrons to go maskless. It is rather difficult to dine if one's mouth is covered. Indoor space is more dangerous than outdoor space. In California or Hawaii, outdoor dining remains appealling year-round. New York City in January is hardly the place for a dinner al fresco. Eventually, people will go indoors, and then the virus will spread and that will be that. It is the same pattern as the 1918 Spanish Flu.

How bad is it going to get? The New York Times reported this morning, "While cases are surging, epidemiologists and public health experts do not expect the second wave to be as bad as the first, when ambulance sirens filled the air, emergency rooms overflowed with patients, and more than 20,000 New York City residents died. But there is growing concern."

The fact that the New York authorities are willing to act does give some reason to believe things will not be as bad as April and May were. In places where the government takes a laissez-faire approach, the autumn will be worse. The vaccines will arrive in the spring as will the ability to move back outside for many activities. With sufficient logistical expertise, next autumn may see things back to the way they once were, or close to it. First, though, the nation needs to get through the next couple of months.

Among the first signs that the corner has truly been rounded is likely to be the reopening of New York's schools. Winter break is scheduled for late February. One expects a reopening to happen shortly after that, and not a second before..

© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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