1st Open Thread of the Restoration, Friday, January 22, 2021


So here we go:

  1. Over bourbon, former SC senators launch new political podcast — Hey, that’s great news, Joel and Vincent! Y’all know, don’t you, that I held the record for most times as a guest on Pub Politics, right? But when you have me on, could we make it dark rum instead? I’ve got a great recipe. Bryan helped me name it. It’s called a “Hugo.” It’s like a Dark and Stormy, except you use Blenheim Ginger Ale instead of boring ginger beer. Because South Carolina. Way better than that Kentucky stuff.
  2. Senate confirms Austin as first Black defense secretary — No, actually, if you check, the Senate confirmed him as defense secretary, not “black defense secretary.” The white guys will report to him, too. Anyway, bottom line, this is good news. I’m looking forward to hearing similar news about Anthony Blinken. Things are taking shape.
  3. Hank Aaron, Baseball’s Legendary Slugger, Dies At 86 — Even on a good week, we have sad news. 715, Hank!
  4. Coronavirus: UK variant ‘may be more deadly’ — This is from the Beeb, and we didn’t really need our friends across the pond to tell us this.
  5. Impeachment Article Against Trump to Be Delivered to Senate Monday — No, no, no, WSJ! We’re going to avoid using that name in headlines this year, OK? Banks are avoiding doing business with him; you can avoid using the name, OK?
  6. Columbia lawyer to represent You-Know-Who at impeachment trial — Oh, come on, Butch! Must you? Can’t you leave it to Giuliani or somebody like that?

86 thoughts on “1st Open Thread of the Restoration, Friday, January 22, 2021

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, he is. Immigration, too. Which scares me a bit, since every previous effort to pass rational immigration law has crashed and burned. But I think the editorial board at The Washington Post is right (“Biden’s bold immigration plan would really put America first“) when they say:

      PRESIDENT BIDEN has served notice that his ambitious immigration plan is in the first rank of his priorities. Some of his program will be immediately implementable; some may get bogged down in Congress, where many Republicans will regard it as an occasion to brandish the word “amnesty,” red meat for their bases. No matter. Mr. Biden’s plan is in keeping with the United States’ best traditions. It responds to the challenge of population stagnation. It would reverse his predecessor’s extravagantly cruel policies. And it is now clear that when it comes to immigration, Mr. Biden is all in.

      That courageous stance was not necessarily expected or politically expedient. Unity was the new president’s campaign theme and inaugural touchstone, yet few issues are as divisive as immigration. His evident readiness to tap his modest reserves of political capital for a slugfest on immigration is a signal that the United States has returned to its roots as a beacon for refugees and a humanitarian role model among nations…

      That’s a great statement from the start, since it starts with “President Biden…” 🙂

      1. Doug Ross

        If a single illegal immigrant gets a path to citizenship before legal H1B visa holders who have followed the law, paid ALL the taxes they owe, and paid thousands of dollars in legal fees, then Joe Biden is a pandering idiot.

        1. Barry

          How many H1B visa holders want citizenship? There are less than 580,000 HB1 visa holders total. An H1B visa is not exactly the best path to citizenship. There are easier pathways such as an EB-5 visa.

          Heck, Trump was trying hard to price H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants out of the market. Thankfully that won’t happen.

          I also like this part of Biden’s plan “ attempt to clear the employment-based visa backlog, eliminate per-country visa caps for green cards, codify work authorization for the spouses of H-1B visa holders, incentivize higher wages for H-1B workers so as not to displace U.S. workers and encourage ways to improve the employment verification process.”

          A comprehensive solution is needed and it’s worth another try at some point.

  1. James Edward Cross

    I understand the sentiment and I know you are an Anglophile. But the “Restoration?” You do know what happened after the one in Jolly Old England, don’t you? People being dethroned and a revolution (even if it was supposed to be “glorious”). We don’t need any more drama. 🙂

    1. Mark Stewart

      Agreed. Let’s all keep our heads down and go about our business.

      Except for Butch, he’s about to have an experience.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I thought about saying “of the New Era,” but that sounded so generic, and not grand enough.

      Also, I liked the movie. It had Polly Walker in it:

      1. randle

        Calling the Biden presidency the Restoration is spot on. Well done, Brad. Like the English in 1660, we tried a different form of government, found it lacking and returned to what worked. In their case, they rejected the constitutional republicanism of Oliver Cromwell and the chaos surrounding it and restored the old order of king, Lords and Commons. In our case, we traded an idiocracy overseen by a malignant, unqualifed huckster, for a return to normalcy with the intelligent, moral and competent Biden administration. So far, our paths are similar.

        We diverge in that our country is not as all in for our restoration as the Brits were for theirs. Even though Charles II “grew up to be lazy and irresolute, prone to follow the course of least resistance, untrustworthy, ungrateful and irreligious,” he was nevertheless joyfully greeted by his countrymen who strewed flowers in his path upon his return, and his reign lasted 25 years. President Biden, a much more worthy man, was inaugurated surrounded by armed soldiers after his predecessor and his supporters had tried to overturn the election. The good news is support for Biden’s call for unity is growing.

        James mentioned that likening our Restoration to England’s might be inviting a repetition of the disruptions England experienced after theirs. But we’re already disrupted to our core; a significant percentage of our population won’t admit that President Biden won the election, including members of Congress; nor are they willing to impeach his predecessor for fomenting a violent attempt to overturn the results – even as they were held hostage by the insurrectionists. Moreover, while England wrestled with factions, religious and political, after the Restoration, the era of civil wars and decapitating kings was done. When James II proved an unacceptable successor to Charles, Parliament invited more suitable monarchs, his daughter Mary and her husband, William, to take the throne. William sailed to England unopposed and landed safely; James panicked and ran away, was captured, brought back and allowed to escape again, as William had no appetite for another royal martyr. Without a shot, a revolution had taken place. Over the next few years, Parliament passed a series of laws that established a limited monarchy with sovereign power residing in the nation. This was the “Glorious Revolution.” The English built a better government on the foundation of the old one; it took 30 years to get it right, but it’s lasted more than three centuries.

        With Biden’s election, we restored our democracy, but we can’t expect smooth sailing from here on out. We have a lot of repair work to do to our institutions, as well as a raging pandemic to get under control an economy to revive. The opposition isn’t loyal. It’s not even committed to democracy. We have deep social divisions, and what separates us is reality. Most of us are living in it, but too many of our fellow citizens have abandoned it. There is a growing threat of domestic terrorism as a result of the disinformation fueling these fantasy worlds. Most challenging of all, we don’t have the luxury of time to fix it. England’s Restoration era lasted for decades; we have an election in two years. The English, always stubborn, kept working on their government after the Restoration until they got it right. Let’s be like them.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Absolutely! Thanks so much, Randle, for your thoughtful and informed commentary, and for your words in praise of my words!

          It is gratifying to have one’s efforts and vision appreciated…


  2. Norm Ivey

    #6: As much as I detest you-know-who and Guliani, I want him to have competent representation so that whatever the outcome, we know it was handled in accordance with our ideals.

  3. Ken

    No. 4: We’re now at over 400,000 deaths, on track to perhaps equal or exceed the 675,000 deaths in the Great Pandemic of 1918-19. And still this state is largely failing to take it seriously — in particular it’s so-called governor does little to control it. Instead it’s: Commerce shall take precedence.

  4. Doug T

    I can’t remember why but Hank Aaron was my favorite player when I was a kid, even when the Braves were in Milwaukee.

    My uncle took me to a Dodgers game while our family visited L.A. way back in 1965 (we listened to “Satisfaction” and What’s New Pussy Cat” at least a thousand times driving out and back).

    The Dodgers were playing the Braves. Hank and Rico Carty hit HRs. I still have the scorecard and a small folding schedule of the 1965 Dodgers. Only regret I didn’t see Drysdale or Koufax.

    1. Bob Amundson

      My wife watched this and cried. I wrote the following for me, for us, and shared it on my Facebook page.

      “There is some interesting Facebook/Social Media “chatter” among (ex) President Trump supporters; some are complaining about the first two days of the President Biden administration, and others are giving some statistics about the current economy and warning that we’ll be worse off in 4 years. I spent several years providing direct services (protection) to abused children, women, and vulnerable adults, and I want to make two points. First, perpetrators often use two strategies, the “see what has happened already (gloom)” and the “see what will happen (doom),” to manipulate their victim. If you don’t get it, I’m not going to waste my time trying to help you get it.

      “Second, when I moved from direct service delivery into the administration of these social services, I soon felt a sense of relief; I was vicariously traumatized. Since the election, I have noticed a change in my “affect” (emotional state). I realized this morning I’d been through this before, that I was feeling a sense of relief after being vicariously traumatized the past 4 years.

      “#snowflake or #socialjusticewarrior. Those that know me well know the answer.”

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Very nice, Mike! I enjoyed it…

        The only thing that might have made it better would be if it had had Toby in it! Maybe Joe could appoint Richard Schiff to something — I don’t know what, maybe chairman of the “Commission on Cool TV Shows” — and then he could be in the video…

  5. Bryan Caskey

    Richland One is still refusing to allow any in-person school for any students whatsoever, with no end in sight. Meanwhile every private school in the midlands is having kids in class five days a week if they want, not to mention RICHLAND TWO is having kids in class five days a week if they want. All without any outbreaks.

    There’s no possible “science” that supports Richland One refusing to allow any in-person option whatsoever while Richland Two is offering a full in-person option. Richland One District is refusing to allow any choice. Richland One is the worst led school district in the state, which is a shame since we have some really great teachers.

    1. Ken

      Just because you’re frustrated with having kids at home rather than out of your hair doesn’t mean you get to decide what science says. For example, studies in the UK suggest that one of the main reasons for the explosive spread of the new variant there was the fact that while much else was closed schools remained open. Studies prior to those showed that though school students themselves don’t tend to suffer greatly when they contract the virus, they definitely do serve as vectors in passing it on to other populations. This is settled science. So stop spreading garbage.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      You know, I have lots of strong opinions about lots of things, but not the question of “Should the kids be back in school?”

      Or rather, I’d like to see the kids back in school, but I don’t know the best way to accomplish it. We see all kinds of schools and districts taking all kinds of approaches, and you can easily see problems with every one of them.

      I just don’t know. You’re dealing with it more personally, but to the extent that it’s an operative question in my family, I still don’t know. Two of my grandchildren are back in in-person classes, after several weeks at home at the start of the school year. Two other grandchildren are still doing classes remotely. I don’t know which is better.

      I can see, knowing them, that some respond better one way or another. I have at least one grandchild for whom distance learning was disastrous — it just wasn’t going to happen. Others, I suspect, could do school from home for the rest of the way through K-12 and learn just fine.

      But in terms of overall policy, I just don’t know.

      On the national level, Joe says he wants to reopen schools as quickly as possible. I’m like, “Fine, but how?”

      1. Barry

        I have 2 at home, and 1 in college.

        The 2 at home attend schools in different districts. My high schooler has been at home since the start of the school year and is going to go back to in person in Feb (Start of new semester). I think he prefers to be at home but he’s had his hands full taking honors classes at home. He’s working 6 days a week – and sometimes 7 to get all his work done. That’s our fault though for letting him sign up for 4 honors classes in the same semester. (He prefers to be at home but looking at the numbers at his high school, we think he needs to go back, especially since his work load will be lighter this 2nd semester and he’ll be taking a hands on computer repair class. That’s impossible virtually.

        My middle schooler has been at home most all year but her district allows a hybrid so she’s going some and staying home some. Seems to be working out well. But I think she prefers to be at school.

        My wife is a teacher. She likes virtual – for awhile- and then she wants to be back at school.

        I think teaching virtually is tougher and more work though. She’s often sitting at our dining room table “online” by 7am when some students might be online asking questions. She’s also often “online” until after 5pm answering questions are doing tutoring sessions. I’ve had to ask her, a number of times, to stop working and let it go for the day. But it’s hard when students are emailing her asking her to get online to show them something they don’t understand. That didn’t happen before the pandemic- but the students are now use to being “online” with the teacher so they don’t hesitate to email her at 8pm at night asking her to get online for a few minutes to help them. It is what it is.

        She works a lot – A LOT- harder than I do – and makes 50% of what I make. But she doesn’t complain about that. But I do.

        She’s back at school this week in the classroom not even half full of students – and also doing stuff virtually for those kids that aren’t at school.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          “I think teaching virtually is tougher and more work though.”

          I can totally confirm that. My daughter’s first grade teacher is working her behind off doing twice the logistics to get the remote learning for the kids. I guarantee you she didn’t become a first grade teacher to do it remotely. She wants to be in-person. That’s where all the learning happens in first grade. It’s more work for her with less results for the kids.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        Here’s what Anthony Fauci said: Fauci addressed the school issue in an interview a little while back, saying that spread “among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected. So let’s try to get the kids back, but let’s try to mitigate the things that maintain and just push the kind of community spread that we’re trying to avoid,” he said.

        You can also look at the data. Since the beginning of this school year, the private schools in Columbia and lots of other public school districts in Richland and Lexington County have been going back in-person without any outbreaks. You would expect to see roughly the same amount of positive cases in a school that you do in the general population, statistically speaking. There aren’t any outbreaks here. Richland 2 is using specific data from schools, as opposed to statewide data, which is what Richland One is doing. I can’t see the wisdom in using statewide data for Richland One. Who cares if there are lots of positive cases in Greenville or Spartanburg, when we’re talking about students in Richland One?

        Here’s a study on “The Effects of School Reopening on COVID-19 Hospitalizations” from Tulane University that just came out.

        “Our results suggest that school re-openings have not increased COVID-19 hospitalizations, especially for the 75 percent of counties that had the lowest baseline hospitalizations.”

        There is a lot of data out there that allowing students to come back to the classroom in-person (if they wish) does not have significant negative effects. However, having students continue without an in-person option has known negative effects, especially for younger students, and these factors are being essentially discounted by everyone who is against in-person schooling options.

        There is going to be a huge wave effect that we will be experiencing for years to come as students move through school with basically two years of school lost. The students who were already border-line students for reading and math at an early age, with less family support will be the hardest hit. They have fallen farther behind students like my kids who have all the advantages of parents who can stay home, parents who supplement school work, and parents who ensure learning happens no matter what. Not every student in Richland One has these advantages. There are lots of students in Richland One that don’t have broadband access. I have no idea how kids without broadband are doing Zoom and MS Teams everyday.

        There are students who are at a higher risk of abuse and neglect, but because they aren’t in school, the abuse and neglect goes unnoticed by the school staff who are all mandatory reporters.

        1. Ken

          Thanks for a demonstration of your own confirmation bias.

          Sorry to have to burst the bubble you’ve living in, but cutting and pasting a Fauci quote (which isn’t accurate, by the way: there is NO DIFFERENCE between spread among adults and among school-aged kids), doing a little Google “research” and throwing in some of your own anecdotal observations isn’t science. It just isn’t.

          The real problem here is that closing schools to in-person instruction while leaving practically everything else open isn’t a balanced or viable means of containing the virus. But the answer isn’t to open the schools. It’s to close down most in-person commerce. And the answer for those students who are falling behind is to put even more effort (and, yes, money) into making online instruction work better and then redoubling efforts to catch them up once the danger has passed. But this state, as well as this country generally, simply is not taking the pandemic very seriously. So I’m not too sanguine about any of that happening.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            “It’s to close down most in-person commerce.”

            What would you like to close down that is currently open?

          2. Bryan Caskey

            “And the answer for those students who are falling behind is to put even more effort (and, yes, money) into making online instruction work better…”

            What’s your plan for kids who live in homes that don’t have high-speed internet?

            What’s your plan for kids who live in homes where the parents don’t care enough to make sure their kids log onto the program?

            What’s your plan for the single mother who can’t stay home because she has to work, so she leaves her 8 year old with her mother, who has no idea how to work Microsoft Teams and just lets the girl color and watch television?

          3. Bryan Caskey

            I guess a new study to be published in the American Journal of Pediatrics on COVID transmission in NC schools shows no reported child-to-adult transmission isn’t “science” for you, either. 🙂

            Organizations involved include Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University School of Medicine, Duke’s Department of Pediatrics and Department of Population Health Sciences, the ABC Science Collaborative, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine.

            The study spanned 11 school districts and nearly 100,000 students and staff that were open for nine weeks of in-person instruction. The researchers tracked secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, and found that “within-school infections were extremely rare.”

            “In the first 9 weeks of in-person instruction in NC schools, we found extremely limited within-school secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2, as determined by contact tracing,” the study’s conclusion states.

            The study also found “No instances of child-to adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2 were reported within schools.”

            1. Ken

              And based on that I suppose you conclude that our peers in Europe must be idiots with no understanding of science. Because many of them have closed schools again — along with most everything else. Several weeks ago, Cindi Scoppe held them up as models of how to handle schools in this time of pandemic. If that held true then, it should so now as well.

              Schools cannot be viewed in isolation. They must be viewed in the context of the larger community. Where and when community spread is low, having schools open is not so much an issue. Where and when community spread is high — as it is now here in SC and across much of the country — keeping schools open is real concern.

              If you look at the 7-day average of new cases per 100,000, the US currently lies near the top of the list, smack dab between the UK and Ireland. But in contrast to the US, both of those countries are in strict lockdowns, including school closures.

              Now maybe Guv. McMaster is right and SC really is such a special place that it doesn’t need to be bothered with doing the things others are doing to keep people safe. Then again, maybe we’ve just gotten inured to the high number of new cases (like we’ve gotten used to seeing so many fat people) that we think it’s “normal.”

              It’s not.

              1. Doug Ross

                Your biased partisanship is showing, troll. Why not stick the fingers you use to write anonymous comments on a blog read by about 11 people into your ears and say “Nah, nah, I can’t hear you!!!” Would be about as effective and mature as your rants.

          4. Bryan Caskey

            Does the Director of the CDC count as “science” for you,?

            “You know, I was very disappointed in New York when they closed schools, when they hit their 3% point, because, as you pointed out, we now have substantial data that shows that schools’ face-to-face learning can be conducted in K-12, and particularly in the elementary and middle schools in a safe and responsible way,” Redfield said.

            1. Ken

              For your reading pleasure:


              In this study, published in The Lancet, 131 countries were examined and it concluded that “Reopening schools was associated with a 24-per-cent increase in R after 28 days,” where “R represents the average number of people each person with Covid-19 goes on to infect.”


          5. Bryan Caskey

            What about UNICEF? I hear they’re really right-wing, science deniers. 🙂

            Data from 191 countries shows no consistent link between reopening schools and increased rates of coronavirus infection, UNICEF reported in an analysis Thursday.

            In releasing its first comprehensive assessment of the pandemic’s effects on children, the United Nations agency said “there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them.”

            “Schools are not a main driver of community transmission, and children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings,” UNICEF said.

            1. Barry

              My daughter is in middle school. She is learning to play the sax and likes it but this year trying to do band classes at home has really set her back and has set the entire band program way back.

              I can help her as I’ve payed trumpet for decades. But I don’t play the sax. So it is Not much help,

    3. Norm Ivey

      I almost hate to wander into this fray, but…

      As a classroom teacher, I would much prefer to be face-to-face, but even all virtual is preferable to what I’m doing. This combination of F2F and virtual is overwhelming in terms of prep and management. And I only have a couple F2F. Some teachers have a dozen in class and another dozen at home.

      I am convinced that with normally healthy students and teachers, the risk can be managed. The devil is in the details. There are many teachers who have real risk factors, and forcing them into a congregate situation where many students will not wear a mask properly or practice good hygiene seems fraught.

      I don’t know what R1’s decision making process is, but using statewide data to make the decision isn’t practical. R2 is taking a more nuanced approach, but since November, there have been many teachers and students in quarantine off and on, further complicating everything. When a teacher is out and perhaps teaching from home, you still need personnel in the classroom with F2F kids.

      Whichever data you choose, what the school boards are really faced with comes down to this: Do we want to open up and where a single child contracts the disease resulting in serious complications or even death? Unlikely as it may be, when faced with that choice, I can understand the reluctance to open.

      1. Doug Ross

        You cannot use the “a single child” rationale. You don’t manage risk based on extreme outliers.

        1. Norm Ivey

          I’m not saying it’s right or reasonable. I’m just saying that if faced with making that decision, many people would choose to err on the side of safety and self-interest.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            It would be great if parents would be allowed a choice. In Richland One, parents don’t get any choice whatsoever right now. You can have any choice you want as long as it’s 100% via computer.

            It reminds me of the old line from Henry Ford about the Model T: “You can have any color as long as it’s black.” It’s one of the most famous quotes attributed to Henry Ford – which was his retort to customers asking about color choices for the Model T.

            We’ll see if Richland One listens to parents, and we’ll see how parents feel about it. We just got a survey from Richland one about online learning vs. in-person preferences. We’ll see what parents want the district to do.

              1. randle

                With the highly contagious South African mutation here, and SC making it into the top five most dangerous places to live because of the governor’s bungling of the Covid virus, Richland 1 might want to recalibrate again.

      2. Barry

        My wife’s team leader is staying out of work now because her dad has COPD. She can’t risk catching it at all.

      3. Bryan Caskey

        Yesterday the CDC issued a report stating there was little evidence teachers face a significant risk of getting the virus at school. In fact, the spread of COVID in schools appears to match the rate in the community at large. It appears be lower than the community level in elementary and middle schools. One study in North Carolina found that after 9 weeks of in-person classes there was not a single case of students passing the virus to a faculty member.

        1. Ken

          A bit too much has been made of this report. I can easily imagine some people looking at the headline and concluding that schools are safe, so let’s re-open!

          1) The report is labelled a “Viewpoint” piece; it explicitly states that it represents the views of the authors only and is not the official position of the CDC.

          2) The language used in the article is careful. It does not draw definitive conclusions from the data, instead it says that the data “suggests” this or that. It carefully notes that while schools may have not “contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” there have nevertheless been large outbreaks at some schools.

          3) More importantly, it does not say that schools are magical safe spaces. It says that compared with other high-density settings, schools have not seen the kind of rapid and widespread transmission that other of these types of settings (like long-term care facilities, prisons or meat-processing plants) have had.

          4) It directly links opening schools to measures that need to be taken in the communities they are part of: “Preventing transmission in school settings will require addressing and REDUCING levels of transmission in the surrounding communities through policies to interrupt transmission” (such as limiting indoor dining and other other things).

          6) Lastly, the article says that mitigation measures will have to be in place: “requiring universal face mask use, increasing physical distance by dedensifying classrooms and common areas, using hybrid attendance models when needed to limit the total number of contacts and prevent crowding, increasing room air ventilation, and expanding screening testing to rapidly identify and isolate asymptomatic infected individuals. Staff and students should continue to have options for online education, particularly those at increased risk of severe illness or death if infected with SARS-CoV-2.”

          If all these things are done — both in schools AND in the community at large — THEN it may be possible to open schools.

            1. Ken

              “….understanding that this is NOT an easy issue,” says Fauci.

              So please don’t make it one.

              There have to be trade-offs. Tell us what sort of measures/restrictions/closures elsewhere in the community that you would like to see so that schools can re-open or stay open.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                “There have to be trade-offs. Tell us what sort of measures/restrictions/closures elsewhere in the community that you would like to see so that schools can re-open or stay open.”

                I don’t really follow your thought there. Are you saying that closing something else (for instance an Ace hardware store) will affect transmission rates in schools?

                It’s clear that wearing masks, distancing, hand-washing, and cleaning are the right things to do. It’s been demonstrably effective in the schools that are doing it.

                What are your kids doing for their school?

                1. Ken

                  You apparently did not read what the report or what I excerpted above. So I’ll quote it again here for your convenience:

                  “Preventing transmission in school settings will require addressing and REDUCING levels of transmission in the surrounding communities through policies to interrupt transmission” (like limiting indoor dining and other restrictions).

                  So yeah, these things ARE connected. The report said that schools were not INCREASING community spread. It did NOT say that they had no impact on community spread. And the converse applies as well: Schools are affected by what goes on in the surrounding communities.

                  So I repeat: What do you want to restrict/close in order to make it safer to open schools or keep them from closing?

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “So I repeat: What do you want to restrict/close in order to make it safer to open schools or keep them from closing?”

                    Sure: having fewer people in places, socially distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands.

        2. Ken

          Just to add: in a state with a daily incidence rate between 3000 and 4000 and a positivity rate of 25%, throwing open schools remains a questionable proposition.

          1. Barry

            I’m not really arguing either side of this but I will say it’s important to note that our state is not the healthiest state in the country.

            I’ve been stunned to hear people talk about how many teachers and students have health issues at my daughter’s middle school

            I think sometimes, if our children are healthy, we don’t realize how many children are out there going to school that are not very healthy.

            I know several of my daughter’s teachers have fairly serious chronic issues. I’ve been surprised to hear about some of those this year when otherwise I would’ve never even thought about it

            I would imagine in some districts the situation could be even more concerning

            1. Ken

              Yes, and one of the main health issues in this state — as it is across the South generally — is obesity. But like I said elsewhere, so many people are overweight (including kids and young adults), that obesity starts to look “normal.”

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          Since y’all are still talking about this, I thought I’d share with you David Brooks’ latest column, “Children Need to Be Back in School Tomorrow.”

          It starts out:

          There’s a wave of anti-intellectualism sweeping America. There are people across the country who deny evidence, invent their own facts and live in their own fantasyland. We saw it in the Republicans who denied the reality of the Biden election victory and we see it now in the teachers unions that are shutting down schools and marring children’s lives.

          What are the facts when it comes to Covid-19 and schooling?

          The first fact is that remote learning is a disaster, especially for disadvantaged students.

          I recommend an article Alec MacGillis wrote for ProPublica last fall on how things were going for students in Baltimore. It paints a finely grained portrait of chaos: online classes in which almost no students show up, schedules rearranged at the last minute, Zoom links that are inaccessible. The 12-year-old boy at the center of the piece was passionate about school before the pandemic, but by last fall he was talking about school in the past tense.

          The broader data on school closure is horrendous. Mental health problems have increased. Many children have simply vanished from official oversight. Schools in Hillsborough County, Fla., started the year missing 7,000 students….

          I guess that includes me, in a way. I attended Robinson High School, which is in Tampa, and therefore in Hillsborough, in the 10th and 11th grades…

          1. Bryan Caskey

            There’s clear evidence from around the world that classrooms don’t add significantly to the spread of COVID so long as basic precautions (masks, distancing, handwashing, etc.) are taken.

            There’s going to be a big price to pay for kids who haven’t been in school for a year. The longer it goes, the bigger the price. And it’s the kids who are going to pay it.

            1. Ken

              Then please explain why many schools are closed across Europe right now.

              Are new infections there consistently higher than in the US? (Hint: the 7-day average for new cases per 100,000 of population is currently at around 30 in the EU and around 50 in the US.)

              Have they stopped believing in science? I don’t think so.

              More broadly, there’s a reason why the US is 5% of the world’s population but accounts for 25% of the world’s cases.
              It’s broad societal and governmental failure to take the virus seriously.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                “Then please explain why many schools are closed across Europe right now.”

                I have no idea. Shutting down schools should be a last resort. It should be when we are at DEFCON 1. It shouldn’t be the case that schools are closed and other things are open.

                1. Ken

                  We ARE at DEFCON 1. We’ve been at it since November. Just because lots of folks aren’t taking matters that seriously doesn’t make it right.

                2. Scout

                  You’re right. Other things should not be open based on the level of community spread. But McMaster is a panderer who doesn’t care about people. Our hospitals are close to maxed out and we have 30% positivity and we have the South African variant here. We are definately at Def Con 1. We should not have unrestricted indoor dining. That is insane.

            2. Ken

              And as far as your comment that got this whole thing rolling:

              “There’s no possible ‘science’ that supports Richland One refusing to allow any in-person option….”

              I’ll just offer this recent comment from one of the world’s leading virologists specializing in Coronaviruses:

              “…the school situation is serious. You can clearly see that there is a considerable incidence of infections in schools. That’s something you just have to acknowledge. Everything else you hear at the moment is really just noise. We have good data from England that tell us that, especially in the years above elementary school, more infections occur in schools than in the general population. The Reaction 1 study shows this very clearly.”

              THAT’s the science you said couldn’t possibly exist.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                My full statement was: “There’s no possible “science” that supports Richland One refusing to allow any in-person option whatsoever while Richland Two is offering a full in-person option.

                You left out the part in bold, which is important to understand the point.

                They both are adjacent to each other in the same population center. They have similar groups of people, who interact with each other in settings other than schools (church, friends, other groups). It can’t be the case that Richland One is making a decision supported by data while at the same time Richland Two is making the opposite decision.

                They’re making different policy decisions based on the exact same facts. That was my point.

                1. Ken

                  Your mistake was assuming, based on personal preferences, that Richland One looked at the facts and made the wrong decision while Richland Two made the right one. But the science may actually argue the opposite. In any case, the “science” you want to see as black vs. white isn’t necessarily that cut and dry. But the science definitely exists that shows that schools play a role in the spread of the virus.

                2. Scout

                  Your statement does not necessarily make sense. Perhaps Richland 1 is following the science and Richland 2 is not. I know nothing about their process, so I’m not saying that is the case, but it is certainly possible for districts to ignore scientific advice. Mine did.

                  Maybe what you mean is it’s not possible for both these districts to make such opposite decisions based on the same data if they both are following what science recommends.

                  That may or not be true also though. Depends on their resources, which could be different. Maybe Richland I knows they don’t have the resources to put all the recommended precautions in place – based on science – and maybe Richland 2 has more resources and thinks they can. That would make it possible for one to offer an in person option and the other not, given the same data and science.

                  These are complicated questions. All the recommendations I’ve read do not recommend any in person school when your positivity is as incredibly high as ours is now.

                  Ranging between 25 – 33% is not good.

                3. Scout

                  In fact, Richland I has a per capita income $27,420, median household income $44,248, % persons living below poverty line 24.5%, and % children living in poverty 34%.

                  Richland 2 has a per capita income $34,749, median household income $61,512, % persons living below poverty line 11.2%, and % children living in poverty 17%.

                  Very different resources and student population. That affects the decisions you are able to make. Most likely alot more of those 34% of children living in poverty in Richland I live in multi generational small homes and are raised by with grandparents. Those usually correlate with poverty.

          2. Barry

            ONE positive of the pandemic is the sudden realization for some (and I don’t mean anyone on this blog) that public education is important.

            I’ve never seen so many conservative politicians talk about the need and value of public education in my life.

            Sure, a lot of them still look at teachers as nothing buy babysitters and an alternative to child care, but at least they were talking about the need for something related to education in a positive light.

            1. Barry

              However, after listening to some talk radio around the state the last week or so – mainly right wing talk radio because that’s what you have in South Carolina- the disdain for teachers from some on the far right is obvious.

        4. Scout

          I personally know of a case in one of my schools where it appears to have been passed from student to teacher. Kindergarten aged student to older teacher. Luckily she appears to be OK.

          What % positive was going on in NC in that study? I’m gonna guess it wasn’t 30%.

  6. bud

    I’m like Brad, I don’t really have a firm opinion on the kids back to school issue. But everyone has made well thought out arguments. We need more discussions like this.

    1. Barry

      We have more important things to deal with in the general assembly, like passing a new law that will be immediately stayed by the courts.

  7. Scout

    Well I’m late to this discussion.

    My district is doing 4 days a week face to face for Elementary. We have been doing this since October. We did not cut back after Thanksgiving or after Christmas – we went straight through staying 4 days face to face. We started the year with 2 days a week face to face. The board’s advisory council that studies the data recommended that we stay 2 day a week for longer and then recommended that we go virtual after Thanksgiving until a few weeks Christmas, but the board wouldn’t do it.

    I work with preschoolers with disabilities – who don’t understand mask wearing and will not keep a mask on and who you have to be physically close to to keep them safe and do your job. Many of them need hand over hand teaching – that is how they learn since many are nonverbal and do not yet understand and follow directions well or at all.

    The district publishes data on the cases and rates within the district. You can see them on the website. The levels were fairly low through November and started going up after Thanksgiving and now are double what they were October – November. In terms of percent, around .4 % of the face to face student population is positive right now, and 1.2 % of teachers are positive right now. This equates to 5% of student population and 5% of teachers having to quarantine because of these exposures. Anecdotally, it is much more noticable. I go to multiple schools and now all my schools have some infected teachers and some quarentined classes. It used to be rare.

    I am conflicted about the whole thing. I can wholly and completely see both sides of the issue. I do know that young children need hands on learning and virtual just really doesn’t work well for most of them, especially the students I see, in addition to the problem that many students don’t have access anyway. I really really understand this.

    On the other hand, I also know that many of our students live in multi generational households with a lot of people in small spaces and many are raised by grandparents. I know that not being in school is detrimental – but so is the trauma and disruption of losing a close family member, which being in school could conceivably increase the risk of for these families.

    I tend to think that children on the whole are resilient and that we can probably catch them up if we are all here to do it. Especially given that this is happening to all of them (though I do very much appreciate that they aren’t all equally affected, given their circumstances) – but if we had to have a do over year for everybody – for good measure – so that even if you didn’t need it academically, you could get your year of lost sports back, lost senior activities, etc – would that be terrible? There should not be a stigma to repeating a grade if it happened to everyone. And bonus – potentially more of us would be around. I dunno – just thinking out loud. There are no good answers here.

    For me personally, it is extremely nerve wracking. I’m constantly afraid that I’m going to bring it home to my husband or my parents who all have more risk factors than I do. I’ve been tested 5 times since November – 5 of the classrooms I go into have been shut down for quarantine at various times. I’ve never been considered a close contact, but I have been made aware that I taught an entire 30 minute lesson in one of my classrooms while the aide was positive and infectious (and this happened to be a person who lets their nose poke out of their mask) – I only wasn’t a close contact because I was not within 6 feet of this person for more than 15 minutes (presumably – I mean we all move around alot and we aren’t wearing any sort of tracking device – is 10 feet for 30 minutes any better?). So I was still concerned. In another case, I see a pair of siblings. They both came to school on a Monday; Tuesday sister is out sick but brother is at school, and I see him for a one on one session for 30 minutes – he is one of these 3 year old non mask wearing types. We are on the floor working on joint attention. I do not tend to remember to monitor my distance at these times; I kind of get engrossed in what I’m doing. Wednesday we find out sister has tested positive. So since sister was having symptoms on Tuesday, she was potentially contagious Sunday or earlier, while hanging out with brother, who I hung out with on Tuesday. I was concerned. Though I wasn’t considered a close contact there either, since he wasn’t a confirmed positive case at the time. Still I know enough to worry. There have been a few other such cases – they are becoming more frequent. I have on 2 occasions so far felt it best to sleep upstairs and wear masks in the house all the time to keep my husband safe until enough time passed to get tested.

    I’m not complaining. I’m doing it. I want to be with the kids. But it is stressful.

    I appreciate the science and I want to believe it is true. I don’t know that it is not true – but here are my concerns. I don’t see how we can know that it is not spreading asymptomatically among children if we are not doing any sort of random testing of the school population – and we aren’t (in my district or in SC, to my knowledge). The science seems to say that children are more likely when they have it to have mild cases and/or be asymptomatic. And since we aren’t doing any random testing – we could well be missing being aware of the level of disease among school children, because mild or asymptomatic cases are not going to prompt many parents to go to the doctor and get them tested. And that is the only way we would find out about it with no random testing. The cases absolutely are going up – is that because of community spread – it’s entirely possible. Is it also possible that asymptomatic spread among school children is driving part of it – I don’t know how we can know without more data and I think it is possible. The early study that came out around the time we were returning to school that concluded that children don’t pass it to adults was not convincing to me. It was based entirely on observational data with questionable assumptions among children that were not in school. I have not had time to look at these recent studies that Bryan has posted – obviously now since many people have been in school, there is more opportunity to study it – but what did they look at? Did they do random testing or just measure the rate of positives that came to light through other means (i.e. essentially measure the rate of symptomatic positives – which could be the tip of the iceberg)?

    I’ve also heard that there is some evidence that the newer variants do spread easier among children – did any of Bryan’s studies look at these. If not, the question is not settled.

    I do know that when the CDC says that we can return to school safely, they do so with the caveat that community spread not be too high and that certain measures are in place – mask wearing, social distancing, and testing. We are not doing the testing, and it is really difficult to do proper social distancing when you have all the kids in the building. That is just the logistical truth. Probably private schools with lower class sizes can manage that easier. And also community spread is very high.

    And now we have the South African variant. Fabulous.

    I want to be in school with the kids but it would certainly help my anxiety if we were actually following all the recommendations.

    Parents like Bryan, have you tried reaching out to the Governor and asking him why when our positivity is 30% he has not restricted indoor dining in any way. I think there is way more evidence for the correlation to high community spread there than schools. But people would feel much more willing to go back to school if community spread went down. That is possibly one way to accomplish it.

    Maybe Biden and Fauci will call Henry up and discuss it with him now that we won the lottery to get the bad variant first.

    1. Ken

      God speed you in your efforts with the children you serve.

      But I have to wonder: If schools were open, would all the children who need help actually be getting it? My point here is: Are many of the people who are blaming school closings for kids falling behind simply using those kids as a kind of “human shield” to hide their real concern: getting their own kids out of their hair? Could it be that many of the folks clamoring to re-open schools wouldn’t give a damn about kids falling behind if there were no pandemic and schools were operating normally?

  8. bud

    Nothing is free of risk. Sending kids back to school is just not risk free. But neither is continuing to teach kids on line. Let’s put the teachers at the head of the line for vaccination. Then make major modifications to the schooling experience like spreading out meal time. Then perhaps split the day teaching half the kids 7-1. The other half in afternoon session 2-7. Eliminate busing. But we should above all we should not expect a panacea.

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