Wednesday, March 25, 2020

1889 Institute: closing public schools for remainder of year is a gross overreaction


1889 Institute: Statement regarding Hofmeister's proposal to keep schools closed

The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma think tank, has released the following statement regarding Joy Hofmeister’s proposal to keep schools closed for the remainder of the school year. Byron Schlomach, Institute Director, can be contacted directly at bschlomach@1889institute.org.

We at the 1889 Institute consider Joy Hofmeister’s proposal to close Oklahoma’s schools for the rest of the school year a gross overreaction to the coronavirus situation. Even in the best of times and circumstances, suddenly shifting every student in the state from traditional classrooms to online distance learning will have negative educational consequences. This in addition to the economic burden on two-earner families forced to completely reorder their lives with schools closed.

We believe many of our leaders have overreacted to worst-case scenarios presented by well-intended health experts with no training or sense of proportion in weighing the collateral damage of shutting down our economy versus targeting resources to protect the truly vulnerable. We say reopen the schools and stop the madness. Only truly vulnerable students and staff should stay home.

Our position is buttressed by Dr. David L. Katz, a specialist in preventive medicine and public health, president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. In a recent New York Times editorial, he suggested a more surgical approach given that the current actions shutting down our society and economy are likely worse than the disease. He suggests only those over 75, and other high-risk individuals, shelter in place. Everyone else should take sanitation precautions, practice social distancing, and carry on normally, with those over 60 being especially careful.

No children less than 10 years old have been documented to have died from Covid-19. Yet, the response on the part of local and national leaders has been as if every individual is at mortal risk and grossly disproportionate to the danger. The same point has been made by Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, co-director of Stanford’s Meta-Research Innovation Center and professor of medicine, biomedical data science, statistics, and epidemiology and population health of Stanford University. His data analysis indicates that the response to Covid-19 may well be “a fiasco in the making.”

We should follow the advice of Dr. Katz and have truly vulnerable populations shelter themselves while the rest of us carry on our daily lives and provide for the vulnerable, with resources readily available but for hoarding caused by some leaders’ overreactions. This approach would maximize protection for those truly at risk while minimizing losses for the rest of society, including Oklahoma’s children and their parents.

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