Biden claims he follows the science, but school guidance is rooted in fear instead
President Biden remarked in January that his administration is “letting science speak again.” But with Biden’s team recently walking back his pledge to reopen a “majority” of schools by the end of his first 100 days in office, his school plans appear now to be more rooted in fear than science, according to Timothy Carney with the American Enterprise Institute.
When COVID-19 first hit, we didn’t know much about the virus, hence the initial reasonable response to close schools last spring. But a lot of science and data became available, and continues to become available, that schools can reopen safely, they aren’t the super-spreaders they were once feared to be — even when students or staff went to school with COVID-19. And a lot of science also shows the toll school closures have on students is serious.
Alas, though, the Biden administration’s school reopening guidance is “based on fear rather than sound science,” writes Carney.
Teachers’ unions opposing or slow-walking reopening are expressing fear of returning to the classroom before (or even after) getting vaccinated. And many parents, too, are afraid of sending children back to school. The unions seem to have influenced the Biden administration’s reopening plan.
But the administration’s guidance, if followed, might close more schools than it would open. The plan says schools should fully open only if community spread is brought down to levels below where most communities are now, with less than 8 percent of tests coming back positive and fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 population. That would preclude most school districts in the country, and it’s more restrictive than the science requires. A study based on data from Washington State and Michigan found that “regardless of the underlying spread,” putting more students in classrooms (up to 75 percent of all students, at least) didn’t cause more spread in the community. Unicef reported, “Children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings.”
The president “said he would let the science speak, and it’s time for him to listen,” Carney concludes. Mr. Biden, please don’t let fear drive decisions that will have measurable consequences on our students, families, and communities.