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A Look at the COVID School Insanity in Minnesota

Minnesota educators and families all learned last week that students of elementary age would be returning to their school campuses next month. It hardly seems a coincidence that the return date is set for January 19th, just a day in advance of Joe Biden’s swearing. With everything else COVID-related taking on a political bent, why shouldn’t the sudden resumption of in-person learning be any different? 

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Students should be in schools. They should have been there since September.

The abrupt announcement, or rather the response to it, is not a reflection on the fact that students are returning, per se. Instead, it is a reflection on the overt political machinations that precluded Governor Walz from initially making the correct decision as well as the blind adherence to “the science,” the “experts,” and the elected (Democrat) leaders that many ordinary Americans disappointingly have. 

This religious faith (and leftism is a religion of which its followers practice a faith) has produced a spate of U-turns and 180s that don’t seem to bother its flock. The discredited Anthony Fauci told us not to wear masks until he did. The World Health Organization told us to lockdown until it didn’t. Scientific journals told us to avoid Hydroxychloroquine at all costs until it didn’t. Kamala Harris said she wouldn’t take the vaccine if it came from a Trump administration until she did. 

Add school reopenings to the COVID list of mendacity and incompetence.

As far back as June, President Trump and prominent doctors declared that schools should be open by the fall. This was based on sound empirical data and scientific literature garnered from observing the response of many European nations to keep schools open and initial data from American schools themselves. Students seemed little affected by the virus, nor did they appear to be a significant vector of transmission, even to their adult (and potentially vulnerable) teachers. Amazingly, even the director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, and the Academy of American Pediatrics both supported the president’s position on preparing schools to welcome schools back for fall term. This is less known. Tucker Carlson delivered a fantastic monologue on November 30th that summarized the complete failure of the scientific community and media establishment vis-à-vis the push to shut down schools. You can read the transcript here.

To the detriment of millions of young peoples’ mental health, social-emotional wellbeing, and academic performance, because Orange Man Bad the predictable knee-jerk reaction to this pronouncement was to go in the other direction. It is not farfetched to imagine an alternative reality where the president would have said to keep schools closed and the teachers’ unions would have exclaimed their virtuousness by demanding to reopen schools. Farfetched? Let me rephrase that: This absolutely would have happened.

Now, I count among my personal and professional circles a bevy of superintendents within the Twin Cities metro area. None of them saw this coming. Not a single one. At most, they expected Governor Walz to reverse course on his ban of high school athletics, but even that remained up in the air. According to the Governor’s own recommendations from this past summer, our buildings and learning communities are nowhere near safe levels of case counts that were used as the benchmark.

According to the Governor’s offices, a press conference on July 30th of this year prescribed a detailed program for safe school openings. The table below provides the acceptable number of cases per 10,000 for each of the learning models (full distance, limited distance, hybrid, full in-person). 

Table 1: Governor Walz’s guideline for schools’ learning models

Number of cases per 10,000  Learning Model
0-9 In-person learning for all students
10-19 In-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary students
20-29 Hybrid learning for all students
30-49 Hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary students
50+ Distance learning for all students
*Figures courtesy of the Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for 2020-21 School Year.

Since July, Minnesota’s cases have climbed rapidly and steadily; this is evidenced by the Table 2 for the end of October, through November, and the beginning December (the most recent dates available). It shows Hennepin County’s week-over-week growth. Now, for out-of-towners, Hennepin County is home to Minneapolis, several large, wealthy, and predominantly white districts, as well as more rural communities. It is both geographically and socioeconomically diverse. As the cultural hub for Minnesota, it is a perfect representation for coronavirus data.

Table 2: 14-day trend data of coronavirus cases in Hennepin County (October-December)

14-Day Trend, by date 10/20 – 11/2 10/27 – 11/9 11/3 – 11/16 11/10 – 11/23 11/17 – 11/30 11/24 – 12/7
Hennepin County Case Count, per 10,000 59.3 101.6 130.5 128.7 115.6 100.1
*Figures courtesy of the Hennepin County COVID-19 Public Dashboard.

Compare the figures in Table 2 to earlier dates, when Governor Walz initially shared his vision for keeping schools safe. These can be found in Table 3. It should be remembered that case counts in the tens per 10,000 were used to justify shutdowns earlier this summer. It beggars the question: If things were so bad in June and July, and things are portrayed as civilization ending right now, why the sudden push to reopen schools? 

Table 3: 14-day trend data of coronavirus cases in Hennepin county (August-September)

14-Day Trend, by date 8/4 – 8/17 8/11 – 8/24 8/18 – 8/31 8/25 – 9/7 9/1 – 9/14 9/8 – 9/21
Hennepin County Case Count, per 10,000 19.7 19.4 18.5 15.1 14.6 18.7
*Figures courtesy of the Hennepin County COVID-19 Public Dashboard.

Amazingly, these figures don’t matter anymore. Governor Walz is essentially declaring that these case counts, which have been used to terrorize civilians for months on end and were cited as proof of President Trump’s incompetence, are now meaningless.

To be certain, nothing has changed since our initial “two weeks to flatten the curve” introduction to COVID-19. Nevertheless, here we are. Joe Biden portended a “dark winter.” During the presidential election, voters were scared witless that the coronavirus would snatch every known loved person from their lives. In the ensuing chaos, toddlers have been kicked off airplanes and doctors have had their licenses revoked for not toeing the party line. Among these events and others, it is also obvious for anyone willing to acknowledge basic, universal truths that the coronavirus was entirely weaponized to take down the incumbent president, because every other lie has failed. Russian collusion, obstruction of justice, charges of racism, unpaid taxes, kids in cages, calling America soldiers losers – they all miserably and spectacularly failed. The disease was their Hail Mary, and they went all in.

Thanksgiving was canceled by Governor Walz, who just three short weeks ago released a dictum that outlined a “safe” way to celebrate the holiday. Among other strict measures, he mandated that groups of people from other households not gather. That is, for all intents and purposes, the essence of Thanksgiving. Otherwise, it’s just dinner with my wife again. Now, with cases continuing to rise and deaths allegedly surging to record levels, history would suggest that Democrats have a strong case to keep the status quo. But by oxymoronic leftist logic, there is no compelling reason to suddenly expose students and teachers.

This is even more pronounced and confounding when one considers the length of time students have already been in a distance-learning model in anticipation of a vaccine. Some students, including those as young as 5, have endured nine months of Zoom lessons; what is two or three more if the governor allowed time for educators to be inoculated now that Pfizer and Moderna have developed and are deploying their wonder drug? It doesn’t make any sense to rush schools open when we are just a few months away from tens of millions of vaccines to be distributed. Why risk exposure with a potential stopgap measure so close?

Another perplexing reality to this is that some schools will be forced to reopen even if it goes against everything they believe in and who want to do right by their community. Public school funding comes from butts in seats. The Governor, in a fantastic failure of leadership and foresight (or perhaps just utter disregard – and remember, he ran on being a former high school teacher!), didn’t set guidelines for specific communities. Although Democrats are ostensibly opposed to school choice, he has laid the foundation for a fantastic dance of reenrollment based on family priorities.

In the north metro area, two of Minnesota’s largest school districts – Osseo #279 and Anoka-Hennepin #11 (which is the single largest) – neighbor one another and share populations through open-enrollment already. Hypothetically, if one of these decided to fully open and the other decided to remain fully closed, it is not hyperbolic to suggest that a mass migration of young people would erupt. If families want to send their kids back, and many do, then the district that opts to remain shut down would face a potentially budget-extirpating disaster as those students enrolled in open schools across town. So, what does the other district do? It reopens. Governor Walz has indirectly mandated the forced reopenings of schools, less than a month after the last few schools moved to a full distance model per his earlier guidelines (see: Table 1).

It is safe to say that the recent decision is not based on any science. If it were, then the science being cited now would have been the same science cited six months ago. So that’s a lie. No, the recent decision by Governor Walz is merely the latest in a long line of public abuses and deceits about the nature of the virus and the public health measures it supposedly demanded. 

Because it looks as if President Trump is on his way out, the need to mobilize fear and paranoia over a disease with a 99.95% survival rate for people under 65 (and that includes the deaths of each person that had, on average 2.6 comorbidities) is over. Biden will be in office, a vaccine will be phased in, and schools will be open. 

The worst thing about all of this is that people will actually believe we returned to normal, and the reason for that is Trump’s departure. Hopefully the vaccine has a negative reaction for those with an innate stupidity.

This post was originally published on 12/20/2020 at American Thinker.