Arlington Union: Test Everyone or Close the Schools

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by James A. Bacon

I can’t decide which is scarier: a letter from the Arlington Education Association (AEA) urging school superintendent Francisco Duran not to resume full-time instruction tomorrow in the absence of sufficient COVID-19 testing, or the insouciant attitude toward punctuation and grammar by the signatory, AEA president Ingrid Gant. Take your pick: no in-person school, a proven disaster… or the possibility that the letter represents the literacy standards of Arlington school teachers, a potential disaster that will long out-last the COVID virus.

Arlington parent Ellen Gallery, a  home-schooling mom, ridiculed the letter on social media, highlighting typos and garbled syntax in the manner of an English teacher grading a paper. All the mark-up lacked was an F- at the top. Gallery’s post was disseminated widely in conservative media, and the letter well deserves the mockery it has received.

However, let us not overlook the substance of the missive. The Arlington teacher’s union is pushing back against reopening the schools. Gant wants to ensure that “teachers spending hours in close contact are not inflected.” If the Arlington teachers’ union is making this demand, surely teachers in other districts are as well. The Omicron school panic could well become Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s first big leadership test.
Insofar as the AEA letter is comprehensible, it calls for more testing. “Leadership prepares to send educators into situations that will make them sick…. The AEA calls on APS to provide testing to every student and staff member prior to returning to the classroom and/or remain virtual until January 18.”

Let us set aside, for the moment, the fact that testing capacity is scarce nationally. Abiding by Gant’s demands would guarantee that Arlington schools would remain closed to in-person learning through January 18 — the letter is not clear why that date is significant — and jeopardize any chance that students will catch up from the lost academic year of 2020/21.

Let us consider the practicality. Gant proposes specifically that APS test “every student and staff member” prior to returning to the classroom. If no one is allowed to return to school until they have been tested, how is APS supposed to administer the test?

Furthermore, what good is a single test? A student or teacher might be uninfected January 3, but given the high rate of community spread — seven-day moving average of 784 cases in Arlington, as of December 31, according to the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard  — anyone could be infected the next day. To alleviate Gant’s fears, should every student and staff member be tested every day? If not, what is the point?

Every teacher who wants to be is fully vaccinated and boosted. All evidence points to Omicron being milder than the Delta variant of COVID-19 that it is displacing. If an individual teacher is obese, has a compromised immune system or is otherwise at high risk, perhaps it makes sense to make special accommodations for them as individuals. But shutting down in-person learning entirely makes no sense.

The seven-day moving average of Arlington hospitalizations was only two, as of December 31, and the number of deaths was only one. The VDH database doesn’t tell us the age of the deceased or list their co-morbidities, but it’s a good bet they were high risk and/or elderly, not school kids.

Gant’s call for testing echoes the policies in New York City where, according to policy, those who test negative or are asymptomatic can continue with in-person classes. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appearing on the Rachel Maddow show last week, cast doubt that Omicron is resulting in more hospitalizations for children.

Quantitatively, you’re having so many more people, including children, who are getting infected. And even though hospitalization among children is much much lower on a percentage basis than hospitalizations for adults, particularly elderly individuals. However, when you have such a large volume of infections among children, even with a low level of rate of infection, you’re gonna still see a lot more children who get hospitalized.

But the other important thing, is that if you look at the children who are hospitalized, many of them are hospitalized with COVID, as opposed to because of COVID. And what we mean by that, if a child goes in the hospital, they automatically get tested for COVID, and they get counted as a COVID hospitalized individual. When in fact, they may go in for a broken leg or appendicitis or something like that.

Look, we’re all going to get Omicron. The virus is so transmissible that there will be no escaping it for the vast majority of us. Get your vaccinations, get your boosters, take Vitamin D supplements, don’t let yourself get obese.* Self-isolate if you have special risk factors. Otherwise, get on with life.

* I would suggest stop smoking. But according to a 2020 article in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care, “the prevalence of current smokers among hospitalized patients with COVID-19 has been reported consistently lower than the prevalence of smokers among the general population.” The article theorizes that cigarette smoke activates metabolic processes in the lung that inactivate or modify the virus!

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20 responses to “Arlington Union: Test Everyone or Close the Schools”

  1. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    Our country continues its slide into the dust bin of history.

    1. VaNavVet Avatar

      You obviously don’t share Governor-elect Youngkin’s positive approach.

      1. Merchantseamen Avatar

        The only positive approach is to deny the Union its power and go for merit only. I only say this for public sector unions only.

        1. VaNavVet Avatar

          Can’t really see why there should be any difference between the two.

  2. dave schutz Avatar
    dave schutz

    As an Arlington resident, I have cringed as the articles mocking us for this letter have appeared in national media. As a jurisdiction, we are used to being well thought of.

    1. To quote I. Gant,”That boat has left the station”.

      1. dave schutz Avatar
        dave schutz

        Goddamnit, we have our municipal dignity! Or did, anyhow….

      2. DJRippert Avatar

        As Michael Ray Richardson (Knicks guard in 1981-1982) said as the 1981 – 1982 New York Knicks season collapsed, “The ship be sinking”.

    2. killerhertz Avatar

      Get over yourself. I used to work in Arlington, but every time I visit now I cringe. Speaking of insanity, I still see a majority of little kids in masks outdoors in winter.

  3. I thought Arlington didn’t grade homework

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      That’s why they test.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Petri dishes.

  5. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Was just talking to my son about how happy he is to be in Texas, where the schools are just open. Period. Have been since fall 2020. Our granddaughter hasn’t missed a day for that reason (chicken teachers…)

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Yea Texas!

      On Friday, Gov Abbott said, “Another of Biden’s vaccine and mask mandates was just halted by a federal judge in Texas. The Court writes: “‘It is undisputed that an agency cannot act without Congressional authorization.” That would apply to all of Biden’s orders.”

      Later that day, he asks for Biden’s help… “Detecting COVID-19 and preventing COVID-related hospitalizations are critical to our fight against this virus,” said Abbott in a prepared statement. “Testing sites, additional medical staff, and continued shipments of therapeutics from the federal government will help us continue to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    is this the positivity rate in Arlington?

    Is the idea that “eventually we’re all gonna get it, so just keep teaching when you get it ?

    Maybe the NFL, NBA and other pro sports or health care workers or other professions didn’t get that memo?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Before all this, it was always recommended you stay home with a cold or the flu, so I see nothing out of the ordinary if a team asks the same of sick players today. I betcha this much COVID was always in circulation, certainly far more than we realized. It was clear from the beginning many “cases” went totally undetected.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        So are you basically equating covid to cold and flu across the board – transmission and consequences for people and society?

        Surely you’re not.

        If you have COVID – and stay home – what happens to the other members of the family and whoever else they have contact with and is are those consequences not that different from cold and flu?

        Honest questions here… I just simply don’t understand the logic – maybe because I’m “slow”?

  7. Becky D Avatar

    Arlington Public Schools already does a lot of Covid testing. Take a look at their website and click on Covid testing. I tried to paste a link but pasting doesn’t seem to work in this posting. My granddaughter is a cheerleader at an Arlington school and they have daily rapid tests before practice. It looks like everyone can do a weekly pooled PCR test at various times at each school. There is also PCR testing by appointment at the Kenmore school for anyone who has had exposure.

  8. VaNavVet Avatar

    The Omicron surge will be a test of Youngkin’s leadership. There is an acknowledgement that Omicron can not be kept out of the schools so how will he decide to deal with it? Some students and staff will be hospitalized and a few may even pass away. The long term effects of Covid on children are not understood. It will spread much faster in the school environment causing many more outbreaks than with Delta. Prior mitigation protocols such as social distancing, masks, testing, and quarantines provided to be the best tools for the school districts so hopefully Youngkin will allow them the freedom to take what actions they deem best for their situation.

  9. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Self-disinfecting elevator buttons…
    “A rising Republican star out of California has died from Covid-19 just weeks after lashing out at vaccine mandates during a right-wing rally.

    Kelly Ernby, the deputy district attorney of Orange County and a presumptive state Assembly candidate in 2022, died shortly after telling her family and friends that she had contracted Covid-19.

    According to The Los Angeles Times, Ms Ernby fell ill shortly after she spoke at a Turning Points USA rally on 4 December. She told rally-goers that “there’s nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now.”

    It is unclear if Ms Ernby, who died at age 46, was vaccinated.

    The Orange County Republicans, where Ms Ernby had previously served as a precinct operations chair, said her death had caused them “great sadness.””

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