We have quite a bit of information about COVID-19. Some of it is conflicting. Considering the definition of conflicting, we know some of the information must be wrong.
Will inaction take us to a better place than action? We do expect recommendations from our leaders. But that’s a quick way leaders move responsibility downhill. This article is about my disbelief in a piece of alleged information being shared. Have you read that the few children that do contract COVID-19 are generally asymptomatic and not contagious? We are about to bet more than grandma on that statement.
A Thought Experiment
Two people jump out of a plane. They’ve done it many times before, but this time is different. This time, one jumper will not pull the ripcord.
In life, we have come to understand that both action and inaction have consequences. Though we may have clearly expected outcomes for our jumpers, both have a chance of living, both a chance to die. We make our decisions based on probability.
In my tiny thought exercise, we have clear expectations as to the results of both decisions. Few of us have made a jump from a plane. Yet, because we do have experience with falls, gravity, lesser impacts, and skydiving fatality reports, we know what should be done in this scenario. We also know what action should not be ignored. There are very few suppositions in the decision as to how our jumpers should behave. The thinking is clear and correct action should be almost automatic.
Getting the Facts
Facts are often blindingly dull, but we do have some worthy of consideration. The age where the percentage of COVID-19 fatalities begins to rapidly increase is around 55. Almost 20% of Texas teachers are at or over that age.
That works out to around 70,000 folks, not counting staff, at higher risk of death. Current recommendations will change, not based on science, but on needs. They are as follows:
- Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick, older, and/or have a medical condition.
- If you are sick, stay home except to access medical care. If you are able to take care of yourself, stay home. If you need to see your doctor, call ahead.
- Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and non-essential trips into public.
- Cancel events of more than 10 people.
- Limit close contact (at least six feet) with other people. Employers should allow alternative work options as much as possible.
Watch what is going to happen. Every recommendation will either change or not be required for schools. Acceptance of the risk, to teachers and others, will be demanded by the public. Power of decision, as well as that of responsibility, will be delegated to individual districts. Money for solutions will be extremely short and almost nonexistent at the district level. Data favorable to district openings will be extracted from the most favorable startups in countries around the world.
Many countries do have earlier openings and there are solutions. Few effective ones are available at a low cost and in time for August. But not to be all gloom and doom, I’ll suggest one example that could greatly reduce the risk to our older instructors.
As the need for blended courses (mostly to reduce the number of students in a building) becomes increasingly clear, it would make sense for more than one teacher to address the work load. Older teachers, or any more susceptible, could be trained in the management of courses in online learning platforms. Those teachers would be in the virtual world and support the efforts of the classroom teachers.
If the reader is unfamiliar with how this works, check out any of the free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). One can easily see a professor with the help of any number of graduate students effectively educating thousands of students from around the world. Having students in a building, even part time, would increase effectiveness.
Online education can be done well; it’s even better with an occasional non-virtual touch. Hundreds of other learning platforms exist, each serving special needs. It’s not an easy transition or a cheap one. Experience with what passed for online learning here in Texas at year’s end was quite depressing. Online instructors must to learn to work with students, not just work them.
We need to do more thinking through the issues as it is likely that, come August, we’ll be forced to jump out of a plane. Action is required. Did you guess that both of my jumpers survived.? Did you guess why? This time, they made a tandem jump.