Covid sweeps through US schools during sixth wave
COVID-19 is once again sweeping schools across the US, fueled by the highly infectious and immune-resistant subvariants Omicron BA.2 and BA.2.12.1. The total number of daily COVID cases in the US has reached over 100,000 per day and the total number of COVID deaths has exceeded one million.
Safety and mitigation measures have been largely abandoned in schools, including testing, other surveillance such as contact tracing, and quarantine and mask requirements, a result of the Biden administration’s deliberate policies. Biden has further reinforced the lie that schools are the safest place for a child, yet students and staff continue to get sick in droves, risking death, long-term physical and mental illness and passing the virus on to loved ones.
Cases in children have increased since students returned from spring break in April, according to the latest report from the American Association of Pediatrics. In the week ended May 12, officially reported child cases rose to 93,511. The report also notes a significant increase in cases across all regions of the US.
On May 18, the child death toll reached 1,547, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with 29 new deaths reported that month alone. The next day, May 19, the CDC removed 980 previously recorded COVID deaths, including 29 children, reducing the number of child COVID deaths to 1,518. There was no footnote or explanation on the data tracker that accompanied this reduction. Thursday’s revision recalls an episode earlier in the spring when the CDC removed over 72,000 deaths from its data tracker.
At least 12 million children have contracted COVID in the US, undoubtedly a minority due to a lack of systematic testing and contact tracing. As a result, hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of Long-COVID, a disease that presents a range of symptoms that can persist months and even years after initial infection with COVID-19 and can affect almost every organ in the body, including the brain, heart , lungs, kidneys, immune system.
According to a recently published study in eClinicalMedicine, mild COVID-19 cases can lead to persistent cognitive symptoms. A significant minority of severe COVID cases result in chronic decline in cognitive function equivalent to 10 IQ points, or early-stage dementia.
This reality demonstrates the self-interested hypocrisy of the political establishment, which insists on keeping schools fully open to explain children’s “learning loss” and the need for a “return to normal”.
The mass infection policy enforced by the federal government has left teachers, staff and students completely unprotected. Mask requirements have been removed for the vast majority of schools in the US, school buildings have been left with poor ventilation systems and COVID surveillance, including testing and contact tracing, is no longer used systematically.
On Tuesday, NYC has raised its COVID alert level to “high” in response to a surge that has exceeded 300 daily new cases per 100,000 and a hospitalization rate of over 10 per 100,000 population. On Wednesday, the city’s Department of Education was tracking 2,083 recent COVID cases in New York City public schools, 74 percent of which were student infections. The Department of Education has no classrooms or school buildings in the entire district that are currently closed.
Despite the alarming surge, Democratic Mayor Eric Adams has reiterated that mask mandates will not be implemented in schools or other indoor settings. At a press conference on Wednesday, Adams revealed his insistence that the “pandemic is over,” declaring, “I’m proud of what we’re doing, how we’re not letting COVID get the better of us. We remain prepared and not panicking… Variants will continue to come.”
A teacher in Westchester, New York, told the World Socialist Website: “We had a school play the first week of May and 86 were out. 12 were staff/teachers. Covid is definitely spreading in our district as well as any other. But there is also the flu and the gastrointestinal virus, which are spreading like crazy.”
schools everywhere California have also seen a large increase in cases. At least 3,444 cases were reported this week in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second-largest school district in the United States with over 530,000 students. Los Angeles County currently has 41 active outbreaks in K12 schools, with the largest outbreak currently being reported at Chatsworth Charter High School in LAUSD, which has 81 on-site COVID cases.
As of May 17, the Sacramento City Unified School District reported 515 positive cases among students and staff, more than in March or April. COVID cases in San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest district, have risen to 891 cases with 14 school outbreaks in the district. Significantly, less than a quarter of the student population is tested weekly, meaning the real number of infections is far higher.
Proms and end-of-the-year celebrations have also fueled major outbreaks across California and the United States. At least 90 students at San Mateo High School tested positive for COVID after a prom at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum in early April. In Sacramento, at least 21 students attending CK McClatchy High School’s junior prom have tested positive. The event took place indoors at the city’s Masonic Temple with no masks or other protective measures, including testing.
Another teacher in California told the WSWS, “Only in the very small special education section of my school do we have both students and staff with COVID. Just this week we had more positive cases in multiple classrooms including two children and my daughter’s class who were at school for a week with COVID. There’s also a nasty gastrointestinal virus going around. However, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week and the very kind parents make us lunch, so we all sit together in a small room and eat. I grab my stuff and leave because, thanks to the wonderful food and no thanks to the germs.”
In Pennsylvania, the positivity rate has reached 14 percent and is rising. In Pittsburgh public schools, three schools announced they are closing due to infection rates exceeding 5 percent.
A parent in eastern Pennsylvania said: “The school sends emails daily telling us that between three and eight children have tested positive each day for the past week. Fortunately, the 16 in one day have not been seen since the beginning of May.
“Cases are piling up fast and we see maybe only 10 to 30 percent of all positive cases through symptomatic testing. It is likely that a much higher transmission rate is currently occurring.
“We can see that the vaccines or previous infection have little effect on the likelihood of infection, so anyone can become infected and contagious and have longer-term health problems from just mild symptoms. This is not endemic. This is a pandemic by every definition. This won’t become endemic until we change strategies. With thousands of daily flights around the world, it won’t become endemic.
“Nationally, the curve is steepening, showing the exponential growth. At this stage, hundreds of thousands become infected every day. As the prevalence increases, so does the viral load in a room. Higher viral loads mean an increased likelihood of more severe symptoms and long-term systemic damage. If 15 to 30 percent have long-term health problems and only 5 percent are disabled, that’s catastrophic. This is a mass takedown event. Every day tens of thousands more months, years will suffer and many will die 10 to 20 years younger than they otherwise would have.”
In Washington, COVID cases have skyrocketed across the state, up 124.8 percent last week as 22,365 cases were officially reported. There were 9,949 new cases in the previous week. Hospital admissions have also more than doubled from an estimated 200 to 450 in the past month.
At Seattle Public Schools (SPS), the state’s largest school district with over 55,000 students, cases have risen back to January levels during the Omicron surge. According to the district’s official COVID-19 dashboard, 1,577 cases have been reported among students and staff in the past two weeks.
Data and updates to security logs have been widely suppressed across the US. Catherine Brown, a principal at Seattle’s Cleveland High School, was recently fired for “disobeying an order” to “withhold information about COVID-19 contact tracing” from students, staff and families. This troubling dismissal speaks to districts’ overall efforts to treat COVID as if it’s over. Parents have defended this principle on social media.
In Michigan, the 343 students and staff tested positive for COVID last week, according to the health ministry. There are 46 school outbreaks statewide, including a larger outbreak at Dewitt High School in Clinton County, where 62 students and staff tested positive. This was just one of seven outbreaks with 10 or more people infected.
A Flint, Michigan parent shared her reaction to a letter from her child’s school informing her that two first graders tested positive this week. The letter said the situation was “low-risk,” and testing in that district is voluntary and only offered to asymptomatic children. “I find that very irrational,” she said. “How can anyone in this totally uncertain situation consider anything to be a small risk? It is sad that once again I have to keep my kindergarten child away from school to provide a safety net for her and my other children who are not yet able to be vaccinated. They are literally putting so many people’s lives on the line and getting away with it time and time again.
“I’m scared every day when I walk out my front door. It’s outrageous that people still act like there’s nothing wrong.”