Reflections on Covid, the BCED back to school plan… and why we have to get it right.
Its 6 am in the morning and after grabbing a coffee, I’m sitting back in bed with my laptop propped on a pillow on my lap. It’s been 6 months since my kids went to school and looking back, opting not to send them in June at half capacity seems suddenly silly considering we are about to go back at full capacity in most areas of BC.
There is a lot on my mind with the arrival of September, school of course is at the top of the list, but there are a few other things on my mind as well. For my own ease of writing, I’m going to simply jump in and headline each one separately, starting with….
How the pandemic laid our social inequities bare
One thing I am thankful for about this entire experience, is how the pandemic stripped away everything and laid bare the state of our social supports in BC, and Canada, within our communities. Politicians everywhere talk a good line about funding education, funding families, but the truth of how things actually work quickly became apparent when schools closed and business closures began
Schools for example, have become de facto social service agencies and teachers are part time social workers. One of the first things every family was asked when called by classroom teachers or supports, was how things were at home: did you have enough food, was anyone out of work, did you need anything? Teachers became front line workers for many, the lifeline to food baskets and help where needed. Many may not be aware that the Vancouver Sun adopt a school initiative, is still a thing many schools depend on for funding things like bus passes for low income kids, breakfast programs to feed hungry kids not getting enough at home, lunch programs….etc. School isn’t just school, its a place that makes the difference for a lot of marginalized children. And to me, that speaks volumes to how ineffective and under funded social and family services continue to be funded in this country. And it speaks volumes to how we have become used to and accepting that this is how things are, not unlike how people on disability were stunned at the 2000 CERB in comparison to their monthly cheques. Nothing says ” You don’t matter” more than seeing millions of Canadians get more than you have been trying to survive on for years.
But now, CERB is coming to an end and people transitioned back to EI or one of the other three categories of benefits listed, all of which still tell me people making decisions in Ottawa have no clue whats going on out here in the real world. There are more than a few issues with this new stream of proposed benefits.
- many people were laid off already due to lack of work in the 2 weeks prior to the March 15th date listed for CERB beginning. Those people, despite asking, were not converted to CERB like everyone else who applied after March 15th, and were forced to use all their EI benefits first. While some have been able to go back to work, many have not due to physical distancing cutbacks and business closures, and have had to apply for CERB. Under the transition, some are being told they will not qualify for any of the new benefits as their EI hours entitlement has now been used up. Big fail.
- Parents who have kids in school and also live with elderly parents, or parents who don’t trust the shitty back to school plan the government here in BC came up with, who choose to keep their kids home to school online, and not to return to work, will lose their benefits. Choosing not to work, is not the same as having no work available. What kind of choice is this to make in a pandemic? The health of your family or work? Most families still require two incomes and single parents are faced with no choice but to go back to work…even if it isn’t the right choice for their kids.
- The government has now set the standard as $2000 a month being the minimum people can live on, which is pretty accurate, at least in BC where everything from rent to food to medical supplies is overpriced anyways, but moreso since this all started. It will be extraordinarily cruel to force those on disability to go back to their old rate. Its just wrong
If this prime minister had any sense, he would do away with the myriad of benefits like GST rebate and Child Tax credit etc, and convert CERB into a UBI – universal basic income. One payment would streamline bureaucratic offices and do away with multiple redundancies. It could be managed through CRA and Service Canada, based on prior year individual tax returns as current benefits are, at least for the next year, in lieu of at least child tax benefits and GST, and EI. Have a reporting system for income, so if you do make funds, then they are deducted.
This would ensure that when the inevitable school closures or quarantines occur and parents are suddenly forced into quarantine for 2 weeks too, that no family falls behind. If kids cannot attend with any kind of symptoms, this is going to be a disastrous winter financially for many families on the edge due to this springs restrictions.. which brings me to…
The BCED back to school plan gong show.
Its my belief that there are a couple of reasons why the push for kids to go back fulltime with rising cases. One is listed above, its very accurate to state that schools are front line agencies for marginalized and vulnerable kids.
The other is that with kids in school, parents will be hopefully back to work and fewer people will be on EI or CERB or the other benefits.
While it is true that in many areas of BC, going back to school may turn out to be fine where case counts are low and kids were distanced, in Metro Van and other areas right now its absolutely ridiculous to think of having full capacity in any classroom. But therein lies the issue.
After 6 months of daily reminders that physically distancing is the best way to stop the spread, the government has decided that having full classes grouped into cohorts where no distancing is required…is ok. And Dr. Bonnie Henry keeps insisting there will be distancing in classes at the very same time parents are getting emails stating the exact opposite. Yesterdays presser was an eye opener because for once, reporters seemed to remember they are reporters and that no one is unquestionable. And even though her statements contradict each other, she insists school is ‘different’.
No one was buying it, and this series of tweets from yesterday show reporter and parent/teacher reactions.
This, on top of the very badly done ad featuring Bonnie Henry, in which the governments own response inadvertently supported the very action teachers and parents are asking for: distancing in class, which can only be achieved by smaller classes. https://globalnews.ca/news/7306040/coronavirus-b-c-teachers-union-back-to-school-ad/
The government has really screwed this back to school plan up. First of all, they changed the parameters of stage 2 over the summer, suprising everyone. The slides below the difference between Junes stage 2, and late July stage 2
The second screw up, was offloading responsibility to enact this plan onto school districts without mandating the requirement for parents across BC to have equitable options for supported online learning and to not lose their space in their neighbourhood school. There is no standard, with some schools allowing parents to keep their space until September 2021 if they choose alternate learning now, and others won’t. Some are offering a hybrid supported learning to keep kids who have to learn at home engaged in class with classmates, others are not. It’s only serving to create unnecessary resentment and anxiety, in an already challenging time.
Its my view, that government should be mandating reduced class sizes equally across the province as they are mandating the same worksafe and health and safety requirements across the province. This is a big reason why they are quickly losing control of the narrative… and the publics support. Why would child actors have different standards for safety than children in class? Why would you expect youth not to party when the governments own plan says distancing not required in cohorts of 60 to 120 youth? These questions lead me to the last segment…
The difference in opinions between epidemiologists and doctors when it comes to Covid and how to handle it.
There is a lot we do know about Covid, and there is a lot we don’t know.
We do know it impacts the elderly.
We know those who are at high risk for complications or more serious cases are those with underlying conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart and lung conditions.
We know that while most kids,teens and youth usually get by with no or few symptoms, some kids can develop multisystem inflammatory Syndrome- there have been 8 suspected cases in BC and this is now being tracked. https://bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-reports-8-suspected-cases-of-multisystem-inflammatory-syndrome-in-children-1.5082451
We also know now, that many countries are reporting the bigger and longer term issue with Covid isn’t the actual initial disease incidence itself, but the long term symptoms and damage that thousands of ” recovered” patients are reporting. To me, this is where the precautionary principle comes into play. To me, this is where the big unknowns are, and this article gets to the heart of it ( its a really good read, overall) : https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/08/the-human-cost-of-the-pandemic-may-dwarf-its-death-toll.html
“Over the last few months, however, we’ve heard more and more stories about coronavirus “long-haulers,” those still sick well after that one-month cycle should have come to a close, many of them still quite incapacitated by the illness. I don’t think our collective understanding of the disease has properly incorporated those stories, in part because most of our accounts have been, to this point, anecdotal — with the result that the experiences of those suffering in these extended and often confusing ways appear to the rest of us like eerie outliers, tragic but unusual.
But we are beginning to get more systematic research into the aftereffects of COVID-19, and though that research is early and limited, it suggests the possibility that these post-recovery complications may prove to be a more significant health trauma to the country, and the world, than the pandemic death toll. The numbers from that emerging research are genuinely hair-raising: 87 percent of Italian patients who had “recovered” from the disease after hospitalization reported at least one ongoing symptom of the disease. 78 percent of recovered German patients were found, two months later, to have suffered structural changes to their hearts; the study focused largely on those with asymptomatic or mild cases, and in follow-ups 76 percent exhibited a biomarker associated with cardiac injury following a heart attack. Another study, of 1,200 patients hospitalized across 69 countries, found that 55 percent had long-term damage to their hearts; subtracting those whose hearts may have had preexisting damage, the study found 46 percent of previously healthy patients showed some amount of long-term scarring and dysfunction. Another study of COVID-19 patients found that roughly 90 percent of those with “severe” cases, 75 percent of those with “moderate” cases, and 60 percent of those with “mild” cases were still experiencing at least one symptom after three months, the most common symptom being breathlessness and fatigue. (Though the findings were less alarming than a few of the other studies, with only about 30 percent of severely sick patients showing abnormal chest X-rays, and other acute issues at even lesser prevalence.) Experts now believe that as many as one in three patients could suffer neurological or psychological aftereffects, according to STAT News. “It’s not only an acute problem,” one critical-care physician told STAT. “This is going to be a chronic illness.”
This brings questions forward I have never heard a reporter ask in government pressers.
How many of the thousands reported recovered, are actually healthy?
Are any of these people discharged from hospital still sick at home? Are they able to work?
Are we seeing “recovered” patients with long term symptoms or damage to their organs ? And why, you might be asking, does this matter?
Because in a followup on SARS patients from 15 years ago, about 20 percent of those infected with the first SARS suffered lasting lung damage, and those left with lung lesions by that disease still had them 15 years later.
20% might not seem like much…unless you are one of those people.
This is what bothers me about how school is being treated differently than everything else.
Teachers are not going to be able to be distanced from students and others and its not true that school is a controlled environment. Its only controlled in the sense of what happens in the building.
Schools don’t control what families do once they leave or who they see. Lots of people don’t believe this virus is a big deal and don’t have family bubbles. Fact. This is quite apparent with recent cases following gatherings of not just youth parties, but older people getting together and family celebrations at banquet halls and homes. So as much as Dr. Henry says these cohorts are all going to be fine, its just not true if no one is distancing because all these kids are bringing along unknowns the schools have no clue about. And she is incorrect in stating there will be distancing in classrooms right now, no matter how many times she repeats it.
Has she and this government forgotten the Precautionary Principle I wrote about early on? https://lailayuile.com/2020/03/31/lessons-not-learned-from-the-sars-inquiry-the-precautionary-principle-be-expressly-adopted-as-a-guiding-principle/
I definitely think schools need to be open. But they need to be open in a manner that protects staff and kids alike and to minimize cases and subsequent quarantines. And there doesn’t seem to even be agreement between epidemiologists and doctors. Case in point is the slide below in which an epidemiologist presented to an Ontario school board. Parents there are really upset with the full classes as well.
We know distancing works. Dr. Henry has stressed it continuously and I must ask why she now thinks it is ok for the government to issue a plan where it is written distancing is not required in cohorts.
It is good for no child or teen’s mental health who has been forced to bubble away from friends to protect family members, to now be worried about bringing Covid home now that their bubble is gone. And it is gone once school starts, under this BCED plan.
- this expert has the right idea. Delay start until October first to ensure districts have it right. https://www.citynews1130.com/2020/09/02/bc-back-to-school-october-expert/amp/
*** updated Sept 3rd, 2020.
I have to add these. Because this doesn’t make sense. Today graphs were presented show that workplace transmissons were increasing which had not been mentioned before. Between coworkers moreso than worker to customer, which makes sense.
But this series of screenshots shows how fast this contradictory info was presented. And many missed it at the time but media is catching this now.