Coronavirus Today: When back to school means back to bullying
Good evening. I’m Russ Mitchell, and it’s Monday, June 7. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.
Online learning has been tough on children, parents and teachers. But not all kids are happy to be going back to school. They fear they could be punched, kicked, pushed around, made fun of, humiliated, or some combination of the above, by the bullies they may have been able to avoid during the pandemic.
About 60% of elementary students and 40% of secondary students returned to classes sometime this spring, and school counselors are seeing more children in therapy because of bullying.
Teachers who work with preschoolers have reported that after a year of relative isolation, fear of getting COVID-19 and for many families the loss of loved ones, children have become more aggressive and less capable of controlling their anger.
Yana Pashaeva is a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow from Moscow. In an opinion piece she wrote for The Times, she recommends that parents help their kids by learning more about the symptoms of bullying, talking to them about it and making sure they know their parents have their back.
Of course, bullying did not cease during the pandemic, and online bullying rose dramatically. But whether the bullying occurs online or at school, it’s important to document the aggression and report it to school and law enforcement if it escalates.
And the bullies, Pashaeva writes? They need help as well.
For more on children and the pandemic, sign up for 8 to 3, a newsletter about childhood, parenting and schools by my colleague Sonja Sharp. This evening’s edition is all about the “million-dollar question” for kids and vaccines.
By the numbers
California cases, deaths and vaccinations as of 6:36 p.m. Monday:
Congratulations, fellow Californians. In large part because of your efforts — most of you, anyway — California’s coronavirus transmission rate is one of the lowest in the U.S.
As of Monday, the state’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people was 11, tied with Nebraska for the third-lowest among all states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California is behind only Vermont, with a 6.9 seven-day case rate, and South Dakota, with 9.2.
The latest update knocked California just outside the threshold necessary to meet the CDC’s definition of having a low level of community coronavirus transmission, an assessment based on the number of new cases confirmed statewide over the last week as well as the rate at which conducted tests were coming back positive.
The most recent figures from Los Angeles County indicate that, on average over the past week, there were about 177 daily new coronavirus cases and seven deaths each day. That’s a huge improvement since January, when the county had more than 15,000 new cases and more than 200 deaths each day.
Amid all the good news, we might stop and reflect that every life lost is a tragedy, deeply affecting family, friends, co-workers and other loved ones. “To those we send our deepest condolences and wish you healing,” said Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s public health director.
Most deaths are occurring among unvaccinated individuals, said Ferrer, who emphasized the need for each person in the county 12 years and older to get vaccinated.
Thanks in large part to vaccines, we’re just days away from celebrating the state’s “reopening” on June 15. What does reopening mean? A lot more freedom to roam maskless, yes — but hardly a return to pre-pandemic normality.
Times writers Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money highlight five things to keep in mind while we move into this next phase:
• Unvaccinated people can still infect other unvaccinated people, who are more vulnerable than those who have been immunized.
• Coronavirus testing will become even more important for the unvaccinated. If you show symptoms of COVID-19, get tested. (Vaccinated or not.) If you’re unvaccinated and have been in close contact with someone with a confirmed infection, get tested. If you’re unvaccinated and spent time indoors around a lot of people not wearing masks, get tested.
• Employees will need to mask up at work unless everyone in a work group is vaccinated, according to proposed state safety rules. Employees in indoor settings or working at outdoor events with 10,000 or more people must stay six feet apart from others or be given the option of wearing an N95 mask or its equivalent.
• Masking and other rules will remain in effect in certain settings like schools, camps, day-care facilities and hospitals.
• Some businesses will decide to keep masking requirements in place for now. (Editorial comment: If you disagree with a business’ decision, please be civil about it.)
See the latest on California’s coronavirus closures and reopenings, and the metrics that inform them, with our tracker.
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Around the nation and the world
Vaccines have not yet been approved for kids younger than 16, but schools should be safe to reopen in the fall if basic safety measures are kept in place, a new study shows.
Researchers at the University of Maryland and Harvard’s School of Public Health ran computer models to capture the range of outcomes that emerge when a diverse population of people interacts under different sets of rules. They looked at various school configurations and attendance options, including part-time physical attendance with hybrid online learning.
The elementary school computer model showed a single infected child would probably pass the infection to fewer than one student on average over 30 days. The high school model showed a single student could pass the virus to 23 to 75 fellow students, school employees or families over that time period, meaning great care must be taken to keep those upper-school students safe.
In an editorial that accompanied the study, Dr. Ted Long, executive director of New York City’s COVID-19 Test & Trace Corps, said it shows the risks of bringing school back into physical classrooms are small, but the benefits are large. “If schools can reopen for in person, they must, to avert the mental health and educational crisis that is at our doorstep.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, underlined the need for strict safety measures in any school reopening. COVID-19 tends to hit older people, but symptoms for young people who do contract the coronavirus can be serious and require hospitalization.
There’s science, and then there’s politics. The recent release of a trove of emails to and from Dr. Anthony Fauci has provoked a new spate of attacks on the pandemic advisor to President Biden. Republicans have pilloried him as a liar and are demanding his resignation.
But an analysis by the Associated Press found none of the emails produced anything close to a lie, and there was no evidence of a cover-up on the origin of the coronavirus.
Some of the emails, obtained by BuzzFeed and the Washington Post, discuss the question of whether the virus might have been engineered at the virus lab in Wuhan, China. The conclusion: probably not. The most likely vector was natural, from an animal, according to the general consensus. But Fauci has made clear, then and now, that he remains open to other explanations, based on science.
A U.S. campaign launched by the Trump administration to decimate the HIV-AIDS epidemic by 2030 might fall short of its goal. The culprit? COVID-19.
The pandemic siphoned health workers and other resources from the fight against HIV, and the U.S. could see its first increase in HIV infections in years. A study at Emory University used Atlanta-area data and statistical modeling to predict major increases in some sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
At best, said Emory researcher Samuel Jenness, COVID-19 halted recent declines in new HIV infections, but “at the worst, it potentially brought us an increase of cases for at least the next couple years.”
HIV rates probably fell early in the pandemic, when, surveys suggest, many adults at higher risk of HIV had less sex and fewer sexual partners. But there are signs that many people had resumed their normal levels of sex by last summer, said Jenness, whose research focused on gay and bisexual men. At the same time, HIV testing, pharmaceutical prevention and treatment had declined, leading to the predictions of HIV infections and death, reversing years of consistent decline.
If you plan to mellow out at a national park this summer, you might try to mellow out even before you arrive. A shortage of workers means lines will be long and park employees will be taxed, and travel professionals are advising patience.
“Anywhere you go, you’ve got to be prepared to be patient and be compassionate,” said Mike Morgan, vice president and co-owner of Colorado-based Coolworks.com, which tracks hospitality jobs and other seasonal positions in national parks.
The parks rely heavily on foreign student workers for summer jobs, but COVID-19 has put strict limits on travel. Many of those workers enter the U.S. on J-1 visas for seasonal workers, but the estimates show the number of incoming J-1 workers as summer begins is 17,000 to 25,000 — a quarter of pre-pandemic levels.
The worker shortage is good news for students, retirees or others who might want to work at a national park for a few months. It’s easier to get hired, and in some cases, pay and benefits are higher than they’d be in normal times.
Your questions answered
Today’s question comes from our own Deborah Netburn, and it’s for you: Do you trust that things will be OK when the California economy reopens on June 15?
Actually, my question is broader than that.
As we speed toward June 15, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role trust will play in our recovery. To truly return to normal life, we’ll need to have trust in a lot of things — trust that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, trust that they will protect us when we remove our masks and trust that the maskless people sitting near us in a restaurant or movie theater are vaccinated too. When health officials encourage us to send our children back to school or return to our offices, we’ll be asked to trust that they’re motivated by science and not politics.
Yet after being told for the last 16 months that an invisible, deadly threat lurks almost everywhere, and after watching nearly 600,000 Americans die of a disease that didn’t exist until recently, you might find that trust is more elusive than it used to be.
If this is something you’ve been thinking about, I’d love to hear from you. Are you struggling with trust these days? Or are you surprised by how easy it has been to go back to trusting others? How do you feel about the amount of trust others place in you? What role does trust play in your transition back to “normal” life?
Please send me your thoughts about trust via email, and thank you in advance for sharing your stories!
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