March 10, 2020

"Singapore, which has been heralded for its response to Covid-19, decided that closing schools would do more harm than good."

"Political leaders and health officials there have addressed concerns about Covid-19 through clear, consistent and transparent communications about their response to the virus. If schools remain open, officials could enact measures to limit any potential spread among children and staff. All students could be checked daily for fever, a possible sign of Covid-19 infection. Even more attention should be given to hand washing and reminding children not to touch their faces. Children should be taught to sneeze into their sleeves. Schools can consider changing seating arrangements to keep children six feet apart.... Nonetheless, government officials may feel pressure to close schools. For true effectiveness... [c]hildren couldn’t gather in other settings, which would be very difficult to enforce. If schools close, child care programs will likely close too and working parents may have to stay home to watch their children. Health care and critical infrastructure workers would not be able to do their jobs for the same reason...."

Writes Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in NYT.

Are classrooms big enough to put all the children 6 feet away from any other child? That strikes me as absurd, but the main message I'm seeing from this column is that schools are better than families at keeping an eye on children and controlling them. And also schools are childcare facilities, and if they shut down, vast numbers of adults won't be able to go to work, and that will have a terrible effect not just on the economy but on the provision of health care services.

54 comments:

TreeJoe said...

In a classroom of 20 children that are spaced in a 5x4 pattern of seating that would require a seating area no less than 30 feet wide/long by 24 feet wide/long PLUS room to walk on the outside edges plus room for teaching, materials, and storage. Any mechanicals or furniture in the room. Etc.

And 20 kids in a public school classroom is on the smaller side nowadays.

Yes, that's an unrealistic amount of room in a standard classroom. That would most likely require a room that would be 45 feet wide or long by 32 feet wide/long. In other words, one room would need the total square footage of your average 1960s home.

Nonapod said...

From what I understand, there have been zero confirmed child fatalities worldwide due to Covid-19 and almost every instance of child infection has been very mild. There's currently over 115,000 confirmed cases, so the sample size is sufficient to say that this virus's danger to children is negligable. The bigger concern would be children as carriers, spreading the virus to older people. I personally think that (in Singapores case) shutting down schools for a little while might be better just for curbing the spread.

J. Farmer said...

Yep, you hit the nail on the head. The primary purpose of public school is to warehouse children so the parents can go work. Can’t let a minor inconveniences like child rearing get in the way of career ambition.

Jupiter said...

"And also schools are childcare facilities, and if they shut down, vast numbers of adults won't be able to go to work, and that will have a terrible effect not just on the economy but on the provision of health care services."

Which is to say, that when women decided that they would rather compete with their husbands than stay home with their kids, they not only cut wages in half, they also rendered the economy dependent upon the school system. What can't feminism do?

Meade said...

Sorry about that, Susan. Here is a copy of your deleted comment:

Susan said...
This is all safety theater. Just like the TSA at the airport.

People have to travel and the kids need to be in school. If school and travel shut down so too does the economy. Which, in the long run, will be way more damaging than any virus.

That said, it does help to wash your hands, cough in your sleeve, stop shaking hands and touching your face. But if it were a dangerous pandemic, and officials knew it, these steps would not be enough.

3/10/20, 9:46 AM

Tom T. said...

They're right about being able to check the kids regularly for fever, etc. Otherwise, many of those kids are going to get taken to work with their parents (to the restaurant, to the hotel laundry, to the housekeeping sites) and not monitored in any way.

tim in vermont said...

This is one of those cases where predictions will be tested against reality in just a short couple of weeks.

joshbraid said...

"That strikes me as absurd, but the main message I'm seeing from this column is that schools are better than families at keeping an eye on children and controlling them. And also schools are childcare facilities, and if they shut down, vast numbers of adults won't be able to go to work, and that will have a terrible effect not just on the economy but on the provision of health care services."

This is an obvious truth: government schools function as child care. How can parents work (regardless of the number in the home) if their children are at home? Government schools provide taxpayer-funded child care, often for the entire work day.

Bob Boyd said...

Sounds like a good time for the workers of Singapore to ask for a raise.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I suspect the optimal strategy would be:
Send all the children to school.
Send all the coronavirus-positive people to the same schools.
Quarantine them all there for 3 weeks.
Kids get over it with little loss of life, and you remove a major disease vector.

brylun said...

My wife and I were in Singapore from Feb 2-7, and the day we left it was reported that there was an outbreak of coronavirus the next block away from our hotel in the Grand Hyatt. So we have been paying close attention to the coronavirus news.

The best source of Singapore news is The Straits Times (www.straitstimes.com), and last night I listened to an hour-long presentation by 4 Singapore medical experts (you can find it toward the bottom under ST Videos). They explained why they didn't close the schools: they are contact tracing infected person and the disease doesn't seem to affect younger people as much.

Singapore was beautiful (anyone see Crazy Rich Asians?) and clean, because of the very strict enforcement of quality of life laws. No gum is sold, no one crosses the street against the light, shoplifting can get you 7 years in jail, and graffiti can get you caned.

What works in Singapore probably wouldn't work here.

Susan said...

Thank you, Meade. I didn't realize this was a moderated thread since they aren't always so I posted twice before I caught on. Then we each deleted one of them. :)


Good to know you are on duty today.

n.n said...

zero confirmed child fatalities worldwide due to Covid-19 and almost every instance of child infection has been very mild

The target demographics are the very young, the very old, and others who are marginally viable.

The bigger concern would be children as carriers, spreading the virus to older people

The ugly underbelly of so-called "herd immunity" are the immune, asymptomatic carriers.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Paywall prevents me from reading.
My only question is - has the virus reached Singapore yet?

h said...

A closer look at the Johns Hopkins Dashboard info shows that the number of new cases outside China each day is declining for the last couple days:

March 7 4000 new cases
March 8 3900 new cases
March 9 3700 new cases
March 10 1000 new cases

Yes, but. Yes, but. I know. However, it does bear watching.

TreeJoe said...

J. Farmer said, "Yep, you hit the nail on the head. The primary purpose of public school is to warehouse children so the parents can go work. Can’t let a minor inconveniences like child rearing get in the way of career ambition."

This is one of those situations where on a macro level it's easy to make broad sweeping statements but on a individual or micro-community level those sweeping statements are incredibly ignorant.

The average family income level in this country is $75k. That's a combo of single and dual earner families in there, meaning 50% of society is below that threshold. How many of those folks are economically positioned to just take off and keep their kids home for an unknown period of time?

Put aside career - how about just keeping a job. For a disease that is, at present, non deadly to the kids.

Kay said...

J. Farmer said...
Yep, you hit the nail on the head. The primary purpose of public school is to warehouse children so the parents can go work. Can’t let a minor inconveniences like child rearing get in the way of career ambition.
3/10/20, 9:47 AM


Agreed, but I can’t see any other alternative. I mean this sincerely, and I’m not advocating for this state of affairs. It just seems to be an unavoidable economic reality at the moment.

TreeJoe said...

"The target demographics are the very young, the very old, and others who are marginally viable."

How are the target demogaphics the very young with no known cases of death and I'm not even sure of any known cases of intensive care for the very young?

brylun said...

A better website for tracking is https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, and they show 2294 new cases with Italy yet to report. This website is updated regularly and after Italy reports, the day will be complete. About 7pm ET they start the new day, and the first countries to report are China and S. Korea.

Bay Area Guy said...

In Singapore, they cane folks for jaywalking. It tends to incentivize good social order.

Gusty Winds said...

Singapore may have an advantage. They don't have to deal with panic propaganda machines like CNN and Democrats.

Char Char Binks said...

Living their lives seems to be more important for Singaoreans than bringing down Trump.

Gabriel said...

If two parents work, there's doubled commuting costs, huge childcare costs, and more taxes.

It's actually very expensive for both parents to work. The school day is not long enough to substitute completely for child care and what about summers and other non-school days? Not to mention the chores that have to be outsourced or not done, yard work and such, more meals out...

If one parent does not work, their entire work output is directed to their own family. If they do work, the government and other entities capture a very large fraction of their output.

The only way I can see it making sense is if people carry too much debt... and people nowadays carry a lot more debt than their grandparents' generation did.

Of course once you have debt you have to continue to service it, so people who have both parents working may feel that they have no choice. And that is true, but the real choices were made long ago, and the lack of choice now is a consequence.

Tom T. said...

Amazing how many people here seem to think that schools were invented as a plot to let the womenfolk out of the house.

Michael K said...

How are the target demogaphics the very young with no known cases of death and I'm not even sure of any known cases of intensive care for the very young? <

Instapundit had a link/quote today that is nonsense. It said viral diseases are worse for children which is just not true. Chickenpox was a minor childhood illness and mothers would have "chickenpox parties" so kids would get it at a young age when it is harmless. At age 20 and above, it has a significant mortality rate from chickenpox pneumonia. When the ability to test for polio virus arrived, it was discovered that all the children in Mexico's slums had immunity. All had been infected at a young age and had been asymptomatic.

One reason why this epidemic got going in Wuhan might have been experiments to try to learn why the virus does not harm bats, which carry it all their lives.

Nonapod said...

A better website for tracking is https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, and they show 2294 new cases with Italy yet to report. This website is updated regularly and after Italy reports, the day will be complete. About 7pm ET they start the new day, and the first countries to report are China and S. Korea.

The Johns Hopkins site seems to be a bit more up to date. It has 761 US cases compared to that site's 729.

Fernandistein said...

The primary purpose of public school is to warehouse children so the parents can go work.

And children temporarily learning the names of most of their state's counties.

"Children will need to continue learning. Interruptions in education can profoundly harm child development and make it harder to reduce the achievement gap between high- and low- income families."

What does that obviously false statement imply about the rest of the article?

Ann Althouse said...

For Singapore, I'm seeing 160 cases, with 78 recovered and no deaths.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

And children temporarily learning the names of most of their state's counties.

I was astounded when my wife told me she had to do this in grade school. I don't remember having to do this in my yout.

tim in vermont said...

The country, starts with a “C” and ends with an “a” that Joe Biden says is “not our enemy” is accusing us of creating coronavirus.

FullMoon said...

J. Farmer said, "Yep, you hit the nail on the head. The primary purpose of public school is to warehouse children so the parents can go work. Can’t let a minor inconveniences like child rearing get in the way of career ambition."

The ambitious may be able to afford time off. One might suspect, however, that many working class people depend upon a paycheck in order to pay bills and eat.

Obviously, being on some sort of government welfare program is the ideal situation in times like this. The check keeps coming and the parent(s) need not miss work.

All in all, fairly certain career ambition not going to prevent parent from keeping kids home despite government assurances that attending school is safe.

One of the peripherals teaches at a private school where parents are mostly in tech industry. School still open but she says about a third of students are absent. Another is in health care and people are cancelling doctor appointments, especially pediatric.

Fernandistein said...

micro-community level those sweeping statements are incredibly ignorant.

The micro-community wants the macro community to pay its bills, according to its needs. It's called what, class?

How many of those folks are economically positioned to just take off and keep their kids home for an unknown period of time?

That sure sounds like you're advocate for personal irresponsibility and dysgenic social programs.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Amazing how many people here seem to think that schools were invented as a plot to let the womenfolk out of the house.

Until the industrial age schools were generally private affairs. Most teaching was accomplished at home, in the case of the rich via tutors, in case of the poor they learned what their parents could teach them. The relatively affluent, but not rich, would band together to hire a tutor for their collective children.

Schools as we know them now were created to accustom citizens to being a certain place at a certain time and impart the knowledge and habits (deference to authority, ability to withstand long periods of boredom) to function as productive cogs in an industrial society. This is not speculation or a conspiracy theory. The people who created the system were completely honest about their purpose because they were proud of what they were doing.

Freeman Hunt said...

No one should assume from this that Singapore has taken a lax approach. They've been aggressive and penalties for breaking quarantine are draconian.

"Anyone flouting the quarantine for the first time may be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to six months, or both. The penalty is higher for subsequent breaches."

They don't kid around. And if they find out you lied about travel or contacts to avoid being quarantined, you are subject to the same penalties. There are also extreme penalties for businesses that ask quarantined employees to come in anyway.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Thanks, Ann.

Bob said...

I've not been to either Singapore nor China. The other day in a comment thread, some people remarked about the poor hygienic and sanitation conditions on top of heavy air pollution and heavy smoking in parts of China.

I'm guessing conditions in Singapore are much better. Anyone know from first-hand experience?

Angle-Dyne, Servant of Ugliness said...

Susan: People have to travel and the kids need to be in school. If school and travel shut down so too does the economy. Which, in the long run, will be way more damaging than any virus.

Depends on the virus (or whatever other kind of pathogen). The need to travel and the need to be in school would still be there in the case of a really bad pandemic, but the hit on the economy would not be more damaging than the disease itself. Or rather, the major economic damage would come from the effects of the disease itself, and not from attempts to control the spread of the disease.

In the case of a really bad pandemic there will still be people who will put economic self-interest ahead of disease control, and rail against quarantines and other restrictive health measures, coming up with rationales for why any restrictions will be "way more damaging" than the disease itself. But while nobody likes losing money, that money will be lost is not the #1 deciding factor in implementing public health restrictions. When it's time to start quarantining, etc., is never an easy call.

That said, it does help to wash your hands, cough in your sleeve, stop shaking hands and touching your face. But if it were a dangerous pandemic, and officials knew it, these steps would not be enough.

It's rarely clear when people start talking like this if they're saying that taking a hit on the economy is not acceptable for a non-Big One pandemic, or if they're saying that no economically damaging restrictions should ever be used to control disease. The former is reasonable, the latter is dumb. (Quarantines work.)

Clyde said...

Re: Schools, I heard that some private schools in NYC have shut down but that the public schools will remain open, since it's sometimes the only place that kids get fed a hot meal.

Achilles said...

You mean the media is letting people know not every country is freaking out and trying to tank the economy to unseat a sitting president?

J. Farmer said...

@TreeJoe:

Put aside career - how about just keeping a job. For a disease that is, at present, non deadly to the kids.

Even if it is non-deadly to kids, there is still the risk of transmission to riskier populations. Also, the government could mitigate the costs through cash transfers. And a situation in which schools were closed en masse would cause employers to adjust. They are not just going to fire the people and close up shop.

Ray - SoCal said...

Taiwan only has 48 cases, had probably 2 million people working in China, and kids are going to school in Taiwan. The kids are all wearing masks and being checked for fever each day.

https://www.voanews.com/science-health/coronavirus-outbreak/why-taiwan-has-just-42-coronavirus-cases-while-neighbors-report

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ray - SoCal said...

Some universities are doing forcing distance learning, and stopping in person classes:

NYU - supposedly just for next 3 weeks...
Columbia
Stanford
Rice
University of Washington

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/06/us/coronavirus-college-campus-closings.html

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

I'd probably trust the cleanliness of a public school in Singapore before I'd trust the cleanliness of most public schools here.

Inga said...


“A better website for tracking is https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, and they show 2294 new cases with Italy yet to report.”

Yes, the site I’ve been linking to for over a week.

Char Char Binks said...

"The average family income level in this country is $75k. That's a combo of single and dual earner families in there, meaning 50% of society is below that threshold. How many of those folks are economically positioned to just take off and keep their kids home for an unknown period of time?"

That doesn't change the fact that the main purpose of schools is daycare. Actually, it underscores the fact. I had teachers who said it was the main reason their job existed.

A two-income couple, more to the point, a couple with two full-time workers, has a lot more expenses than one with a stay-at-home partner, and having a full-time outside job apiece doesn't usually make sense, not even from a strictly financial view. That may be the one agreement I have with Elizabeth Warren. Emergencies are much easier to handle when there's someone on call ready to handle emergencies, including pandemics, real or imagined. No, it doesn't have to be the wife who stays home with the children.

Raise your own children. Do you really want other people raising them, and forming their minds in ways that you may disapprove of? Do you really want to be estranged from your own children? People don't notice the degree of estrangement that exists between parents and children, mostly because it's the rule, and not the exception. It's probably the biggest reason for generation gaps that have occurred in recent years, in society in general and within families.

Alternatively, raise your own damn children. If you can't afford to raise your own, put a cork in it.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Freeman Hunt -
I think that level of enforcement is probably a good idea.

The Americans in Seattle who got the virus - they lied about their travels and exposure.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

compare and contrast with democratic sanctuary cities - where lawless leaders in positions of power flaunt the law (ignore the law!) and tell citizens they are below the rapists and child molesters who are here illegally.

Sanctuary Authorities Asking Public For Help After Releasing Illegal Alien Charged With Child Sexual Assault

Calypso Facto said...

Hypothetical liberal conundrum: if an illegal alien is arrested in a sanctuary city AND tests positive for covid-19, is he/she released or quarantined?

J. Farmer said...

Tampa strip club offers face masks to customers to fight spread of coronavirus

Such a Florida headline.

Tom T. said...

"No, it doesn't have to be the wife who stays home with the children."

I'd be interested to hear some of the commenters here talk about their experiences as stay-at-home dads. I'm curious whether they're concerned about being able to go back to work ever again after such a long absence. And what's their plan to support themselves if the wife ever leaves?

RobinGoodfellow said...

“... schools are childcare facilities, and if they shut down, vast numbers of adults won't be able to go to work ...”

I think this is the real reason.

J. Farmer said...

Tom T.:

Amazing how many people here seem to think that schools were invented as a plot to let the womenfolk out of the house.

There is no reason that the answers to why compulsory public education was invented and what it is today have to be the same.

I'd be interested to hear some of the commenters here talk about their experiences as stay-at-home dads.

Hopefully I'll be able to answer that in about a year. I'm selling my business for that exact purpose.

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