Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer has come under fire for recent audio leaked to LA radio station KFI AM 60 in which she asserts that schools will likely not open up again until after the Presidential election on November 3. Her remarks have drawn criticism that Ferrer is leaning on politics rather than science in making her determination. In a moment of unguarded honesty while on a conference call, Ferrer opined that:
“We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either tier 2 or to reopening K-12 schools at least until after the election in early November.”
Conspiracy Theory or Calculated Political Move?
On its face, this seems to reinforce the right-wing “conspiracy theory” that everything is about the election at present and may be used for political advantage – even our children’s education. Unfortunate statements like Ferrer’s reinforce the idea that intransigence on opening businesses, restaurants, churches, and public schools may have a calculated political component.
Over the summer, President Trump, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) all endorsed American children going back to school in the Fall – a notion against which the teacher’s unions of California swiftly pushed back. Within a day or so, the unions voted to continue school closures in favor of remote learning.
This decision flew in the face of all science on the subject. We know that there is not a single recorded case of a student infecting a teacher with COVID-19 anywhere in the world – even though students went back to school many months ago in Denmark, Norway, and Germany as well as nine other countries. A recent article in The Journal of Pediatrics argued that schools should remain open – even if the Coronavirus spreads as there is no real danger to children.
The determination to bar students from in-person learning was also made with full knowledge that the seasonal flu is far more deadly than COVID for children. Internationally children have barely registered as infected or in any way sickened by the virus during the pandemic.
For a group that genuflects to science, the left deliberately ignored science when it was politically convenient for them to do so. This also includes the comprehensive adoption of masks, which has devolved into self-reinforcing fascism requiring everyone to wear them outside the home – available science be damned. And the science on whether unprecedented quarantines of healthy people have worked to slow the spread of COVID-19 is still in dispute, but history suggests the evidence does not favor supporting arguments.
None of that science appeared to register with a county professional for whom science is in the mission directive of her job. Ferrer was also overheard to say on the same conference call that:
“When we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us a more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re going to be where we are now until we are done with the election.”
The social media critiques of Ferrer’s tacit admission that politics was privileged over science in deciding to keep schools closed were fast and furious. Outraged Twitter commenters called her remarks “disgusting” and “criminal” and evidence that we are being “held hostage” by a politically-motivated ruling class. Some wondered why Halloween, for example, might not have made just as convenient a watershed date for the reopening of schools – another trenchant observation that suggests politics at the heart of Ferrer’s remarks.
Meanwhile, the LA County Department of Health was under the gun to clarify Ferrer’s statements, asserting that she was really only referring to the “time frame for expanded school re-openings.” Anytime the government body that has aegis over you has to run interference for your remarks, you know full well you stepped in it, and a hose is being applied to your shoes.
LA Unified School District is the second-largest in the country behind New York City’s Board of Education. Seven hundred thirty-five thousand students in LA County are now nearly a month into distance learning – a bad dream from which we had hoped to awaken this Fall after a Spring rife with lockdown-learning.
LA has at least made tentative plans to allow its most severely impacted special education students to revisit in-person learning, starting this week. But after LA County canceled Halloween trick-or-treating after having supported protests, then walked back the decision a day later, and given Barbara Ferrer’s apparently political metric – should Southern Californians have any confidence their elected officials know what they’re doing and are making science-based decisions free of political bias?
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