Last week President Trump declared a national emergency due to the spread of coronavirus. On Sunday he assured the nation that COVID-19 was something "we have tremendous control of." But this week, on Monday, the President said the virus "is not under control" and issued new guidelines to stop the spread of the disease, urging Americans to take social distancing seriously to flatten the curve of the virus.
"My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking in bars, restaurants, and public food courts," Trump said Monday.
He continued: "If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus, and we are going to have a big celebration altogether."
That celebration may be a few months away, according to President Trump, who, when asked how long the coronavirus crisis is expected to go on told reporters: "People are talking about July, August, something like that, so it could be right in that period of time where I say, it washes through...They think August, could be July, could be longer than that."
President Trump says the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak surprised his administration but critics suggest the severity may not have been a surprise if the administration had not disbanded the National Security Council's pandemic response team in 2018.
Schooling from home
The President did not close schools on Monday, but he did ask parents to start home schooling if possible, which many are already doing. Schools are closed in 35 states right now, according to Education Week, which reports "at least 69,000 U.S. schools are closed, are scheduled to close, or were closed and later reopened, affecting at least 35.9 million public school students."
Outside of the United States many schools are closed or closing around the world, but school closures (especially of 8 weeks or more) have a massive economic impact and are particularly problematic for the most vulnerable children in our communities, those who depend on school for food and a safe place to be.
Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and physician at Yale University, told Science that "Proactive school closures—closing schools before there's a case there—have been shown to be one of the most powerful nonpharmaceutical interventions that we can deploy... It's not just about keeping the kids safe. It's keeping the whole community safe. When you close the schools, you reduce the mixing of the adults—parents dropping off at the school, the teachers being present. When you close the schools, you effectively require the parents to stay home."
And that's kind of the problem, economically, and why school and state officials may be hesitant to close schools for as long as the CDC says would be necessary for it to make a difference. "It's important to note that school closures are not guaranteed to reduce transmission. Timing of the closure is very important. Closures early in the epidemic are more likely to be effective, and they may be ineffective if children just gather in other locations," writes Aubree Gordon, Professor of Public Health, University of Michigan for The Conversation.
President Trump says this could last until August and the CDC says schools would need to be closed for 8 to 20 weeks to make keeping children out of school an effective means of stoping the virus.
We know this is hard
No one, not the CDC or the President of the United States wants to tell parents to pull their kids from school. It's not good for the economy and as the President spoke these words on Monday the Dow hit record lows.
This is serious and we can seriously help keep our own families and others safe by following the recommendations.
This will be hard, mama. But we will get through it together.