Video Paints "Apocalyptic" Picture Of Kids Returning To School During A Pandemic
Meanwhile, President Trump this week claimed that keeping schools closed “is causing death also … it’s causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.”
As both health experts and the White House struggle to decide their own messaging and fail to establish a clear plan for how to safely reopen schools, a video released by a Florida school district showing what a return to classrooms will look like in the age of coronavirus is being called “sad,” “apocalyptic,” and drawing comparisons to “The Hunger Games.”
The video was posted by the School District of Manatee County and shows teachers wearing lab coats, masks, goggles, and face shields, with classrooms of only a few students, all of whom are wearing masks. The children are also shown eating lunch mostly alone, as they are socially distanced at tables.
Viewers posted a slew of negative replies, including comments saying, “This is no time for the kids to return to school ... shame on you,” and “These examples are sad! Why put children through this? This is like prison to these children, school is a fun place to be playing and interacting with peers and friends.” Another commenter wrote: “Why do these poor children look like they are being prepared as District tributes in the next Hunger Games?”
The district, which teaches about 49,000 students, posted the video on its Facebook page July 21. It commented on its post one day later, stating: “Images and video are intended to show examples of the new procedures in place. Schools are not one-size-fits-all. In this case, the lab coats were requested by staff as an added layer of protection to keep them safer and make students feel safer. Also, each classroom is different, so desk configuration will be subject to class size.”
Local parent Tiffany Jenkins posted a TikTok in response to the district’s video with the caption, “I feel like I'm living in an M. Night. Shyamalan movie dude.” Her TikTok had more than 380,000 likes as of Friday.
“So the school district in my town just released a video of what to expect for the upcoming school year, and I’m not gonna lie, it looks a little apocalyptic-y, a little Hunger Games-y,” Jenkins says in the video.
Jenkins told BuzzFeed News that while schools do need to reopen somehow, the portrayal of how it will be “feels like a punishment for the kids … The idea that they have to focus on distancing, or to keep their masks on to be so far from their friends, it’s heartbreaking."
Health officials as well as the Trump administration have yet to come to a firm consensus on how to safely send staff and students back to K-12 schools, yet they remain dead set on doing so. The CDC published a more than 2,300-word explanation about the need to reopen schools, saying “the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.”
Yet the CDC has wavered on its own message about school safety, saying that children are at a “lower risk” for contracting COVID-19 but can act as asymptomatic carriers, and that “the more people children interact with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.”
The CDC also said schools should reopen “while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families,” but with a caveat that “schools should be prepared for COVID-19 cases and exposure to occur in their facilities.” The CDC pointed out there is a “higher proportion of COVID-19 cases among Hispanic/Latino children as compared to non-Hispanic white children.” Black children and adults have also been disproportionately affected by coronavirus.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has also failed to provide specific details on how to safely send children back to school while pushing for classes to resume in the fall.
"The CDC guidelines are just that, meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation," she told CNN July 12. DeVos also said “flare-ups or hotspots” of infections “can be dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis."
During a coronavirus task force briefing in Louisiana on July 14, Vice President Mike Pence contradicted his own position on schools by saying, “We don’t want CDC guidance to be a reason why people don’t reopen their schools,” moments after he said, “Everything we’re going to do, we’re going to do in consultation with the CDC guidelines.”
Trump repeated his push for in-person classes to resume during a briefing on Thursday, claiming that “keeping [students] out of school and keeping work closed is causing death also. Economic harm, but it’s causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.” He also said: "If you look at what’s going on: the younger, the better. Amazing — the immune system."
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci testified during a House subcommittee hearing about coronavirus on Friday and said that schools should reopen “as best as we possibly can in the context of the safety of the children and the teachers.” Two days earlier, Fauci said children ages 10 and above “can transmit the virus to adults as well as adults can.” A recent study conducted in South Korea using contact tracing showed that children under 9 are less likely to transmit infections to their families, but the authors noted that more research is needed.
Nearly 4.5 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S. as of Friday, with more than 152,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.