Reopen Schools and the Country Letter
Please use this form to add your signature to the letter to President Trump about the CDC's quarantine guidelines that are shutting schools down again by forcing healthy people to quarantine. When you are done, please share this form with others. The text of the letter is below. Simply scroll past the letter to sign.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for your tireless efforts to reopen America and to enable Americans to go back to their jobs, their schools, and to their normal lives.
Since the spring, we have each, in our own professional and personal capacities, been strong proponents of reopening schools. Our work has focused both on the need for children to have normal interactions with other children and to be able to access an education, and the related need to reduce fears about COVID-19. Only when the unwarranted and excessive fear is reduced will schools be able to reopen fully.
One of the undersigned, Jenny Beth Martin, lives in Cherokee County, Georgia, which reopened schools on August 3rd, for in-person instruction five days a week. Her 17-year-old children began their senior year, excited that they would be able to be at school, after having been out of the classroom for nearly five months.
Within seven days, however, their high school had closed because of positive COVID tests among the student body, and the school has announced it will remain shut for a minimum of 20 days. It is impossible to describe the frustration, the levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and flat out anger students, teachers, administrators, and parents in the community are experiencing.
Everyone in charge is pointing the finger at someone else and no one is taking responsibility to get to the root of the problem.
After talking to the school board, the local department of health, reading the guidance from the state, and texting with the governor, it seems that the root of this problem are the contradictory statements from the CDC – specifically the CDC's contact tracking guidance, and the CDC's guidance on quarantining healthy people who have been exposed to COVID-19. Even more specifically, the guidance for people who recently had "close contact" with someone who had coronavirus is the problem. Now that we know much more about the virus and have multiple treatment options available for those most severely impacted by the virus, it is time to begin easing the quarantine guidance of healthy, low risk individuals who are exposed to a COVID positive case.
There is no way for high school students to remain in school when this guidance is turned into mandates, as it has been in Georgia. More broadly, and even more alarmingly, with these guidelines-turned-mandates, it is impossible for nearly any business to remain open.
The CDC's recommended 14-day quarantine of anyone exposed to a person who tested positive or has symptoms of COVID (which are the same symptoms as strep throat, the flu, and stomach bugs). They recommend the quarantine guidelines regardless of whether the exposed positive tested person was symptomatic and regardless of whether the exposed person's health and low-risk factors. This guidance has been turned into mandates, regulations, and orders in many states across the country. Those orders are, in turn, being used to prevent schools from reopening. Further, some schools (especially high schools) that reopened are forcing the quarantine of dozens of healthy, low-risk students per positive test case. This adversely affects those students’ education and the mental health of every student worried they may be sent home at any time. The quarantining of dozens of students per one positive case leads to full school closures with few actual positive test cases.
At CNP, President Trump mentioned that the EPA's Clean Waters Act "took away the lives" of farmers and business owners. President Trump talked about how it caused grown men to cry when he corrected that action because their lives were returned to them. In the same way, as the EPA took away people's lives, the CDC’s guidelines are “taking away the lives” of students, educators, and their families.
At some point, we, as a nation, will have to assess the devastation caused by leaving the country in permanent state of lockdown to prevent the spread of a virus that 99.8% of people survive. If we truly expect to reopen schools, this risk-versus-benefit analysis must be done sooner, rather than later.
Having read the CDC website in detail, and having consulted with numerous doctors, we urge changing the self-isolating guidance after exposure to COVID-19 patients or possible exposure. We, the undersigned, urge you to have these CDC guidelines changed. Specifically, change the "Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure" page, which is linked from the "Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC's Considerations" page, which comes from the Schools and Childcare Programs page. (Also, please change any other pages that have the same kind of "quarantine" guidance because of exposure to a positive COVID tested person or one who has symptoms of COVID. Do not limit the update to the one page mentioned above if other pages need to be updated for consistency. We have also found this additional page titled “When to Quarantine”, and there may be a few more.)
If people are sick, they should stay at home. If they are high risk, they should evaluate their medical situation with their personal physician(s) and take appropriate measures to protect themselves. For those who are not at high risk, it is time we begin living our lives again, and it is past time for our low-risk children to be back in school getting the education they need to have a chance at a better future.
On July 23, 2020, the CDC updated their website with a report about the importance of reopening schools, the relatively low risk COVID poses to children, as well as numerous studies indicating transmission from children is low. Unfortunately, school systems that attempt to reopen face locking down again because the quarantine guidance makes it impossible for reopened schools – especially high schools and higher education – to remain open. Furthermore, school system employees, who should focus on educating students, are devolving into contact tracers rather than educators.
Across the board, the results of online and virtual education have been abysmal. Students, especially minority students, have been left behind, as the virtual classrooms have proven to be a wholly inadequate substitute for in-person instruction.
All across the globe, from Singapore to Munich, schools are reopening. Many students in Germany and France, to name but two countries, were in classrooms over the summer to make up the classroom time they had missed during the spring. In America, we are moving in the wrong direction, re-shutting schools down as they attempt to reopen. Our children deserve better.
One of our coalition doctors, Dr. Mark McDonald, a child psychiatrist, has noted the unnecessary anxiety we are inflicting upon children because of the uncertainty about how, when, and if they will be able to go to school – and even if they do go into a classroom, there is a ceaseless fear on the child’s part that he or she will be kicked out of the classroom and sent into quarantine. "Even if that child every day goes to school and never gets sick, never has the temperature check rise above 98.6, never gets the positive blood test showing he's infected, doesn't get contact tracing smears on him from kids that did get sick that he played with in the sandbox two days ago, even if he's safe the whole year, he's going to be waking up every day wondering maybe this'll be the day that I get pulled out and stoned. That is not any way to treat a child, to raise a child, or to educate a child. And I can tell you in my practice already, every child, healthy or not, is having significantly increased in worsenings of anxiety, panic attacks, sleep disorders, neurosis, wetting the bed, social phobias. It goes on and on and on."
Mr. President, thank you for your continued leadership on the issue of reopening schools. Please urge the CDC to provide clear and consistent guidelines that enable and empower school districts to reopen and end the one size fits all practice of quarantining healthy, low risk individuals.
CC: Vice President Mike Pence
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Dr. Scott Atlas
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