As Schools Open From Wuhan To Stockholm, California Shuts ‘Em Down
Scott J. Street
Gov. Gavin Newsom made what may go down as the biggest public policy blunder in California history last Friday when he essentially ordered schools in most of the state to close their doors for the fall semester.
Newsom’s order requires schools within counties on the “Monitoring List” to remain completely closed. The list is determined not by coronavirus cases among children, but by increases in the number of overall infections per 100,000 people, changes in the rate of hospitalization, and increases in positive test results, among other factors. For counties where students are permitted to return to school, all children in third grade and above will be required to wear masks, while children 2 years old through second grade will be “strongly encouraged” to do so.
Perhaps this was fitting. After all, Newsom issued the first statewide lockdown order in the United States back in March. Newsom’s unprecedented order — which deprived 40 million people of their civil rights for an indefinite period that still hasn’t ended — started a domino effect in which states and local governments rushed to shut down their economies too.
The lockdown fetish had bipartisan support, with Republican governors such as Ohio’s Mike Dewine competing with Democrats such as Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer to craft the broadest and most demeaning orders. The economic carnage that followed will take years to repair, and people may never heal from the emotional damage.
Newsom Can’t Fake Ignorance
As bad as Newsom’s original lockdown order was, this new school shutdown is even worse. In March, Newsom could pretend the state didn’t know anything about the Wuhan virus and thus had to err on the side of safety until the government could figure out how to deal with the problem.
That was false, of course; state health officials said they had been tracking the virus since December 2019, and in February, they said they knew a lot about the virus already, including that it was not a threat to the general public’s health, a mantra they repeated numerous times between January and March.
In the hysterical media environment that surrounded Newsom’s March 19 lockdown order, however, most people were willing to cut the governor some slack and go along with his plan for a couple months. They were willing to sacrifice to “flatten the curve.”
But Newsom can’t feign ignorance now. As others have written, there is no evidence that opening schools in the fall will lead to a surge in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. All the evidence supports the contrary. That is why schools have successfully reopened across the world. Even children in Wuhan, China, have gone back to class.
Newsom’s defenders will say he is not forcing schools to close. In fact, he is giving schools permission to open if the county they reside in meets certain criteria. But that criteria is arbitrary and overly broad. It has nothing to do with individual schools and school districts.
Why should a school in one part of a county be shut because of something that happens, or a decision that is made, elsewhere? Why should private schools, which are tuition-funded and do not have to answer to teacher unions and government bureaucrats, have to close if their families want to open? Why should any schools have to answer for what hospitals and testing centers are doing?
Democrats Are Exploiting Coronavirus
More importantly, the governor’s new standard is designed to fail. COVID-19 cases will always increase. Newsom knows that. His health department knows that. In fact, in March, the state health officer said the expected increase in cases was “not necessarily a sign that the rate of infection is increasing, but that our ability to test more people more rapidly is leading to better detection.”
A dramatic increase in the rate of infection might be cause for concern, of course, as would a surge in hospitalizations and deaths. But there has been no surge in the rate of infections in California. On Memorial Day, 5.8 percent of coronavirus tests had come back positive. As of July 18, just 6.1 percent of the tests had come back positive. Given that 4.5 million tests were performed between those dates, that is a trivial difference. It is not a surge.
Indeed, given the surge in unsanitary homeless encampments across California, plus the sudden release of thousands of inmates back into society, and daily mass gatherings of protesters in Los Angeles, it is miraculous this rate has remained stable. California officials should be celebrating it and lifting their lockdown orders.
The Democratic Party, which has a virtual monopoly on power in California, will not allow that. Rest assured, Democrats have one goal for 2020: defeat President Donald Trump. Whether one agrees with that goal or not, it has blinded Democratic politicians in California to reality and led them down an increasingly illogical and dangerous path, where lockdowns are the status quo, at least until November. The rest of us are pawns in this political chess match.
Citing Dr. Anthony Fauci or invoking “science,” as Democrats have repeatedly done during this pandemic, cannot redeem this delusional journey. Newsom said he based his school decision on data, but watching him stumble to explain what that data was during his July 17 press conference exposed that fake justification.
Playing Politics with Kids Is a Horrible Idea
If this is all about politics, it is time for Democrats to understand that mortgaging our children’s future is not a good way to start a national campaign, not when the rest of the world has safely gotten its kids back into classrooms. Playing politics with our children will not earn them any respect. It is far more likely to get Trump re-elected and to set back the Democratic Party among middle-class voters.
Bill Clinton knew that. For all his flaws, Clinton had his finger on the pulse of Middle America, the “forgotten middle class” as he called it during his 1992 campaign. It was Clinton who said during that campaign that “responsibility” had gone “unrewarded and so did hard work. It’s no wonder so many kids growing up on the street think it makes more sense to join a gang and deal drugs than to stay in school and go to work.”
Those words ring true today. But this time, Democratic politicians are pushing people away from work, away from school, and into a bloated medical welfare state. They should instead heed Clinton’s words, or they will wake up Nov. 4 just like they woke up on Nov. 9, 2016 — realizing just how out of touch they are with regular Americans.
Scott Street is a Democratic lawyer and consultant in Los Angeles. He regularly writes about legal and political issues.