Decision or Plan 7/16/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

A friend posted a question regarding the reopening of the schools. For those who are not following the news, the President’s scientific advisory board is warning that we’re in the most rapid growth of new cases ever, breaking records nationally and in many states of new cases of Covid-19 nearly every day. While they are calling for caution, the president is trying to strong-arm schools into opening regardless of if they are feeling prepared.

In the comments, another friend commented on the fact that she (as a teacher) is not clear what the plan is. If a student (or teacher) is running a fever or tests positive, what will happen? Will the entire class be quarantined? The school? Or will everybody be tested? And who will pay for the testing? Will things switch suddenly to online?

I didn’t respond to my friend’s original post. The very first response to it was false information downplaying the dangers of the virus, and frankly I’m a little tired of jumping into that fray. The people who still believe that are parroting the president and being intentionally ignorant of the scientific facts. Arguing with them is almost as effective as arguing with a wall, which, according to Pink Floyd, they’re just bricks in that wall anyway. But my second friend’s comments made me think a bit about the difference between making a decision and making a plan.

It’s easy to make a decision to open schools, but it’s an entirely other beast to have an actual plan to reopen. Nineteen years ago, in 2001, President George W. Bush decided to launch a ground war into Afghanistan. The decision was easy, although the excuse was flimsy, but the plan was distinctly lacking. No clear goal was ever established and there never was an exit plan. As a result, despite the president’s proclamation “Mission Accomplished” in 2003, here we are, nineteen years and over twenty thousand US causalities later, still entangled in the mess George W. Bush managed to get us into. That was a decision without a plan.

Not every decision requires a plan. One of my favorite ways to waste time is to do for a drive (I know; it would be healthier to take a walk or go for a bicycle ride), but it’s far more fun when I don’t have plans. Often, I would pick a direction and just drive. Thanks to GPS, that’s far easier to do today than it was when I started doing this, but that was Boston. Any direction I would drive was fine. If I got too lost, I’d just drive in the same direction until I hit the bypass which always brought me back home. But while I was “lost”, I would stop wherever it looked fun, and made some amazing discoveries. But neither was a random drive a matter of life and death. Reopening schools is.

There are many reasons to be concerned about politicians trying to strong-arm states and schools into re-opening prematurely. It’s a violation of state’s rights. These states know their people best, their resources and as large as our nation is are best to understand the current pandemic conditions not only in their state, but in surrounding states as well. In New York, the number of new cases is still high, but in a decline, while in Texas, the number of new cases is increasing exponentially. It would make sense to relax some restrictions in New York and impose new ones in Texas, as an example, whereas a national standard, even to open everything, might not be the best decision for those areas.

What’s more, threatening to withhold funding has become such a cliché in forcing states and schools to bend to the will off the president. For over three years now, the US has been in a tariff war with China, and the European Union, to try to strong-arm these countries into bending to the president’s will. Unfortunately, it failed. The leaders of these nations demonstrated their resolve and ability to push back. Not only has the president failed at gaining his objective, but the people are the ones suffering as farmers are losing sales in exports and the US citizens are paying higher prices because of these tariffs.

So, who will pay for the threat to pull funding from schools? How many Americans will contract the Coronavirus as school children breathe each other’s airspace and bring the virus back to their homes? How many of these newly infected Americans will die as a result, and of the ones that survive, how many will have lifelong medical struggles because of failed organs?

I’m all for re-opening schools, but more than that, I’m for proper planning for schools to re-open, and I’m especially for a government who supports that ability of states to make these plans.

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