The case for in-person schooling
As school districts across the U.S. deliberate whether and how to reopen this fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics caused a stir this week with its guidelines strongly recommending that students be “physically present in school” as much as possible.
On the surface, the advice may seem to buck the trend of the A.A.P.’s generally cautious approach to health and safety, but the organization believes there are far more benefits to having students in classrooms than keeping them at home. Research already shows that forced remote learning during the pandemic has set students back months and further entrenched racial and economic disparities.
“I think the document really clearly acknowledges what our reporting shows, which is that the risk of catching the coronavirus is not the only risk that children and families face right now,” Dana Goldstein, a national education reporter for The Times, told us. “I also read it as a parent. I am one who is excited for my child to go back to school if the proper safety precautions are followed.”
The downsides of not returning to the classroom go far beyond educational deficits. The group warned of students developing behavioral health issues and having less access to physical activity, socialization and meal programs, while teachers have fewer opportunities to identify signs of mistreatment at home.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised six feet between students’ desks, but the A.A.P. calls for just three feet, pointing to face-coverings and frequent hand-washing to lower the risk of infection. The new advice draws on scientists’ understanding of the virus, which so far indicates that children rarely become severely ill and are less likely to infect others.
Dana said she had spoken to many teenagers who seemed universally eager to get back to school, though some teachers she interviewed were worried about returning to buildings with hundreds of people.
“There will be cases of Covid-19 in schools even where they make their best efforts,” Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrics infectious disease specialist who helped write the guidelines, told Dana. “But we have to balance that with the overall health of children.”
Schools before bars: In a Times Op-Ed article, an epidemiologist and a pediatrician argue that reopening businesses that pose a major risk of community spread should be a lower priority than reopening schools.
Are you a teacher? The Times’s Learning Network has published 150 resources, including daily lesson plans, to help students understand the pandemic.
Masks and the culture wars
Many conservatives and libertarians have made opposition to face masks a political cause, and Republican leaders have often appeared dismissive, or outright hostile, toward wearing masks in public.
Public bickering over masks is occurring with extraordinary frequency, and viral videos are capturing the messy fallout. Grocery stores are training their staff to respond to unruly customers, and some restaurants are choosing to close rather than face the wrath of diners who believe being forced to wear a mask impinges on their freedom.
But as the coronavirus surges in states with Republican governors, some leaders are suddenly changing their minds.
“Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK,” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming wrote in a post on Twitter that included a photo of her father in a mask. “Arm yourself with a mask,” Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona pleaded with his residents this week. Last weekend, Vice President Mike Pence abruptly began wearing a mask and recommending others to do the same.
Still, some Republicans are worried that their efforts will not move the public so long as President Trump continues to resist wearing a mask. “We must have no stigma — none — about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Monday.
A multimillion-dollar business. The e-commerce website Etsy said users sold 12 million face masks in May worth $133 million, or about 10 percent of the site’s gross merchandise sales of the previous quarter.
The Caribbean started welcoming international travelers again today, but Americans won’t be able to visit all of the islands. Our Travel desk has a guide to the reopening plans for five popular tourist destinations, including the Bahamas and Jamaica.
The border between Spain and Portugal reopened today after closing in mid-March. It was marked by an event attended by King Felipe VI of Spain and the prime ministers of both nations.
In the Netherlands, sex work can resume, and gatherings of up to 100 can now take place.
In Belgium, many public spaces were allowed to reopen today, including pools, amusement parks, casinos, indoor playgrounds and theaters.
Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.
As the outbreak reaches new parts of the U.S., some Americans are confronting the coronavirus for the first time. Here is some basic information you should know.
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Each morning I record the loud chatter of birds that have multiplied in the trees around my house since the outbreak, and send them to my friends and family across the world for a soothing and joyful start to their day.
— Balbir Verma, New Delhi
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