Children Suffering Under Covid and Teachers’ Unions

 

Children are perhaps the least vulnerable demographic of our population to the Covid pandemic, but they are being disproportionately harmed. Despite exceedingly low rates of infection and negligible mortality, children in many parts of the country are being forced to stay home from school. This is not based on science, but on partisan politics – and especially teachers’ unions.

Case in point is a recent report in The Wall Street Journal of New York Teachers Union chief, Michael Mulgrew, who told parents to brace for another round of school shutdowns. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio naturally complied with the teachers’ union chief’s directive. The rationale for this egregious interruption of education is based on the virus testing positive rate that neared the arbitrary threshold of 3%.

But the benchmark is based on the city population, not schools. Merely 0.074% of students have tested positive over the last two months, and only 0.0011% on November 11, the day of the order. That’s one in a hundred thousand children. If New York City’s 1,126,000 million student population was its own metro region, it would have among the lowest per-capita case rates in the U.S. Only 955 of the 150,000 or so public-school employees have tested positive since mid-September. Most evidence shows children are less likely to transmit the virus than adults, so schools are less likely to be sources of contagion than are the city’s restaurants or offices, which are still open.

Further evidence to support this conclusion comes from Brown University economics professor Emily Oster, who has been tracking virus cases at a sample of schools with more than three million students and 422,000 staff. She reports there have been substantially fewer cases among students and teachers than among local populations. But this makes no difference to teachers’ unions.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board concludes what should be obvious to everyone – children are the last priority of teachers’ unions. This is demonstrated by their ferocious fight to block charter school expansions and to keep bad teachers in classrooms. Reams of data show that closing schools in the spring has cost students substantially.

What is the impact of the pandemic on the education of children?

A recent Stanford University study of 19 states estimates that students lost on average between 57 to 183 days of learning in reading and 136 to 232 days in math during the spring closures. New York City students lost 122 days in reading and 209 days in math – essentially a year of education in a few months.

These losses in days of education have been quantified by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in estimating lost future wages.  They estimate that lower education quality during schools’ closures “costs current students between $12,000 and $15,000 in future earnings, varying by age. By October 1, 2020, we project students in grades 1-12 had lost between $43,000 and $57,000, or 4 to 5 percent of their lifetime wage earnings.”

Don’t expect this to get better under a Biden presidency. Jill Biden is a member of the NEA teachers’ union and Joe Biden has already declared to the teachers’ unions, When we win this election, we’re going to get the support you need and the respect you deserve. You don’t just have a partner in the White House, you’ll have an NEA member in the White House. And if I’m not listening, I’m going to be sleeping alone in the Lincoln Bedroom.”

The education of our children is the future of our country. That future has taken a serious hit with the election of a president who is sympathetic to teachers’ unions. It’s not a good time to be a child.

(Note: The New York City schools closed on November 19th when they reached the 3% positivity rate.)

Masks Are Not All Created Equal

 

Masks have become the newest fashion accessory. My wife was given three masks recently as a hospitality gift from another woman. They came in three different colors and patterns so she could match them with various outfits. She’s already thinking about which one to wear on Thanksgiving.

We’ve come a long way from the early days of the Covid pandemic when we were first told by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams that we didn’t need masks. Today, we can be escorted out of stores and restaurants if we’re not wearing one. But does it matter which kind of mask we wear?

Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA, says it does. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Gottlieb says many Americans could protect themselves better if they simply bought a better mask. Not all masks are created equal and therefore not all masks provide the same protection.

Gottlieb says, “A cotton mask offers far less protection than a surgical mask. If a cloth mask is all you can find, buy a thick one. Snug-fitting masks made of cotton-polyester blends will generally offer more protection. But even a very good cloth mask may only be about 30% protective; scarf or bandanna, 10% or less.”

“A surgical mask could offer you better protection, on the order of 60%. But here again, quality matters. Many of the masks sold on Amazon, which say they are for dust and allergens, aren’t surgical masks, even though they look like the blue masks worn by nurses and doctors. A real medical-procedure mask will be cleared by the FDA and designated as offering one of three levels of protection. Generally, a level 2 or level 3 medical mask is best.”

If you want even greater protection, consider an N95 mask, which when used properly, will filter out at least 95% of infectious particles. These must be properly fitted to be effective and they cost more. Equivalent masks are sold in China under the designation KN95 and in Europe as FFP2. These masks have been authorized for emergency use by the FDA and have been tested to show they offer comparable protection to the N95 mask. Beware of counterfeits that claim equivalent protection but have not undergone rigid testing.

The cost of masks is declining after exorbitant prices during the early pandemic days. The normal cost of surgical masks before the pandemic was about 20 cents per mask. During the early pandemic, when shortages were widespread, I was forced to pay more than $1.00 per mask. Just yesterday I found the same masks on sale for about 16 cents each.

The N95 masks may sell for $5 or more per mask. But they may be worth the investment if you find yourself often in high-risk environments. These masks can be reused if properly disinfected. The Department of Homeland Security has published instructions online on disinfecting and reusing N95 masks that can extend their life.

Masks are a necessary reality of our lives today, though this will likely change once the vaccines are widely distributed. With three successful vaccines already in the pipeline, the world can look forward with optimism to a time soon when masks will not be necessary. Until then, find a mask you’re comfortable wearing and wear it when necessary. But remember, not all masks are created equal.

More Vaccine Success Overshadowed by Biden Task Force

 

For the second Monday since the election there is encouraging vaccine news. The latest news comes from Moderna, which announced 95% success with its vaccine trials. The stock market responded with another great day.

The Moderna vaccine, like the one from Pfizer, is an mRNA vaccine. They reported 95 people in the study contracted the virus and 90 of those had received the placebo. These findings come from a 30,000 subject trial and moves the company closer to distribution of the vaccine. They only have to complete the safety data, which has been good thus far, at the end of this month.

Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine requires two shots, approximately three weeks apart. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna’s does not require refrigeration at extremely cold temperatures. They estimate, after thawing, it can remain stable in regular refrigerators for up to 30 days. This would greatly simplify distribution of the vaccine compared to the Pfizer vaccine.

You might expect this news to be greeted with enthusiasm by everyone. But there seem to be critics for every situation, no matter how much everyone benefits. Many have criticized the FDA for granting Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) this past summer for convalescent plasma to treat Covid. The Wall Street Journal reports more than a dozen studies showed benefits for this treatment. A Mayo Clinic trial that enrolled some 35,000 patients found seven-day mortality was 44% lower among non-intubated patients under the age of 80 who were treated within 72 hours of diagnosis with plasma containing high levels of antibodies versus lower levels.

These same critics claim the FDA jumped the gun by approving remdesivir and should have waited for supposedly more robust evidence of success. Some say the FDA should have consulted outside experts before granting EUA. By ignoring such naysayers, the Trump Administration has made possible effective treatments and new vaccines in record-breaking time.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board says, “Credit here goes to private drug investment and innovation, but also to the Trump administration for speeding up government approvals. The Administration pushed reforms in the Food and Drug Administration’s bureaucratic and risk-averse culture, even if it didn’t always succeed. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb put a particular priority on speeding up drug approvals. New generic approvals increased to 107 last year from 73 in 2016.”

Unfortunately, some of these same critics now make up the Biden Covid task force. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the notorious architects of the ObamaCare train wreck, was most noted for his creation of an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) which was designed to control Medicare spending. Thankfully, the IPAB has since been repealed by Congress. But Emanuel continues to be favored by Democrats who are more concerned with spending than taking care of people. He believes government needs to clamp down on doctors who prescribe treatments that incrementally help patients, especially the elderly with fewer years to live. In other words, he favors rationing of healthcare, like socialized medicine.

Another Biden Covid task force member is David Kessler, FDA commissioner under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The WSJ says Kessler let the agency be hijacked by trial lawyers and banned most silicone breast implants because of unascertainable risks, which many women were willing to bear. During his tenure, approvals of new medical devices ground to a halt. Kessler told Politico in August, “The FDA commissioner is to put their body on the line in between all the forces that want to influence the agency.” The WSJ says he meant the agency should ignore doctors and patients who want access to therapies that don’t pass this “expert” bureaucratic obstacle course.

The election results show many Americans voted for Biden believing he would do a better job than Trump on handling the Covid pandemic. Yet the Biden plan differed little from the Trump plan except for a national mask-wearing mandate. (Biden’s Covid Plan is Trump’s Plan)

But now it appears Biden may actually contribute to a worsening of the pandemic crisis. The WSJ editorial board summarizes their concerns: “The Trump FDA’s Covid innovation has been providing real-time feedback and clear guidance to drug and vaccine makers about its expectations. This has helped therapies and vaccines advance and cut Phase 3 trials from three years to three months. These reforms are one of the success stories of the federal Covid response. But there’s a serious risk that the Biden team will default to their instincts and reimpose a culture of bureaucratic control that restricts new medical advances.”

It’s easy to be a critic when you’re not in charge.