Students Are Doing What Adults Won’t in the Fight Against Omicron
January 12, 2022 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Students Are Doing What Adults Won’t in the Fight Against Omicron [Vice/Motherboard] " “We are tired of adult leadership not being able to represent the voice of the people that are affected by the shit that they're putting into place,” Santiago De La Garza, a 16-year-old junior at Solorio Academy in Chicago who plans to participate in the walkout, told Motherboard."
posted by hippybear (31 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for the link hippybear, I sent this to my friend who teaches in Chicago and she'll bring it up with her students tomorrow.

In my school district, we had a large number of COVID cases the week before the Christmas break, and admin made the decision that we would be virtual until next week. Virtual is no good for the kids but an organized, short term school closure with plans in place to have short term remote school (like a 1:1 plan for students and tech, which we implemented this year) is a million times better than the shit show in Chicago.

The students are absolutely right that it all comes down to money, and good for them for sticking up for themselves AND the teachers, when the major is trying to throw the teachers union under the bus.
posted by subdee at 9:58 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


Illinois protocol is that a close contact is 6 ft, except if you are inside a school building. Somehow, the state has declared that omicron transmits differently inside School buildings.

The fact that there's a separate quarantine set of rules for schools is extremely troubling, so it's wonderful to see the kids are acting to protect themselves.
posted by eustatic at 9:59 PM on January 12 [15 favorites]


I’ve been following the development of Covid-inhibiting UV lights kind of casually for awhile now, and there are some intriguing results:
A direct approach to limit airborne viral transmissions is to inactivate them within a short time of their production. Germicidal ultraviolet light, typically at 254 nm, is effective in this context but, used directly, can be a health hazard to skin and eyes. By contrast, far-UVC light (207–222 nm) efficiently kills pathogens potentially without harm to exposed human tissues. We previously demonstrated that 222-nm far-UVC light efficiently kills airborne influenza virus and we extend those studies to explore far-UVC efficacy against airborne human coronaviruses alpha HCoV-229E and beta HCoV-OC43. Low doses of 1.7 and 1.2 mJ/cm2 inactivated 99.9% of aerosolized coronavirus 229E and OC43, respectively. As all human coronaviruses have similar genomic sizes, far-UVC light would be expected to show similar inactivation efficiency against other human coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2. Based on the beta-HCoV-OC43 results, continuous far-UVC exposure in occupied public locations at the current regulatory exposure limit (~3 mJ/cm2/hour) would result in ~90% viral inactivation in ~8 minutes, 95% in ~11 minutes, 99% in ~16 minutes and 99.9% inactivation in ~25 minutes. Thus while staying within current regulatory dose limits, low-dose-rate far-UVC exposure can potentially safely provide a major reduction in the ambient level of airborne coronaviruses in occupied public locations.
8 minutes for "90% viral inactivation" seems way too slow for a crowded school hallway between classes, for example, but it seems possible (barely) that you could improve that enough with higher light levels and protective glasses. I’m not sure what it would take for us to be willing to go that far, though.

207–222nm led lights are commercially available.
posted by jamjam at 11:42 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


According to this article about a new study, dry/dehumidified air might get you similar results
posted by trig at 12:16 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


UV is a "thing" in biological safety cabinets, but it's use limitations are well know (especially "shadow effect").

High power UV in ventilation systems is a great idea, but UV LEDs - at intensities that are actually effective - have inefficiency problems (lots of heat generated, lots of energy consumption; the heat issue can sometimes be high enough to melt the solder that hooks up the LED elements).

There might be a "sweet spot" between ventilation system UV intensity and airflow, but it's kind of narrow. Less so if one is willing to spend electricity.

Not only eye protection (if enough UV sources are around, regular safety goggles are insufficient because they aren't completely tight to skin.

Then there's the skin exposure issue; wear SPF 30+ all the time, everywhere, and require constant reapplication?

Technically, UV is fine and useful, but the specific applications require investigation and I suspect many implementations are bullshit.
posted by porpoise at 1:06 AM on January 13 [12 favorites]


But good on the kids!

A coworker has a brother working in a Port Coquitlam middle school, and absenteeism is at 16% and rising - but the stats don't/ can't determine how many no-shows are sick/ symptomatic and how many are just being held back from attending in person by their parents out of precaution.
posted by porpoise at 1:08 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile in Ireland schools have been told to leave windows open to ensure adequate ventilation, and children and teachers are freezing. For our American friends, the 8°C indoor temperature mentioned at the top of that article corresponds to 46°F. My sister teaches junior infants (4-5 years old) and they've all been wearing coats in class.

In Ireland, having an office that cold (or in the case of nurses, skipping their annual leave because they have to cover for sick colleagues) would be illegal, but remember that teachers and nurses are Essential Workers(tm) who are doing the job out of the goodness of their hearts, and so don't deserve basic protections.
posted by kersplunk at 1:46 AM on January 13 [15 favorites]


We have watched our local high school students organize around multiple issues since Covid started -- masks, distance learning, hate speech in schools, BLM protests -- and it is a little bit terrifying to watch how smart, nimble, and effective they are. They organize so fast on social media and get deep in the weeds on school board policies.

A local Trumpy jerk was organizing a run for school board specifically demanding we pretend Covid doesn't exist, and they day after he filed, they not only organized an entire action committee to oppose him, but they had seven talking points, had pulled political funding data from the state and researched all his donors, and -- honestly this one killed me -- designated several members to be "Facebook ambassadors" to parents, set up a parent group on FB, and had two hundred parent members by 10 pm on day 1.

They then leveraged the parent network to find lawyers who'd explain technical election stuff to them, local democratic politicians who could provide advice and connections, adults willing to drive them and supervise them, etc.

I mean this dude thought he was going to mosey unopposed into a local school board and by day three of his campaign the local high school students were filing campaign finance violation reports with the state and had recruited an entire slate to oppose him.

I have a half-formed theory that they're so good at this not just because of social media, but because schools are one of the last locally-based social nexuses in American life. Like, the elk lodges and bowling teams are gone, and adults' social lives are eradicated through long commutes and/or centered on geographically distant workplaces.

But these are whole buildings full of teenagers who care about the immediate local community and have tons of social bonds within that community. Feels a bit like poking a sleeping bear, you know? The bear has always been there, but now you've pissed him off.

I'm very glad I'm on Team Bear, and not the team of the guys who just poked it awake!

Anyway, it makes me feel some hope about the future.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:33 AM on January 13 [143 favorites]


School is extremely important for my child and most kids. I’ve been very happy about how our school district has handled the return to in-person learning. I’m glad these kids are organizing for what they believe in, but a group of 17 year olds aren’t exactly well placed to determine the fate of school for all kids.
posted by haptic_avenger at 5:12 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


As a Gen-X dad of a Gen-Zer, I do not fear the day they are taking care of me.
posted by MrGuilt at 5:36 AM on January 13 [12 favorites]


Meanwhile in Ireland schools have been told to leave windows open to ensure adequate ventilation, and children and teachers are freezing.

Boston Public Schools closed on Tuesday because of the extreme cold. We haven't had a "cold day" in quite some time. The high was 13 degrees (-10C), which ordinarily wouldn't be enough to trigger school closures, but since all of the district's buildings are 50+ years old and have absolutely shit HVAC systems, they're not able to meet ventilation standards for full classrooms in a pandemic unless they keep the windows open 24/7.

O brave new world.
posted by Mayor West at 6:22 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


The fact that there's a separate quarantine set of rules for schools is extremely troubling...

I'm not surprised, though. School board meetings have become targets of the most virulent, violent, and loud anti-vaxer/covid-denier/q-anoner/trumper parents. They turn the meetings into unmanageable, and sometimes violent, messes. It's just easier to appease them (or, just avoid confrontation altogether) and get on with business, than run the risk of one of them showing up at your front door.

Gutless and stupid? For sure. But these assholes have the intimidation game down pat, and aren't afraid to bully anyone so much as thinking to use common sense.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:27 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Boston Public Schools closed on Tuesday because of the extreme cold.

Meanwhile here in the north of Boston 'burbs, schools stayed open. We don't have better ventilation, they still had the windows open, we were just told to send sweaters, and sent an informational pdf about how to dress in layers. Don't forget to check your local thrift store for sweaters for the entire family! Make sure the label says 100% wool, synthetic fibers don't breathe!
posted by Adridne at 7:20 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Relevant McSweeney's. Far too relevant, perhaps.
posted by mollweide at 7:33 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I'm very proud of these kids doing what they have to do to keep themselves safe. Somebody has to do it and it's not gonna be the adults in charge apparently.
posted by bleep at 7:38 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


My son pointed out that here in Ontario, schools only have to notify parents of a Covid outbreak if 30% of the school is absent (adjusted by whatever the absentee rate was in the fall so if it was 10%, 40%).

So he's like, "if 30 percent of my friends just stay home does everyone get notified of an outbreak?"

I did confirm that is my understanding. His Discord notifications have been pinging quite a bit.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:38 AM on January 13 [12 favorites]




If only these kids were put in charge of Democratic Party strategy. (Sorry for for the detail but it was my first thought reading Eyebrows’ inspiring comment.)
posted by zenzenobia at 9:07 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


School board meetings have become targets of the most virulent, violent, and loud anti-vaxer/covid-denier/q-anoner/trumper parents

Often not parents (at least within the district), and often funded by Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch's billions along with some others. Mainly because they are angry that Biden won and are therefore doing everything in their power to exacerbate the pandemic. In DeVos' case, there is also the motivation to further destroy the public schools. Here in Florida, they made it impossible for public schools to require students wear masks, but somehow that doesn't apply to state funded charter schools or fully private schools, one of which is where our esteemed Governor sends his kids.
posted by wierdo at 9:26 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Often not parents (at least within the district), and often funded by Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch's billions along with some others

I can say that in DC, this is certainly not the case. The parents advocating for schools to stay open are generally Democrats (like everyone else here). I'd also like to suggest that we be a little more specific in talking about school conditions. There's no Qanon anti-masking contingent in DC. The question is how to accurately measure risks and benefits, given that kids need to be in school. School quarantine policies (mentioned above with an insinuation of bad faith) are one good example. School quarantines were modified to exclude fewer children for less time, because otherwise too many kids would be out for too long, with too little benefit. Ultimately, the main evidence-based school policy is mandatory vaccination.
posted by haptic_avenger at 9:35 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Ok, but I think it was pretty clear I was referring to "the most virulent, violent, and loud anti-vaxer/covid-denier/q-anoner/trumper [purported] parents," and not anyone else.

Speaking only for my county, which is one of those where schools continue to operate only as daycare because so many teachers are out sick with COVID, I think a few weeks of remote learning would have been far preferable to what is going on now. Suboptimal learning is better than no learning. If the district was legally allowed to require masks, maybe things would have been different, but they aren't. What angers me is that it was obvious before the semester even started how this was going to go.

Even now my SIL, who is a teacher, is out with COVID and her principal is all up in her shit begging her to show up (sick, mind, she's still having symptoms!) tomorrow because of some bullshit evaluation that involves randos being in the damn school in the middle of the very peak of our Omicron wave. It's maddeningly stupid.
posted by wierdo at 10:37 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Ontario's been suffering from the same "illogical and inconsistent" pandemic guidelines. E.g. high school wrestling was on, but no handshakes afterwards; don't have to mask or distance if you're in a restaurant or school. People are realizing that the only consistent logic to decisions we're seeing from the provincial government is that people are less important than profits.
posted by LegallyBread at 11:12 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I just saw a friend today who was telling me that her son is part of organizing a protest at his high school. She was telling me that the rate of Covid infection among the students and staff is such that if you are in a room with 25 or more people, there's about a 65% chance that at least one of them is Covid positive, and, of course, they're all going in and out of multiple rooms with 25 or more people in them in the course of the school day.
posted by Well I never at 12:07 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Ontario's been suffering from the same "illogical and inconsistent" pandemic guidelines.

That's been the most frustrating aspect of all the rules and mandates to me. If you mandate something because it's really "important", then there shouldn't be exceptions. If the exceptions make the rule pointless, then it's a stupid rule.

The classic example I've seen is that you have to wear a mask for a one-minute walk across a restaurant, but then you can sit there for an hour without a mask. The latter makes sense, because you're eating and drinking, and how are you going to do that with a mask on? But when you get up to go to the restroom, you'd better put that mask on again! It's like nobody who creates these rules thinks logically about them.

(The saving grace is that everybody seems to realize that rules like this are silly theater so no one actually enforces them.)
posted by theorique at 12:12 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The mask rules in restaurants are ridiculous and the dumbest theater possible. But enforcing "keep the damn thing on until you get your food and put it on after you're done chewing" is too much to expect or ask, I suspect. I also think people like the excuse of not "having" to "because I'm eating!" even if they are not. God knows my mom and boyfriend immediately had 'em off the second they sat down in restaurants during Xmas break, as did everyone else but me in the entire place that wasn't working there.

The last time I was in a restaurant (private indoor room with vaxxed castmates), I literally tried to keep a mask on when not actively taking bites and sips, putting it back on to chew, which is something that the Broadway theater I go to asks the patrons to do. It's awkward. I had to give up on constantly replacing my KN95 with its nice stiffness on the nose and just try to cover my mouth with the cloth one I usually wear over my fancy mask for fashion's sake. That was Saturday and I still haven't caught it yet as of yesterday's test, so make of that what you will. I haven't heard that any castmates have come down with it yet *knock wood* either.

Unfortunately at this point we need to go back to "you can't eat inside around other people any more, period," but that sinks businesses, and we can't have that, so here we are.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:25 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


If you mandate something because it's really "important", then there shouldn't be exceptions.

This is actually really not true in my view! If something is important, it would be great if people did it 100% of the time, but people doing it 90% of the time is really good too, just not quite as good, and if 10% of the cases fall under an exception, so be it. In the large, this is why "masks in indoor places except restaurants and bars where that's plainly intractable" is not obviously "pointless" -- by having those rules, you are eliminating lots of potential transmission events, which is well worthwhile, even if some potential transmission events remain -- well, yeah, "eliminate some but not all transmission" is the maximal reasonable goal anyway.

"Wear a mask for the 2% of your restaurant time you're going to the bathroom but not the rest of the time" is pointless, but that's a different story. That's not a rule which can be relaxed under an exceptional circumstance, that's a scenario where adherence to the rule is the exception!
posted by escabeche at 12:31 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Unfortunately at this point we need to go back to "you can't eat inside around other people any more, period," but that sinks businesses, and we can't have that, so here we are.

Exactly - "restaurants are closed because indoor eating is deemed too dangerous"
would be highly consistent with
"everybody must mask indoors (but try not to be indoors around people outside your family/bubble)."

Populations seem to be mostly OK with the latter rule, but less so with the former. I guess restaurants or bars are fundamentally an odd exception that get handled as such.

people doing it 90% of the time is really good too, just not quite as good,

That makes sense. I guess if the rule were "wear a mask everywhere and always indoors ... except for a restaurant or bar" then that would feel more consistent. Like, at least there would be less pretending that wearing a mask from the door to the table was doing something (and people could add more masking time in the restaurant if they preferred).

(I don't know why this weird little inconsistency presses my buttons so much.)
posted by theorique at 1:14 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


My employer had been letting some people come back to the office for a few days a week if physical presence seemed necessary (for example, mailroom staff; and I'm working on a project that requires reviewing paper records that can't be sent offsite). (TBH I'm kind of glad; it's bad enough that a significant part of my 1BR/1BA apartment has been taken up by work stuff for the past two years; I don't need to be dealing with multiple boxes of files).

We just got the notice that, due to some people testing positive, that's suspended through the end of the month.

Honestly, the testing situation seemed like hygiene theater to me. If this variant of the virus is so transmissible, how does it make sense to have people take their masks off (to swab the nose) then sit in the same conference room for 15 minutes?

On the upside, I was in the office yesterday and only saw two people, each from at least 30 feet away.

On the other hand, as I told my spouse earlier, I am pretty much the most introverted introvert you'll meet, and I desperately miss having pointless conversations with the random stranger on the next bar stool.
posted by Lexica at 1:23 PM on January 13


(I don't know why this weird little inconsistency presses my buttons so much.)

It presses mine because dining indoors maskless is basically a super spreader activity second only behind being unmasked at the gym or walking around a COVID ward and there's so many vulnerable people who are servers out of desperation.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 1:25 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


There's no Qanon anti-masking contingent in DC.

If you're talking PTA, I'll take your word.
However have you heard of the republicans in congress & the supreme court?!
posted by evilDoug at 3:59 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I have a half-formed theory that they're so good at this not just because of social media, but because schools are one of the last locally-based social nexuses in American life. Like, the elk lodges and bowling teams are gone, and adults' social lives are eradicated through long commutes and/or centered on geographically distant workplaces.

I was thinking about this today, and about the work of Anton Jäger on his idea of "hyperpolitics" and I think it makes perfect sense. Hyperpolitics is the idea that it is simultaneously the case that everything is now intensely political, everybody is at a raging boil of fury at all times, and yet there is no actual political mobilisation that actually does anything material. He's an old school Marxist so there's some sense of "why don't these people just form parties like the theory says they should?" to it, but I do think there's a real kernel of truth to it.

People (including those who two decades ago would have been considered apolitical) are absolutely steamed and amped about events all the time - see not just Your Weird Uncle and his newly acquired ideas on child abduction but also people on AskMe who are basically in need of therapy because of political stresses.

Yet this is leading to spontaneous outbursts rather than to sustained action. Some would say because people are so alienated now that the kind of accretion into parties, which have their own internal logic of teaching, disciplining and other mechanisms that simultaneously are shaped by member input but also tell members what the group positions are, just isn't happening. Jäger's idea is that one of the reasons for that is that in online world, there is so little social cost to group exit that groups are insufficiently sticky.

Aka: Everyone is angry all the time and yet literally nothing happens.

At the same time, the existing parties are completely hollowed out and are no longer any kind of real membership organisations that are reflect any kind of synthesis of what the members want.

The high school is the last remaining social group (in the absences of the local factory) where you can't just leave the moment you're bored and that maintains a cohesiveness that creates a place where actual politics can still happen.

Of course, I know that loads of people think that actually, diffuse, leaderless and party-less movements are actually superior and this is just fuddy-duddyism complaining about why the kids won't just join my party and do what they're told.
posted by atrazine at 6:58 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


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