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July 1, 2020

Summer coronavirus wave scrambles re-opening plans

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Directions: Read the news summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript, click here.

Summary: The U.S. is now averaging roughly 40,000 new confirmed infections of COVID-19 each day. The caseload has more than doubled this month in at least 10 states, mostly in the South and the West. Though many leading health experts expected a summer lull before a possible second wave in the fall after schools reopen, those experts are sounding new warnings about the recent surge and how it could grow even more severe.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on June 30 that without new mitigation measures, new recorded cases could top 100,000 per day, far eclipsing current record highs of just over 40,000 a day.
  • In states with spikes such as Arizona, California and Texas, some steps toward re-opening are being rolled back.
  • In Florida, however, Governor Ron DeSantis has vowed to push forward with re-opening, including plans for full in-person learning in public schools this fall, despite surging case numbers in that state.
  • Other school districts and universities are still adapting plans for safe learning in the fall.

Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: How should public officials balance the risk of reopening and the risks of keeping schools and businesses closed?
  2. What challenges will students, teachers and parents face if schools do not open in the fall or only open part-time?
  3. Many advocates for faster re-opening argue that keeping closed will have a greater negative impact than the virus itself. These negative impacts include the toll of isolation on people’s physical and mental health, economic fallout, and delays in student learning. Do you think these potential risks outweigh the danger of reopening despite coronavirus case surges? Why or why not?
  4. What do you think are the most effective policies (including direct financial support) that could allow schools, businesses and other institutions to remain closed if needed?
    • Do you think the most meaningful and effective decisions about reopening will come at the local, state or federal level? Why do you think so?
  5. Media literacy: Do you know your own state’s guidelines for reopening in the fall? Where can you go to find out? If you need help, use this state-by-state news tracker for the latest updates of re-opening plans.

If there is time: Watch this video of an interview with a Texas school district superintendent who was one of the first and only school districts in the country to reopen in the spring of 2020. What lessons for re-opening can be taken from this school district’s approach? (To access a NewsHour EXTRA lesson plan based on this video, click here.)

 

Extension activities: Prestigious Cornell University has announced it will fully reopen in the fall no matter the coronavirus case load at the time, and has suggested a number of safety measures for making reopening possible. Have your students review Cornell’s statements and plans here, and then answer the following questions.

  1. Do you think Cornell’s plans to reopen are likely to be effective? Would you feel comfortable returning to school with these plans in place?
  2. What else should Cornell do to ensure student and staff safety?
  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of committing to a policy of reopening now?
  4. What lessons from Cornell’s reopening plan can you take for your own school’s reopening plans?
  5. What options does an institution with great financial resources such as Cornell have that institutions with fewer resources such as many public schools don’t?

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