Corona Virus Triggers Unnecessary Panic

Folks, parts of our cable television watching society are stocking up on antibacterial soap and toilet paper and looking for fallout shelter plans on eBay while the rest of us have purposed just to live our lives. I’m in the latter category.

So, on the first day of a stupid government school shutdown in my community, I’m going on record with a claim that Corona triggers unnecessary panic? Heck yeh! But the market is down 2K just today. So what?

Here’s a few thoughts on the unforced error of cancelling all classes this week in the Elk Grove School District.

In the Saturday release, the Elk Grove School Superintendent claimed he was moving Spring Break to this week, sorry, not happening. Look for the regularly scheduled Spring Break to happen next month in the second week of April. Both parents and teachers are taking off that week regardless of what was claimed in the press release issued on Saturday—much of which was a lie debunked by the Sacramento Bee which I will get to shortly.

You see, many parents scheduled time-off from work just to coordinate with the District’s schedule, buying airline tickets, making hotel reservations, and such long ago. These people will be out the money if they don’t go now. Also, there is that pesky union contract with the District’s teachers stating that the second week in April is the time off for those on both Traditional and Modified Traditional schedules. A reasonable suggestion that I heard from a teacher in the District was that Spring Break will happen as scheduled and a few extra days will be tacked onto the end of the school year. We’ll see if that prediction pans out.

As I’m writing this, a claim has surfaced that one child in the District tested positive. If that’s true, then please tell me what is the metric that children will ever be allowed to return to school? By being arbitrary, this Superintendent has opened a can of worms that he may never get back in the bottle. Just by being in school a child might give an illness to another, this is reality. If this is his metric, how can he ever risk that classes convene again?

The grilling given to the Elk Grove Superintendent by the Sacramento Bee’s Marcos Bretón is priceless.

More shocking. Saturday’s announcement, with such widespread implications, including the possibility of triggering public anxiety and panic, was rolled out with little or no coordination between the county’s public health department or key elected officials in Sacramento, even though a letter to parents Saturday said “this complex decision involved close collaboration and coordination with our Board of Trustees, labor groups, the Sacramento County Office of Education and the Sacramento County Public Health Department.”

If county health officials were communicating with the Elk Grove district all along then that message didn’t get out to county elected officials.

They were all caught flat-footed: Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, the chair of the board this year, learned about the Elk Grove announcement when word of the district closure caused his phone to “blow up.”

Serna was at a campaign event for a colleague in the Arden Arcade area Saturday afternoon when he learned. With him was Sacramento Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan, a doctor, who has spent weeks trying to calm public fears about the coronavirus. With them was Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

All of them learned at the same time and without warning.

Closing Elk Grove schools gives a shocking lesson in how not to handle the coronavirus

Serna, Pan, Steinberg and McCarty all huddled together after learning about the Elk Grove announcement from The Bee. Together, they have planned a 1 p.m. news conference on Sunday at the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors offices at 700 H St.

The first question that should be answered there must be this: How could the largest school district in Northern California announce it was shutting its doors in a complete vacuum of information and leadership?

Why is a serious step such as closing a school district trotted out via letter to Elk Grove parents as if the contents of the letter referred to a bake sale and not an issue with serious health and policy implications?

And here is another question: Why would EGUSD, apparently with the OK of county health officials, shut down the entire district when such a drastic step is not recommended by state health officials? By late Saturday, the California Department of Public Health released its guidelines for schools, colleges and large public events to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Nowhere in those recommendations do state officials call for the closure of a district without a single student or staff member testing positive for COVID-19. And up until now, there hasn’t been an EGUSD student or staff member who has tested positive. State health officials only contemplate closing an entire district if there have been students, teachers or staff members who have tested positive at multiple schools in a district.

But entities such as EGUSD can’t simply act without consideration for how the decision will affect a general public already jittery about the coronavirus.

As Steinberg said, Sacramento County must have a coordinated message. They need protocols. Stories of this import cannot simply be dropped like a stink bomb in the dark.

But maybe if it hadn’t been made in such a vacuum someone could have helped the Elk Grove educators make this call in a way that didn’t seem premature and haphazard.

Panic is what happens when a health crisis is mismanaged and when people who should be in the loop are not. This is not the way it should be done.

Marcus is right on this issue. (As always, I’ve quoted him extensively because this article will soon find its way behind McClatchy’s pay firewall.) Marcus, “stink bomb” is a much politer term than the ones I’m thinking of right now.

Since this opinion piece was posted, the high school boys’ basketball game is rumored to get an exemption, while the high school prom last Saturday night was killed five hours before it was scheduled to begin; off district property I might add.

Perhaps educators should try staying in their lane and let public health officials do their job. That might actually be refreshing. A coordinated response is needed not arbitrary nonsense. Panicking and then telling others that you didn’t is disingenuous and harmful; especially when your actions affect thousands of people and millions of dollars. Elk Grove’s Superintendent needs to be fired, but it won’t happen until summer just so he and the District can save face.

Folks, the Corona virus fears will blow over and the stock market will recover. These issues are just distractions to keep folks on the 24-hour news channels employed. Both of these issues will be in the country’s rearview mirror before long and they’ll go on to some other story while we that live in Elk Grove deal with the aftermath of this out of control bureaucrat.