Should LA Open It’s Schools? No Easy Answer

ALPERN AT LARGE-Let me state this article was written at the request of several of my patients (and their parents) who desperately want to go back to school, and have been socially and psychologically hurt (their words, not mine) by not being able to go to school.

Let me also emphasize this article was inspired by a few teachers who are terrified about getting sick or even dying if in-school learning begins. 

It's unfortunate, indeed, that those demanding that everything open up (many without masking or distancing) aren't realizing that when the COVID-19 virus gets bad...it can get REALLY bad, and that the ability to prevent the "really bad" isn't there...yet. 

As we get to better treatments, things will get better--such as heparin and other blood thinners to keep the tremendous inflammation in our blood vessels. This inflammation is NOT something we normally see with the influenza virus, which is a big sea change from our experience in treating "the flu".

In children, this is particularly rare, but there are enough teenagers, and older adults, to warrant some serious consideration of BOTH the need to avoid using a "one size fits all approach) as well as to ALSO ask ourselves how many of us are going to have to take "one for the team" by either being disabled, a stroke victim, or dying so "things can get back to normal.

There are continuing reports of protective vaccines for a virus that is both difficult yet having amazing progress in achieving immunization possibilities. Big Pharma's reputation, never more in need of being revived, may get just that.

But how do we survive until this winter, and who and how do we distribute the vaccines (and how safe will they be deemed by the American public)?

1) As a physician, I speak for many other health care professionals when I am purport NOT to be a big fan of anti-vaxxers or anti-maskers. I respect the concerns of both groups--there MUST be good evidence of safety for ANY vaccination, and there's a limit and major inconvenience to using a mask.

2) I also suspect I'm not alone to be part of the "put on your mask and socially distance, and get yourself to work, school, or the doctor, or errands, etc.". If you want to be offended by wearing a mask, I still recommend you direct your ire at the Chinese Communist Party (not the Chinese people), because there's an awful story and comeuppance that must be told and acted upon.

Both President Trump and Governor Newsom have made quite a few hits and misses, and many don't like the styles of one, the other, or both...but they did NOT cause this virus, and they did NOT cause our supply/manufacturing chain to be destroyed in this nation. We've been hit in a way not seen since Pearl Harbor, and/or since 9/11. We must respond, but it will NOT be easy.

3) Education MUST resume, and there are some school districts that are up to the task of both in-school learning, and/or remote/Zoom learning, and others that are not. Each school district has its heroes and villains, and they must be recognized.

4) Orange County, for example, is chomping at the bit to restart in-school learning, but it's possible that some schools won't be as ready as others. But if the virus numbers go down, then schools can resume. Until then, those of us who think "this is all a lie" need to reconsider.

Do it for the kids and do it for the economy. Telecommute and do things outside as much as possible (we've got the weather for it!). Staying away from people outdoors is fine and reduces the need for masks the farther away you are from others. But from the President on down, masks are going to be required...and YES, that really sucks. So, does paying taxes and rent...do it.

And for any business owner or "underground" contractor choosing not to wear masks, and/or demanding their employees not wear masks, you doggone know what is going on. Stop it!

5) The younger the kids are, the safer it is for them to return to school, and the less likely they'll pass the virus on to adults. Believe it or not, elementary schools CAN return to in-school instruction if they can demonstrate a safe environment for such a return.

6) Some students just can't go to in-school environments, either because of their own health status or who they live with at home. Others CAN go to school and should have the choice. Right now, we can and should not force kids and their parents into choosing one direction or another. But the good school districts will offer that choice, and they deserve more funding than those sitting on their hands.

7) And yes, there ARE school districts that sat on their hands this summer, instead of a major push in building outdoor classes, tents, fans and air-conditioning, and encouraging choices. Some demand defunding the police so THEY can get more money, some want all sorts of ridiculous demands having nothing to do with COVID-19 (like closing all charter schools).

As with businesses and others not doing the right and safe thing...to those school districts, we must all demand they STOP IT!

We need to educate our children, and we need to restore our economy, and we need to overcome this attack on our lives. But the children have to come first. This requires dedication and focus.

This is by no means going to be easy. But we MUST do it.

Presuming, of course, we're going to prioritize our children.


(CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two stints as a Board member for 8-9 years and is also a Westside Village Zone Director. He previously co-chaired its Outreach and Planning Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee and Vice-Chair. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)