When, and how, will America’s schools reopen?
Now that nonessential businesses are starting to reopen in parts of the U.S., many are asking how soon children in those reopening districts can go back to school. But for most of the country, the answer looks likely to be, not until summer at the soonest, and maybe not until fall.
Administrators are considering having half of their students come in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, or on alternate days, so that desks can be spread out and buses aren’t packed.
Socially distanced lunchrooms. Teachers and students wearing face masks. Temperature checks at the front door. And forget note-passing, study groups or even recess.
Nearly all states have already suspended in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, and even in states that haven’t, many districts have said spring is too soon to open the schoolhouse doors again.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday that classes might resume in July for a summer session to make up for lost class time. But in Illinois, officials have warned that remote learning could continue indefinitely. “This may be the new normal even in the fall,” said Janice Jackson, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools.
Officials are keenly aware that the economy can’t really get back to normal until there are places for children to safely spend the day while their parents are at work. “But we need to do it in a safe way,” Governor Newsom said this month, “so that kids are not going to school, getting infected and coming back home and infecting Grandma and Grandpa.”
Ahead of the U.S.: Some nations, where the outbreak has ebbed, have already reopened schools, albeit in virus-colored ways. In Denmark, classes as well as other activities are being held partly outdoors. Students in China have returned to classrooms with glass desk dividers and teachers in protective suits.
Federal guidelines: The C.D.C. plans to issue detailed guidance soon on how American schools, day care centers, restaurants and churches can reopen. The Washington Post has a working draft of the guidelines; most of it boils down to what you’ve already heard: sanitize everything and everybody, stay a good distance apart, minimize contact with outsiders and watch vigilantly for signs of illness.
Federal testing efforts lag, but one state is going strong
Widespread testing for the coronavirus is an important step in restarting public life: Officials need it to pinpoint hot spots and stave off new waves of infection. But the federal government has struggled to make it happen.
The U.S. has conducted about 5.2 million coronavirus tests in the past seven weeks; on Monday, President Trump unveiled a new plan to assist state testing efforts, which he said would “double” that figure.
According to a panel of experts convened by Harvard University, though, the country needs to be conducting five million tests a day by early June for a safe social reopening, and ramping up to 20 million a day by late July.
Rhode Island offers an encouraging example of the difference that large-scale testing can make. It has managed to test about 5 percent of its population so far, a larger share than any other state.
Lots of cases were found that might otherwise have been overlooked, so the state’s infection count has ballooned. But officials there now have a better handle on the spread of the virus than those in most other states.
Rhode Island has also deployed a legion of workers to trace the contacts of infected individuals, and it has set up free testing locations in cities. It is now using the data to plan a measured reopening in two weeks.
Faulty tests: On today’s episode of “The Daily,” Katie Thomas, who covers the health care industry for The Times, explains how flawed diagnostic testing has hamstrung U.S. policymakers.
The future of live cultural events
As states and countries gradually reopen, the arts world is finding inventive ways to hold performances and to welcome patrons again — with plenty of precautions. South Korea may be leading the way once more.
Gallery openings have resumed in Seoul, where attendants take down the name, address and phone number of visitors to aid with contact tracing, in case anyone later learns of exposure to the coronavirus. Fashion-forward patrons now don face masks, the latest accessory, to attend events.
Instead of its usual ambitious musicals, Barrington will look to stage one-person shows and a play in which the relationships are so strained, social distancing will seem easy. Kissing scenes and sword fights are on indefinite hiatus.
The theater is also removing every second row of seats, opening more entrances and eliminating intermissions to prevent restroom lines. And all attendees will have to wear masks (though they needn’t be Comedy or Tragedy).
Acting class moves online: Zoom lessons may not be ideal for learning how to perform, but students are finding that videoconferencing can offer an unexpected plus: the opportunity for more intimacy and nuance.
Deaths are difficult to track in the middle of a pandemic, in part because of the limited availability of testing. To reach their estimate, our colleagues compared the number of deaths and burials in the past month with the historical averages for each country.
What you can do
Evaluate your budget: Your finances may be tight, but there are helpful changes you can make during the coronavirus lockdown. Here’s what to trim, and what not to touch, in your budget right now.
Head outdoors (safely): Sunlight is not a cure for the coronavirus, but it does have other benefits for the mind and body. Try a 15- to 45-minute walk when possible, while being careful to maintain adequate social distance between yourself and others.
Learn a new language: Here’s a list of ways to learn a new language while quarantined including apps, videos, video chats and foreign language films.
Eat together: Samin Nosrat, the author of “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” is hosting a virtual feast on Sunday. Make her lasagna dish, and then tune into Instagram Live to celebrate with her.
What you’re doing
I’m five months pregnant with our first baby, and unable to attend the group prenatal classes I’d always imagined I would. My husband wants to be supportive, so now we do an online prenatal yoga video together in the mornings. He doesn’t quite understand my aches and pains like another pregnant lady, but his enthusiasm is all I need.
— Emma Noizumi, San Francisco
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.