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HHS Secretary Azar says Illinois schools should reopen

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2020

* Fox 32

The United States health secretary, who oversees the FDA, CDC and much of the federal COVID response, tells FOX 32 local kids should be in school.

“Illinois, Chicago are getting better in the sense of cases case counts going down and test positivity going down,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

He says Illinois is moving in the right direction and has everything for kids to return to class.

“When you have cases, you need to do the contact tracing within the school and test around them in order to contain disease. We have all of those capacities. We can get back to school and do so safely,” Azar said. […]

Even as Illinois surpasses 5-million COVID tests, Pritzker says it is too soon to ease restrictions.

“The answer is the virus is still out there,” the governor said.

Thoughts?

…Adding… SJ-R

Based on Illinois Department of Health guidelines, the Springfield School District 186 board voted Monday to approve a set of metrics to determine a return to the hybrid/blended model. […]

The metrics include a Sangamon County positivity rate less than or equal to 5 percent; a case count less than or equal to 50 out of 100,000; a new youth case count less than or equal to 5 percent and a weekly case count increase less than or equal to 20 percent

The county would have to meet all four metrics for two consecutive weeks before students could return to the hybrid/blended model.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

51 Comments
  1. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 6:17 am:

    So, stop doing the things we’re doing that have our case counts, and positivity rates moving in the right direction because our case counts and positivity rates have moved in the right direction.

    I think he dribbled some kool-aid on his shirt during the interview.


  2. - GlenEd - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 6:51 am:

    ECUSD 7 Glen Carbon/Edwardsville is face to face and has been since the beginning. The district moved to hybrid when the first escalation of the mitigations were instituted for the Metro-East. After a school board meeting and a letter from 50 (I think) area doctors stating it was better to have schools open, we have been face to face 5 days a week.

    Parents do have the option to have their children to remote learning, and there are some who took advantage of that option. There are also some scheduling changes at the high school and obviously everyone wears masks etc.

    So, I think it’s probably more on the individual school boards than the Governor’s Office.


  3. - Bothanspy - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 7:14 am:

    It’s a great thing the Feds are leaving the states to make their own decisions. This should have no repurcussions nor create any protests at all.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 7:21 am:

    === “When you have cases, you need to do the contact tracing within the school and test around them in order to contain disease. We have all of those capacities. We can get back to school and do so safely,” Azar said===

    Illinois has a stable and existing contract tracing plan in full effect?

    Schools are now that plan?

    That’s an interesting take.


  5. - TheInvisibleMan - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 7:25 am:

    The US is just such an absolute and total embarrassment now.

    That’s all I have to say.


  6. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 8:06 am:

    Springfield District 186 will be eyeing Sangamon County case metrics before making a decision on going from all-remote to at least Hybrid. Oct. 26 is the earliest possible date for an in-person/hybrid return.

    https://www.sj-r.com/news/20200921/school-board-will-look-at-county-metrics-keeps-oct-26-date-as-earliest-possible-return-for-students-to-classrooms


  7. - Commonsense in Illinois - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 8:10 am:

    From my view, one opinion is overly optimistic while the other is overly cautious.

    One wants to do the President’s bidding while the other is the person most likely to bear the brunt of criticism regardless of what path they choose to take.

    The answer, like most, lies somewhere in the middle.


  8. - Skeptic - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 8:48 am:

    “while the other is overly cautious.” To me, saying “The virus is still there” is just plain realistic.


  9. - Cubs in '16 - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 8:51 am:

    A ‘one size fits all’ approach in dealing with a pandemic is a recipe for disaster.


  10. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 8:57 am:

    1. Illinois does not have contact tracing.

    2. U of I had contact tracing. And biweekly mandatory testing. And look how well that went.

    3. Show me pics of Republican lawmakers dropping their kids off at school.


  11. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 9:04 am:

    I think one would have to look at the prevalence of cases for each individual school within the district. And make decisions per school. But our districts aren’t organized like that. Also we do not have a robust contract tracing system. And a lot of the students are living with grandparents. And a lot of the teachers are older. And the recruitment pool is slim if CPS were to order teachers back and be faced with a slew of retirements.

    NYC is intending to have classes in person and it is going to have to hire an army of teachers/subs/warm bodies to make the classes small enough for the teachers to be comfortable. Can CPS afford that?


  12. - the Edge - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 9:06 am:

    In person schooling should be on the table for school districts to consider for the Spring semester, but then, what impact will the flu season have. I wonder sometime if those advocating for in-person schooling are parents lost at how to manage their children’s remote learning.


  13. - Centennial - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 9:18 am:

    In-person has been working for IL private schools because they have the resources to reduce class sizes, ensure PPE availability, biweekly industrial sanitization of the building, and well-heeled parents who can make accommodations to keep the little one home at the first sign of a cough and get them tested quickly before returning to school.

    Most public schools will have a hard time meeting those metrics, and without those precautions, I’m not sure they can reopen safely. Safely being the key word.


  14. - Scott Fawell's Cellmate - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 9:24 am:

    Not a fan of fly-by comments, especially by Trump spokesfolk close to an election.


  15. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 9:31 am:

    So, let me see if I have this straight: Azar is saying that Illinois’ Covid-19 measures have been successful at limiting our total cases and positivity rates, so now we should stop following them and open the schools? I think he spilled some kool-aid on his shirt. Just sayin.


  16. - Observer - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 9:39 am:

    Maybe close the bars and restaurants and open the schools. Where are our priorities?


  17. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 9:48 am:

    What still surprises me about these people is they have no sense of shame.


  18. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:00 am:

    I can’t take the advice of a Trump appointee while the HHS is preventing the CDC from giving true information and guidelines for the pandemic.


  19. - Proud Papa Bear - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:03 am:

    This administration has so thoroughly destroyed any semblance of credibility that even if this were the best course I wouldn’t believe it.


  20. - Glengarry - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:10 am:

    I am not sacrificing my kids for the economy.


  21. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:18 am:

    Somebody should tell Azar to demand that high school football be played immediately in Illinois. How much more on-brand can it get for the Trump team?


  22. - LakeCo - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:29 am:

    Not super excited to send my kid back into a petri dish…


  23. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:31 am:

    In my area one K-8 district is all face-to-face classes while the other adjacent district offers a choice of part-time face-to-face or all remote classes.

    So it’s a mixed bag even in one local area.


  24. - Michael Feltes - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:32 am:

    > The answer, like most, lies somewhere in the middle.

    No, that’s just not it. There’s an objective threshold that we have to meet every day. If we collectively do enough mitigation to keep r_0 below 1, then the virus contracts. If we don’t, then the virus expands. No state in the US has consistently done this, not even New York. It’s just utterly maddening how we’ve allowed our expectations of our government and our society to be dragged down. The virus does not care about what we think is politically or economically practicable.


  25. - In person - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:40 am:

    Let districts do what they want but from the comments it seems many are ignorant of the large number of public districts doing in person. At this point I’d be very curious about the number of cases and the amount of the spread from those cases.

    We have some data. Perhaps we could use it to inform our decisions.


  26. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    Quite honestly coming from this federal administration it sounds like disappointment that the plague isn’t burning through the population at the speed they would like, so they’d like to give it more fuel. Ghouls.


  27. - Highland IL - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:05 am:

    The Trump Administration threw the whole Covid response to the states. Azar doesn’t get Monday morning quarterback the state’s choices.


  28. - Jocko - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:29 am:

    ==We can get back to school and do so safely==

    This coming from a former pharmaceutical exec with no background in medicine or public health…who’s department had the worst response to a global pandemic in 100 years. Please forgive my skepticism.


  29. - JB13 - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:30 am:

    – Not super excited to send my kid back into a petri dish… –

    So you are never sending your kid back to school again? Because “petri dish” is what schools are all the time, and always have been, just now, they include COVID-19


  30. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:33 am:

    === Because “petri dish” is what schools are all the time===

    Covid-19 is like the flu, amirite?

    (Sigh)


  31. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:47 am:

    I think the teachers union is thinking the more they hold out the better it is for Biden to get in. They dislike Trump so much they will use/abuse children to help beat him.


  32. - A voter - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:48 am:

    I think the teachers union is thinking the more they hold out the better it is for Biden to get in. They dislike Trump so much they will use/abuse children to help beat him.


  33. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:52 am:

    Schools are very different which is why this is a local not a state, certainly not a federal decision. But understand what is at stake. 7 deaths in IL to date for kids under 20.

    No school means

    -no free breakfast or lunch
    -no mandatory reporting for abuse
    -no intervention for substance abuse
    -no intervention for depression or mental health
    -low income kids are being left behind.

    There is no argument the kids are safer in school What we are arguing about is adults being to scared of getting exposed. All schools can remote learn if the child or family member is high risk. But this is a parent decision.

    Only a governor who does not believe in public education, has never gone to public school, or sent his kids there would just dump the most at risk kids like Pritzker is doing now.


  34. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:56 am:

    - A voter -

    Are you a teacher? Why not?

    === They dislike Trump so much they will use/abuse children to help beat him.===

    So… you’re Pro-Trump if you’re willing to subjugate yourself (teacher) or students infecting other students… with a deadly (according the the President to Woodward) disease… to own the libs?

    That’s kinda warped, thinking it’s better to possibly infect teacher or other students to own the libs, or thinking being supportive of a cult of personality that downplays death is fine… but please, you be you.


  35. - Scott Fawell's Cellmate - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:58 am:

    “I think the teachers union is thinking the more they hold out the better it is for Biden to get in. They dislike Trump so much they will use/abuse children to help beat him.”

    You forgot “Madigan,” “Nancy Pelosi,” and “Democrat Party” in your IL GOP word salad.


  36. - Observer - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:05 pm:

    Special education kids need school: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/16/parenting/school-reopening-special-needs.html
    Again why are schools the last to open - close bars and restaurants to contain the epidemic and reopen this absolutely necessary service.


  37. - Michael Feltes - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:05 pm:

    > They dislike Trump so much they will use/abuse children to help beat him.

    It’s horrible to watch my country fall into madness.


  38. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    === They dislike Trump so much they will use/abuse children to help beat him.===

    Says someone who obviously has not spoken to any actual teachers about their very legitimate concerns.


  39. - Archie Debunker - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:17 pm:

    “Some of the nation’s leading public health experts are raising a new concern in the endless debate over coronavirus testing in the United States: The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus. Most of these people are not likely to be contagious … The most widely used diagnostic test for the new coronavirus, called a PCR test, provides a simple yes-no answer to the question of whether a patient is infected. … In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds, compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The Times found.” - New York Times, August 29, 2020


  40. - Jocko - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:20 pm:

    ==the more they hold out the better it is for Biden to get in.==

    They might also be thinking “I don’t want one of my students (or members of their immediate/extended family) contracting Covid-19.”


  41. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:28 pm:

    This is what happens when you hire the dog catcher to do brain surgery. Azar does not know thing one about running a school. Oddly enough, it sounds as if he is saying Illinois did a good job at handling the COVID crisis, I don’t think her realizes that.

    ===-no free breakfast or lunch
    -no mandatory reporting for abuse
    -no intervention for substance abuse
    -no intervention for depression or mental health
    -low income kids are being left behind.===

    This statement/list is inaccurate. The vast majority of districts have ramped up efforts to address all of these issues, including those going full remote. Our district added an additional nurse (we are small), is delivering lunch tanyone that requests it and we have made lunch free to all thanks to the state.

    I love it when people “know” something that they have no clue about.


  42. - thisjustin - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:30 pm:

    To Archie Debunker at 12:17 pm: But how much of “hardly any virus” is enough to infect someone? Do we have science to set some kind of cutoff between spreadable and non-spreadable levels of virus? Otherwise the testing data will just be misused to promote a political agenda, which we already have enough of.


  43. - Rare Commentor - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:50 pm:

    Anyone know how the Catholic schools in the Chicago metropolitan area are doing with COVID cases since face to face classes started back up? Its been almost a month. Certainly enough time to see any good or bad trends.


  44. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:51 pm:

    === Its been almost a month. Certainly enough time to see any good or bad trends.===

    Have they released any indication of infections?

    Why or why not.


  45. - Everyday Illinoisan - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:54 pm:

    Our rural school district is open and full face-to-face instruction an has been since the beginning. We just got midterms. In my opinion, it is operating around 80% of normal. The community is behind them, and the kids are happy. Each school district needs to do what’s best– this is what’s best for us and its currently working fine.


  46. - Archie Debunker - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 1:01 pm:

    thisjustin said, “Otherwise the testing data will just be misused to promote a political agenda” That seems to be the reason for using PCR in the first place.

    “Testing that was adopted and became the basic form of diagnostic lab test was that based upon Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), a technology discovered by Kary Mullis, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993 for this discovery. Although Mullis died in 2019 before the beginning of the CoVID-19 pandemic, he had much to say about PCR. He warned against this technique ever being used for diagnosis due to the complexity of the process and because of a relatively high rate of false positive results if performed on asymptomatic individuals, as well as with false negative results. … The ultimate end-point of a PCR test is a result that is being arbitrarily defined as “positive” or “negative.” The extraordinary implications of this simple decision to frame results of the PCR testing as the basis for the entire “case numbers” tracking upon which virtually all public health measures are being based is almost incomprehensible.” - Bose Ravenel


  47. - Pundent - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 1:35 pm:

    = That seems to be the reason for using PCR in the first place.=

    I believe that’s the President’s argument. If you test more people you’ll get more positive tests. Of course that does nothing to explain hospitalizations, ICU and ventilator usage, and 200K deaths. Unless of course you’re saying those were also all part of a political agenda.


  48. - Stanley - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 1:53 pm:

    The Archdiocese probably cut a deal with CTU to not release their very good numbers because it would make CTU and CPS look really bad.


  49. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 1:56 pm:

    === The Archdiocese probably cut a deal with CTU to not release their very good numbers because it would make CTU and CPS look really bad===

    Please label your snark.

    Also, “please”, the Archdiocese could use this as a recruitment tool… if this was so safe. That’s a tool to market an enrollment boost.

    So, why not release it?

    Have they?


  50. - JoanP - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 4:06 pm:

    =7 deaths in IL to date for kids under 20. =

    Once again, death or recovery are not the only outcomes. There is strong evidence that the virus causes long term health issues, including myocarditis and multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

    Are you okay with that?

    Furthermore, children spread the disease. They take it home to parents and grandparents. They give it to their teachers.

    Again, is that okay with you?


  51. - TC - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 6:01 pm:

    = strong evidence that the virus causes long term health issues, including myocarditis=

    False. There is not strong evidence that covid leads to myocarditis in children and young adults. In fact, the evidence is weak. That’s part of the reason that the Big 10 reversed its stance.


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