The governors of Minnesota and North Dakota made the right choice when they shut down K-12 education in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Yet it surprised some, since children are not necessarily the most susceptible to the coronavirus.
But remember: The people at most risk are the vulnerable, and especially senior citizens.
Saturday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams laid it out succinctly.
“Social distancing and mitigation are not to protect the 30-year-old or the 20-year-old from getting coronavirus,” Adams said. “They’re to protect your nana.”
Sunday, North Dakota Gov. Burgum said much of the same, but used a mathematics analogy to make his point.
“Why would you think about closing schools … if there is not a health risk to children? The reason has to do with the math of a contagion,” he said. “We believe that this coronavirus, for every person who gets it, because of the high infectious nature of it, two or more people would be infected for every person that might get it.”
Burgum said that with a lack of testing, North Dakota might have more cases than the one so far confirmed. He then talked about the potential “doubling” effect.
“Let’s say instead of one case, there are two cases. Well, those two people infect two other people, then suddenly two becomes four, then eight, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512 and 1,024,” Burgum said. “And if we have that kind of rapid increase or spread, that is where we run into the issue of overwhelming our health community.”
Now, back to “nana.”
It’s important to reduce the number of potential carriers as a way to better protect grandmothers, grandfathers and anyone who falls into the category of “vulnerable.” It’s also important to keep down the number of infections since it’s unlikely that help will come from afar.
North Dakota has a finite number of hospital beds, doctors, nurses and vital equipment such as ventilators. When that supply is exhausted, it’s done. And what about people who may need other critical care not related to coronavirus?
“This is a global pandemic and not a local one,” the governor said. “If it was local, you could say ‘hey, if we’re short, we could send them in from other cities or countries.’ But in fact, since there may be a global shortage … that creates an additional potential crimp on our health care system. On a typical school day in North Dakota, there are 110,000 young people gathering in relatively confined areas. That kind of herding could spark more cases in the region.
The decision by Burgum and Minnesota’s Tim Walz is the right one. And, difficult as it may seem, so are the decisions by sports organizations to shut down state tournaments.
Businesses that have not yet done so should consider sending employees to work from home, if only for a couple of weeks.
These are heretofore unimaginable actions, but they’re warranted, considering the circumstances.
We hope the governors aren’t in too much of a hurry to reinstate K-12 education. In the meantime, they deserve credit for this difficult – yet so necessary – decision.
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