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Poll reveals half of parents unconvinced that school is safe for their children’s return

Michael Savage | Sun 24 May 2020 02.41 EDT

Teachers’ union leader warns situation ‘untenable’ as health officials say track and trace system has been left too late

An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester.
 An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Parents are divided over the prospect of sending their children back to school, a new poll has revealed, as parent groups warned that mixed messages and poor communication had caused widespread anxiety about returning.

With school leaders still grappling with the practicalities of reopening primary schools for some year groups in just a week’s time in England, an Opinium poll for the Observer found that 43 per cent of primary school parents and 54 per cent of secondary school parents feel anxious about the prospects of returning.

Primary schools have been instructed to prepare to bring back reception, year 1 and year 6 classes, as well as their early years provision. However, councils of all political colours have suggested they will not follow the advice, while Welsh and Scottish schools will wait to reopen.

There are now also concerns that the return of pupils has become such a chaotic issue that it could worsen the attainment gap between affluent and poor areas and families. Some teaching unions have suggested the families of vulnerable children have been more reluctant to see them return to school. David Laws, the former education minister who now oversees the Education Policy Institute, said that a widening divide was a “significant risk”

John Jolly, chief executive of the parent group Parentkind, said there was confusion about the reopening of schools. “Parents are looking for certainty,” he said. “Some want the certainty of saying schools are safe and we’re going back. Some want the certainty of keeping children out of school until there is a vaccine, which may reflect families with underlying conditions. Then you have other parents that want a clear timeline.

“Parents are not convinced about messages around schools being safe. They are not sure about that message from the government, or that the evidence for that is being communicated. There is a lot of uncertainty about the message being communicated by schools locally.”

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned the situation on the ground was now “chaotic and increasingly untenable”. “Not only are school leaders having to think about how to reopen schools, but how they convince parents that their children should go back, and organise the school site. Then they don’t know how many staff they will have. Schools are vital for society. But they have to be safe.”Advertisement

However, professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said schools should be allowed to reopen. “Covid-19 generally barely affects children and young people and actually we’ve shown that they are about half as susceptible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “There is no doubt in my mind for children themselves, the balances are clearly in favour of going back to school.” He said the risks to family and the community could be managed with an effective track and trace system and a phased return.

While a working track and trace system is seen as necessary for rules around schools and other parts of the lockdown to be loosened, several local government sources warned that councils were now facing a race against time. There have been complaints that local public health officials have been sidelined during the pandemic, despite their expertise. They are now being drafted in as part of several pilots of the track and trace system, but insiders warn they now face huge time pressures.

Professor Donna Hall, head of the New Local Government Network, said: “At the beginning of March, public health directors were quite rapidly cut out of the national pandemic response. They are there for all aspects of public health, working on things like HIV, hepatitis, pandemic flu. Disease control is their job. They are highly skilled … but they’ve been cut out in quite a strange way.

“Other countries have deployed local resilience forums for testing and tracing. A national contact centre is never going to get to the granular detail you need for contact tracing. I’ve been out with the people who do it – they are forensic. You won’t get that through an app. It is people on the ground, observing how a disease spreads. It could be from a petrol pump or a salt shaker. That’s the kind of detail needed.

“They may be piloting things, but we’ve left it really late for that. Not giving local government a big role is foolish and dangerous.”

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Parent calling on Governor to resume small, in-person classes for kids with special needs

by Anne McCloy Friday, May 22nd 2020

ALBANY NY (WRGB) – The cancellation of in-person summer school devastating for a mom whose child has special needs.

Governor Cuomo’s announcement Thursday caused a lot of parents to reach out to us explaining the impacts.

“Last night when I received the message from my son’s teacher, I broke down and I cried.”

CBS 6 viewer Nicole Nelson has kept her kids home and out of daycare since the shutdown began in March, but she was hopeful the state would resume programs her 4-year-old son Billy relies on this summer. Billy is on the autism spectrum.

“My son has been out of services since we went “on pause” in March and that’s going to be a full 6 months of doing Zooms and virtual therapy and that doesn’t really work for him so it’s just totally devastating,” Nelson said.

Nicole Nelson was hopeful the state would resume programs her 4-year-old son Billy relies on this summer. (WRGB PROVIDED

The cancellation of in-person summer school also meant the cancellation of Billy’s Individualized Education Program, which is specialized for each student and helps with speech and other needs.

“My son has been receiving services since he was 6-months-old so for services to just stop in-person its caused a great regression,” Nelson said.

Day care is still allowed, considered an essential business. The Office of Children and Family Services says 70 percent of the state’s day cares are still up and running. Nelson says it doesn’t make sense to her why a day care can stay open, but her child’s small class with 6 kids, two teachers and 1 aid can’t resume with social distancing measures.

“The only reason we would even consider putting our son into school is because it’s just a smaller classroom, less people and if you did it the right way you can do it safely,” Nelson said.

The cancellation of in-person summer school also meant the cancellation of Billy’s Individualized Education Program, which is specialized for each student and helps with speech and other needs. (WRGB PROVIDED)

She’s says if she could speak to Governor Cuomo she would ask him to re-consider opening special needs programs.

“Not all children are alike and some kids needs more than other kids do,” Nelson said.

Day cares are operating under guidelines set forth by the NYS Department of health and the CDC.

For parents who need childcare as New York State reopens, an OCFS spokeswoman sent CBS 6 links that help parents find day cares that are open near them:

Database here: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/childcare/looking.asp

Poll: Minority and low-income parents most worried about their students’ success

Lorraine Longhi, Arizona RepublicPublished 7:33 p.m. MT May 20, 2020 | Updated 7:51 a.m. MT May 21, 2020

About four in 10 Arizona parents believe the state’s management of K-12 education was good or excellent amid the coronavirus health pandemic, according to a new ASU Morrison Institute-Arizona Republic poll.

K-12 school administration received the highest positive rating of any other government entity listed, including federal, state, local and tribal.

The online survey was conducted in late April and early May. Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman ordered schools closed on March 15 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

District, charter and private schools quickly converted to remote learning. Some provided students with printouts, while others moved to virtual lessons and emailed work. 

Impact on low-income students

The poll highlights a divide between lower-income and higher-income families when it comes to accessing the necessary technology for online learning.

Parents with children from low-income families polled were less likely to say that their children have the necessary technology for online learning.

Low-income families were also less likely to say that their children are actively engaged in online learning.

In contrast, parents of children from higher-income brackets were more concerned that their child will fall behind in school and that COVID-19 will compromise the likelihood their child will graduate high school.

Richie Taylor, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said that the findings came as no surprise. He said low-income families and the schools that serve them are at more of a disadvantage when it comes to accessing technology and resources that make it easier to pivot to online learning.

“That’s why it’s so critical to provide support and resources to fill those gaps we know exist,” he said.

During the past two months, some schools got creative to help their students. A Tucson district parked buses with WiFi around the city so students could access assignments. Others reached out to nonprofits to help purchase additional laptops for students. 

State leaders asked businesses to donate hotspots and laptops to help students.

As schools tentatively prepare to reopen in the fall, Taylor said they will depend heavily on money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to fill in some of the educational gaps.

The CARES Act will allocate approximately $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds to state governments to support K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus. 

“CARES Act funding ishugely important to mitigate some of the challenge we faced,” Taylor said. “We want to be able to provide for the needs of families and students.”Get the Law & Order newsletter in your inbox.

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Different ages, neighborhoods, ethnicity

The online Morrison-Republic poll was conducted from April 24 through May 7. It included 813 Arizona residents census balanced by age, gender, ethnicity, and location.

Of those, 287 were parents with at least one child living at home. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.

At the time of the survey, 16% of respondents indicated they would feel comfortable sending their kids back to school immediately following the lifting of restrictions.

Among the general population of parents polled:

  • 75% said their children had the necessary technology to engage in online learning.
  • 67% said their children were actively engaged in learning.
  • 57% were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered.
  • 53% were worried that children would fall behind.
  • 43% were concerned that COVID-19 would impact their child’s ability to graduate.

Parents of older students expressed less confidence that their children were staying engaged in online learning than those of younger students.

Of the parents with at least one child in elementary school, 69% said they agreed that their children were engaged, compared to 55% of parents polled with a child in high school.

The opposite was true when parents were asked whether they were worried their child might fall behind in school.

Among parents with children in elementary school, 58%worried that their child would fall behind, compared to 46% of parents polled with a child in high school.

Black parents polled were more concerned about their children falling behind than white or Hispanic parents. Of those polled, 67% of black parents said they were worried, compared to 44% of white parents and 63% of Hispanic parents. 

Hispanic parents were the most concerned about whether COVID-19 would decrease their child’s likelihood of graduating high school. Of those polled, 49% of Hispanic parents said they were concerned, compared to 38% of black parents and 28% of white parents.

Parents who did not have a high school degree reported less concern about students falling behind as a result of the stay-at-home order when compared to parents with some college or a higher degree.

A parent’s neighborhood also impacted how individuals polled responded.

While 61% of parents who lived in an urban neighborhood indicated they were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered by their school, only 47% of parents in suburban neighborhoods were satisfied.

73 NY Children Sick With Rare COVID-Related Inflammatory Illness, 2 Deaths Confirmed

New York City issued its own health alert earlier this week after identifying more than a dozen children in city hospitals who have the rare inflammatory illness; the state followed up with a separate advisory on Wednesday
By Melissa Russo  Published 4 hours ago  Updated 2 hours ago
woman in black long sleeve shirt holding white smartphone

What to Know

  • 73 children in New York state have been diagnosed with a recently identified illness associated with COVID-19 that some doctors are referring to as ” pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome”
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that a 5-year-old boy in New York City died Thursday from the condition, and Westchester officials confirmed a second death last week of a 7-year-old boy
  • Doctors say in some cases, kids are taking up to 6 weeks after exposure to the virus to present with symptoms of this illness

New York now has 73 cases of children presenting with a new pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome likely linked to COVID-19 — and at least two children have died of the condition, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Westchester County officials said Friday.

A complication of the coronavirus the state had not even acknowledged a week ago, this new condition is now being seen across the country and is striking newborns and teenagers alike.

At a Westchester County news conference Friday, doctors said some children are not presenting with symptoms until 4 to 6 weeks after exposure to the virus. County officials said a 7-year-old boy died there last week of this new condition, and Cuomo said a 5-year-old boy in New York City died of it Thursday.

The state issued an advisory on the syndrome and its potential association with COVID-19 in children Wednesday afternoon. It was sent to all healthcare facilities, clinical labs and local health departments in the state to inform providers of the condition as well as to provide testing and reporting guidance. Any suspected cases of pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome in people under the age of 21 must be reported to the State Department of Health.

As the advisory stated, “Though most children who get COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms, in the United Kingdom, a possible link has also been reported between pediatric COVID-19 and serious inflammatory disease. The inflammatory syndrome has features which overlap with Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome and may occur days to weeks after acute COVID-19 illness. It can include persistent fever, abdominal symptoms, rash, and even cardiovascular symptoms requiring intensive care. Early recognition by pediatricians and referral to a specialist including to critical care is essential.”

New York City issued its own health alert earlier this week after identifying more than a dozen children in city hospitals who have the rare illness. At least one expert believes there are sure to be more kids affected.

The syndrome has been observed in 15 children who were hospitalized from April 17 to May 1 in the city, according to Demetre Daskalakis, the Deputy Commissioner of Disease Control with the New York City Health Department. While the full spectrum of the illness is not yet known, Daskalakis said, features of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock have been seen in patients between the ages of 2 and 15.

2:48New Cases of Child Syndrome With Possible COVID-19 LinkDoctors at a Long Island children’s hospital have noticed that at least a dozen child patients with connections to COVID-19 over the past few weeks have gotten sick, all with the same symptoms: fever, a rash and…Read more

“We’ve seen more than 15 … We’re seeing them every day that have required ICU admission every day,” said Dr. Steven Kernie, professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and chief of Critical Care Medicine at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. He said they are seeing one or two children every day with similar symptoms.

“What we’re seeing is children who have had high fever — over 102 or 103 — for three to four days,” Kernie added. “They tend to have a rash anywhere on their body, including the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. They may have abdominal distress. Their eyes may be very red. They look ill.”

He believes this is not a primary infection but the child’s immune response to exposures that took place weeks prior.

Four of the 15 children tested positive for COVID-19, and six tested positive for the coronavirus antibodies, signifying a previous infection.

The city’s health department may only be recognizing severe cases at this point, but one doctor familiar with the illness believes there will be many more to come.

“This is happening all through Europe,” Dr. Jane Newburger, director of the Kawasaki Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, told NBC News. “It is definitely happening in various cities on the East Coast and in some parts of the Midwest.”

Newburger said the illness may come as a “post-immune reaction to COVID,” meaning the body seemingly overcompensates and essentially keeps fighting a disease that is no longer attacking the body — possibly even weeks after having contracted a virus like COVID-19.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Tuesday afternoon about the cases found in the city, saying that while “we haven’t seen any fatalities yet, but we are very concerned by what we’re seeing. We’re learning more every day about how COVID-19 affects the body. This is a ferocious disease.”

The mayor also said the city would require health care providers to report any cases of people under 21 being treated for these symptoms.

Visualization of the coronavirus causing COVID-19

How to Identify the Symptoms Early

So what are the symptoms of pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome? The NYC Health Department said that all 15 children had a fever, and more than half reported having rashes, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. While it has been considered a direct symptom of COVID-19, less than half of the pediatric patients in the city displayed any shortness of breath.

Any child that shows symptoms relating to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible, as the health department said early recognition and a pediatrician’s referral to a specialist are essential, including admission to critical care units if necessary. Beginning treatment quickly can help prevent end-organ damage and other long-term problems, Daskalakis said in the city’s medical alert.

Dr. Newburger suggests that any parent who finds their child to have a high fever and “seems unwell” should call their pediatrician and seek medical attention.

1:11Local Hospitals Warn Parents About Rare Child Illness Possibly Linked to COVID-19Mount Sinai is confirming reports that they are seeing new and unusual COVID-19 related illness in several pediatric patients.

Mount Sinai Hospital previously confirmed reports by NBC New York that they are seeing the new and unusual COVID-19 related illness in several pediatric patients, up from just two on April 28. The hospital’s chief of pediatric critical care issued a warning to parents to be on the lookout for certain symptoms.

In a statement, Dr. George Ofori, Pediatric Critical Care Director at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital said, “Some of the cases that we are currently treating entered our care presenting with symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and a low-grade fever. Others presented first with a rash, conjunctivitis, and/or cracked lips.”

Dr. Ofori said some patients have developed heart problems and low blood pressure that led to shock. He explained that some had been diagnosed with COVID-19 2-3 weeks before these symptoms developed.

“Whether the underlying condition is COVID-19 or the body’s response to COVID-19 is not known at this time. While it is too early to definitively say what is causing this we believe it is important to alert the public as to what we are seeing,” he said.

A different source told NBC New York some of these children had no previous underlying health conditions.  

2:45Rare Child Syndrome May Have Link to COVID-19: ExpertsNBC New York’s Melissa Russo reports.

The Mount Sinai statement came two days after Dr. Ofori’s counterpart at Cohen Children’s Hospital on Long Island told the I-Team in an interview they’ve seen about a dozen critically ill pediatric patients in the past weeks with similar inflammatory symptoms. 

“We now have at least about 12 patients in our hospital that are presenting in a similar fashion, that we think have some relation to a [COVID-19] infection,” said Dr. James Schneider, Director of Pediatric Critical Care at Cohen Children’s Hospital in Nassau. “It’s something we’re starting to see around the country.” 

A Near-Tragic Case

Cohen is one of several local hospitals where pediatricians say they’re concerned about recent hospitalizations of previously healthy children who have become critically ill with the same features, resembling Toxic Shock Syndrome and Kawasaki disease, an autoimmune sickness that can be triggered by a viral infection and if not treated quickly, can cause life-threatening damage to the arteries and the heart.  

One child who had gone to Cohen Children’s Hospital is 8-year-old Jayden Hardowar, who was seemingly healthy before he suddenly went into cardiac arrest one evening.

In late April, Jayden started having a fever and bouts of diarrhea. His parents took him to his pediatrician, and soon after he appeared to be responding well to Tylenol. Mother Navita Hardowar said that his temperature broke after a few days, and he never showed any shortness of breath. Although Jayden’s father Roup said his son’s strength hadn’t really come back, they weren’t overly worried as they believed it may be due to diarrhea.

3:15COVID-19 Blamed for Sending 8-Year-Old NYC Boy Into Cardiac ArrestA Queens family is sharing their story of nearly losing their young son to a virus that they believed was not supposed to target children. Now they’re warning other parents. NBC New York’s Melissa Russo reports.

His mother said she noticed something was very wrong when she was sitting in bed with the child, and saw her son’s head and hands twisted in an unorthodox position backward.

“I quickly looked over at his face and his lips were all blue at that point, so right away I knew something was not right here with Jayden,” Navita Hardowar said. She started yelling his name, but he was not responding. The boy’s brother and father performed CPR, and soon he was rushed to Jamaica Hospital before being rushed to Cohen Children’s Hospital in Nassau County.

In Jayden’s case, it took just five days for an overall healthy boy to go from playing games and singing to requiring a machine to help him breathe for several days, unable to speak to his parents who tried to video chat with him from his hospital bed. His parents said he has inflammation and suffered from cardiac arrest and heart failure.

Dad Roup still isn’t sure how how his son could’ve contracted the virus. “None of us — six of us in the home: two adults, four kids — none of us had been sick. We’ve all been very strong and practicing our social distancing very diligently … we thought we were safe,” he said.

Thankfully Jayden was finally well enough to be taken off the ventilator over the weekend, three days after he was rushed to the hospital. While it was still difficult for him to speak, his parents said their boy was more responsive on Sunday when they spoke with him, and they are hoping to have him home soon.

“It just goes to show that COVID does not spare any age group and can lead to very serious illness, even in kids,” said Dr. Schneider.

Scott Gotlieb, former head of the FDA and a New York City emergency room physician, echoed those sentiments during an appearance on CNBC, saying the new cases appear to disprove the previous notion that coronavirus “wasn’t really affecting kids.”

“We certainly know that there are children who’ve been hospitalized, who have gotten very sick, but now it appears that there are some unusual phenomena that are affecting children — not in high numbers, these still appear to be small reports in the medical literature — but there are some unusual syndromes that children are developing, perhaps as a result of coronavirus,” Gottlieb said on CNBC.

Keep up with children’s health during pandemic. Especially now, pediatricians can help.

With schools closed, a doctor may now be the only person outside a household with eyes on a child. Don’t skip well-child appointments and vaccines.

Dr. Sara “Sally” Goza and Dr. Patrice HarrisOpinion Contributors

COVID-19 has drastically changed how we live our lives and brought much of the world to a standstill. It’s a scary time for parents who worry about becoming ill or caring for loved ones who have contracted the virus, as well as for the many Americans whose ability to support their families is becoming uncertain. With all of the turmoil, it’s easy to forget how this is affecting our children. 

Thankfully, for the most part, children seem to be spared from the most extreme and dangerous effects of the coronavirus. But they are still feeling the pain of the pandemic in a big way, from the preschooler who doesn’t understand why she can’t hug her grandparents or see her teachers to the teen whose big life moments like graduation and final year-end competitions have suddenly been snatched away. The toll and timeline for these impacts is unknown. 

Don’t skip well-child check-ups

The disruption in routine can also lead to behavior changes. For younger children, that can mean less sleep, more tantrums, and bed-wetting. For older children, it can manifest in feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. With studies showing the mental health of U.S. teens and young adults dramatically declining over the past decade, it’s important that we continue to check in with our children to talk about how they’re doing and what they’re experiencing.

With children and adolescents now home from child care and schools, the only person outside the household who has eyes on them may be their doctor. That is why well-child visits must continue for all children and youth, even in areas where the visit must be done through telemedicine. 

Outside a hospital in New York City on April 23, 2020.

Well-child visits are where we examine children, discuss concerns with families and talk to adolescents about mental health, sexuality, and high-risk behaviors like vaping and drugs. Pediatricians are trained to screen for signs of distress of all kinds during these visits, from expected stress to serious family distress and even suicidal thoughts.

Especially during such an uncertain and stressful time for children, we use these visits to check in on their mental health, too.

These exams are so important to keep kids on track, which is why we urge parents everywhere to first reach out to your child’s pediatrician. Come for your scheduled appointments, in person, by phone, or on a computer. Call us when your child has an ear infection or trouble breathing, or may have broken a bone or need stitches. Call when you have a mental health concern or notice a change in your child’s behavior.

Keep up with vaccines

And, perhaps most important, make sure your child continues to get vaccines on time. Despite the very real concerns of COVID-19, it’s especially important for children to continue to receive the essential health services their scheduled well-visits provide. Disrupting immunization schedules, even for brief periods, can lead to outbreaks of infections like measles or whooping cough that can be even more threatening to a child’s health. 

Balancing the health care needs of our young patients with the need to practice physical distancing requires a watchful eye, a measured approach, and teamwork between parent and pediatrician. We will continue our work to protect all children, especially those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus — those on Medicaid with complex health care needs and from low-income families, and children from under-resourced and minority communities, particularly African Americans, who are experiencing a disproportionate burden of illness and fatalities.

Pediatricians’ message to parents is clear: We are open for business, and we are here for you and your children now more than ever. While federal and state government officials work to ensure our health care system can continue to function throughout the pandemic, we urge them to recognize and support the doctors at its epicenter.

At a moment when our nation’s eyes are on the spread of the virus, our eyes are on the children.

Dr. Sara “Sally” Goza is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Patrice Harris is president of the American Medical Association. Follow them on Twitter: @SallyGoza and @PatirceHarrisMD

Have a story you want to share ? Feel free to email me @ throughlovewelearn@gmail.com .

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