Did Boston Close Schools Too Quickly?

Given the critical role schools play, did Boston close schools for in person classes too quickly. In my view – probably YES. Lets take a look at some data.

  1. The Boston mayor explained the decision due to a rise in the test positivity rate. The percentage of tests that are positive for COVID increased from 4.5% to 5.7%. When the percentage is increasing, the belief is that more cases are not being caught by testing.
  2. The test positivity number is still very low. For approximately every 1 person who tests positive; 17 other people who took a test received a negative result. I still struggle to think how you get so many people to test who have negative results.

Here’s the Boston chart of cases:

Daily new cases are approximately 158 per million per day. The population of Boston is 804,000 people.

It is true that current levels – are much higher than those observed during the summer. The June thru August level is about 64 cases per million per day. The fatality curve (red line) has been fairly volatile for Boston and currently levels of 2.3 per million per day are in the range observed over the last 3 months.

The monthly chart shows this more significantly. October is already higher than August and September combined. Fatalities in October to date are 26 – probably on target to be similar to September – which was significantly lower than August.

The importance of schools

In my view the importance of in person schools is the following:

  • Provides the best learning and social development experience for kids (when done safely using masks etc)
  • Provides food security for many kids who’s families are on low income levels
  • Enables parents to perform their work
  • Reduces stress on parents and children (yes home schooling can be stressful sometimes!)

We also have to acknowledge that school age children are at lower risk for severe infection – and schools have not been the super spreader risk that was feared. Here’s a NYT article stating that “Schoolchildren seem unlikely to fuel coronavirus surges, scientists say”.

Wrapping up

There’s no doubt that COVID is ramping up in many countries around the world (take France as an extreme example) and we need to be very vigilent – especially as colder months return.

But here – the scientists are saying that schools are not behind the rise. We now have a lot of data from across the country to show that (when schools take sensible precautions).

As a parent of a child in school – in a county with higher numbers than Boston (daily new cases are 278 per million per day, and test positivity rate of 6.2%) I’m pleased that I our schools are able to continue to function.

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