By David Rattray, President & CEO, UNITE-LA
I don’t know of a time when there has been greater trepidation around students, teachers and administrators starting a new school year. And rightfully so. Returning to school every fall naturally brings about some jitters, but now, staring down a global pandemic and figuring out how to ensure our students receive the same, quality education they are accustomed to, brings about the greatest challenges yet.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out a pandemic plan for learning and safe schools, as the California Department of Public Health issued a framework for when and how schools should reopen for in-person instruction. Most of California schools will be physically closed and rigorous learning will be done online. As a former business executive, I know this is unnerving for our economy, which is already so unstable, as small businesses and working parents will be hit the hardest. But keep in mind, the best way to stabilize our economy is to flatten the pandemic curve. This is exactly why we must all accept responsibility, listen to our public health leaders and support our students at every turn.
We do know of ways we can mitigate this disease and possibly even bring it to an end. I don’t say this flippantly. I say this because other countries have done it, such as South Korea, Germany and Italy. Looking at a snapshot from last week on Worldometer, California had 8,875 COVID-19 cases and 94 deaths per day. Comparatively, with the data adjusted to parallel the California population, South Korea had 39 cases and no deaths; Germany had 210 cases and two deaths; and Italy had 129 cases and 10 deaths. These countries listened to the science, and each country and its residents worked together to stay home, wear masks when out, practice good hygiene and social distance where appropriate.
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch once said that leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions. UNITE-LA supports Gov. Newsom and local elected and appointed leaders for their courageous, wise and difficult decision to close schools, child care centers, colleges and other learning settings. The sooner we all accept that we must stay home, social distance and wear masks, the sooner we will experience the success of other countries and get back to school, work and fun. Most importantly, we will all be healthy.