Time to go back to school, business, and life - Must Read Alaska
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Time to go back to school, business, and life

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For my contemporaries, you may recall Dune’s sisterhood’s “Litany Against Fear.”

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 

We have arrived in time where fear is retarding our social and economic development on a level which may be intrinsically irrecoverable for decades.  

We as a community are considering the utmost in social and cultural suicide: the closing of our education institutions because of the fear created by COVID-19.

Fear is irrevocably tied to consequence and outcome.  Our greater fears are sometimes more consequential than the outcomes of disease and death.

May I present a greater consequence and a terrible outcome.  

The average 2018-2019 Anchorage School District’s (ASD) PEAKS Math Proficiency was 40.30% and English Language Arts proficiency was 41.79%.  In ASD, over 59 out of 100 children were functionally illiterate in Math and over 58 children out of 100 were functionally illiterate in English Language Arts.

We already have a tragic reality with the above Alaska Department of Education and Early Development documented facts.  This is an undeniable outcome of the consequence of a broken education system.

Will we allow our fear to destroy our children’s opportunities and futures? 

If schools are opened, will children potentially spread COVID-19 amongst themselves, their teachers, and return home to infect their families?

Despite the research of major and respected scientists to the contrary, are we willing to let fear kill our thinking as well as kill our children’s future? 

Scientists have yet to find a single confirmed case of a teacher catching coronavirus from a pupil anywhere in the world.

Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist from the University of Edinburgh, said closing all schools completely during Britain’s lockdown might have been a mistake.  Evidence now suggests children are ‘minimally involved’ in the spread of COVID-19, which politicians should bear in mind in the future, he added.

The British Medical Journal has stated in its Archives of Disease in Childhood the following, “Governments worldwide should allow all children back to school regardless of co-morbidities. Detailed surveillance will be needed to confirm the safety of this approach, despite recent analysis demonstrating the ineffectiveness of school closures in the recent past.”

The National Center for Biological Information published an abstract review which stated, “We undertook a systematic review by searching three electronic databases to identify what is known about the effectiveness of school closures and other school social distancing practices during coronavirus outbreaks. We included 16 of 616 identified articles. School closures were deployed rapidly across mainland China and Hong Kong for COVID-19. However, there are no data on the relative contribution of school closures to transmission control…. Policy makers need to be aware of the equivocal evidence when considering school closures for COVID-19, and that combinations of social distancing measures should be considered.”

Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics stated, “Almost 6 months into the pandemic, accumulating evidence and collective experience argue that children, particularly school-aged children, are far less important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 transmission than adults. Therefore, serious consideration should be paid toward strategies that allow schools to remain open, even during periods of COVID-19 spread. In doing so, we could minimize the potentially profound adverse social, developmental, and health costs that our children will continue to suffer until an effective treatment or vaccine can be developed and distributed or, failing that, until we reach herd immunity.”

Alaska has lately seen the uptick in positive cases because more and more people are being tested, yet a majority may be asymptomatic with no correlative facts in regard to increases in hospitalization and death equivalence.  Unfortunately, the media has not been our friend.  Its research is shallow and appears to spawn more fear and confusion than facts and hope.  Yet the facts are readily available if you choose to research.

As of July 31, 2020, Alaska has 2,878 confirmed cases, 885 recovered cases, 128 hospitalizations, and 23 deaths.

There are currently hospitalized 37 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Alaska’s hospitals have 941 occupied hospital beds with COVID and non-COVID patients out of 1,438 available beds leaving 497 beds available, 93 ICU occupied beds with COVID and non-COVID patients out of 163 available beds. That leaves 70 ICU beds available, and 257 ventilators available.

These do not appear to be the pandemic specifications we were led to believe. 

As of July 29, 2020, there have been 225,057 COVID-19 tests in Alaska.  I couldn’t find the asymptomatic ratio in testing results.  I suspect it is out there but because there are three separate testing labs — Public Health, Commercial and Hospital/Facilities. These results have not yet been reported.

2020 has caused all of us to face the very real circumstances of fear.  My friend used to tell me the acronym for fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  

Have we come to the point in the experience of this disease to discover it is on the level of a bad influenza?  

It is contagious, but it is manageable through various in practice remedies. We have also discovered a host of presumptions which have been proven myth. 

We need to protect the immunologically deficient yet allow our society to go on about the business of life not fear.

It’s time for us to open our communities back cautiously and wisely.  Let’s get back to school, business, and, especially, life.

Michael Tavoliero is a realtor at Core Real Estate Group in Eagle River, is active in the Alaska Republican Party and chairs Eaglexit.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Well written piece. The profession of teaching, especially at the elementary school level, has changed considerably over the last 30 years, and not for the better. 30 years ago, the vast majority of teachers would have stood in front of a bullet for their kids. Now, they are the ones holding the gun. The effort to keep kids at home has nothing to do with students’ well being.. quite the opposite.

    • To suggest that teachers don’t care for their students is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Put the rest of the article aside, that alone showed where your foot is. Had you said teachers don’t care for some of the parents, them I would have been in lockstep with you. Some parents have no business being parents.

      • Greg i usually learn something from you. Here, this an area its your turn to learn from Lawrence about what personality is standing in front of community school classrooms. If educators truly cared, our community children wouldnt be graduating at such low accommodating academic skills facing all sorts of other issues an 18 year old shouldnt be grappling to understand.

        • JEN, Do teachers truly have an option to pass/fail at the end of a school year whether or not student is working at grade level? I understand ASD actually passed a rule change that appeared to end “social promotion” a year or two ago. Has it been followed?

        • I am a recently retired teacher. I learned that parents don’t make their kids go to bed before midnight if then, they don’t make them do homework at all, when the teacher calls home to talk with the parent they just get chewed out and threatened to be thrown or ran out of a village, parents don’t want to accept any responsibility, some parents say what happened my kids was all smart when they went to school and now my grandkids are failing. What’s happened is education has raise the bar trying to get these kids to step and stride and promote learning rather than lowering the bar and giving everybody in A. Parents would rather the kids be out playing at all hours of the night rather than reading a book or doing homework. They feel that the school’s responsibility is to raise their kids and educate them much like a boarding school does. That’s not the function of the public school in the bush although when they say it takes a village to raise a kid, I think what they really mean is it takes the school to raise a kid because the village sucks at it for the most part. Now I have met some parents who were great parents. You can always tell those parents by the behavior of their children and the value they place on education and you can always tell other parents who are bullies and always want to blame someone else for their problems.

    • I’m sure that homeschoolers disagree. The closure of indoctrination centers is GREAT. Children spending more time with parents instead of their Critical Theory brainwashers has got to be a net positive.

  • “Scientists have yet to find a single confirmed case of a teacher catching coronavirus from a pupil anywhere in the world.”

    Possibly when you looked. New information is being published daily. However, your statement restricts the range of inquiry enough to make it nearly irrelevant. Some very recent publications:

    From the CDC “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)” July 31. “Limited data are available about transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), among youths. During June 17–20, an overnight camp in Georgia (camp A) held orientation for 138 trainees and 120 staff members; staff members remained for the first camp session, scheduled during June 21–27, and were joined by 363 campers and three senior staff members on June 21. Camp A adhered to the measures in Georgia’s Executive Order* that allowed overnight camps to operate beginning on May 31, including requiring all trainees, staff members, and campers to provide documentation of a negative viral SARS-CoV-2 test ≤12 days before arriving. Camp A adopted most† components of CDC’s Suggestions for Youth and Summer Camps§ to minimize the risk for SARS-CoV-2 introduction and transmission. Measures not implemented were cloth masks for campers and opening windows and doors for increased ventilation in buildings. Cloth masks were required for staff members. Camp attendees were cohorted by cabin and engaged in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, including daily vigorous singing and cheering. On June 23, a teenage staff member left camp A after developing chills the previous evening. The staff member was tested and reported a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2 the following day (June 24). Camp A officials began sending campers home on June 24 and closed the camp on June 27.
    “…A total of 597 Georgia residents attended camp A. Median
    camper age was 12 years (range = 6–19 years), and 53% (182
    of 346) were female. The median age of staff members and
    trainees was 17 years (range = 14–59 years), and 59% (148 of
    251) were female. Test results were available for 344 (58%)
    attendees; among these, 260 (76%) were positive. The overall
    attack rate was 44% (260 of 597), 51% among those aged
    6–10 years, 44% among those aged 11–17 years, and 33%
    among those aged 18–21 years (Table). Attack rates increased
    with increasing length of time spent at the camp, with staff
    members having the highest attack rate (56%).” Search ‘CDC overnight’ to find the report.

    Elsewhere: “On 13 March 2020, Israel’s government declared closure of all schools. Schools fully reopened on 17 May 2020. Ten days later, a major outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) occurred in a high school. The first case was registered on 26 May, the second on 27 May. They were not epidemiologically linked. Testing of the complete school community revealed 153 students (attack rate: 13.2%) and 25 staff members (attack rate: 16.6%) who were COVID-19 positive.”

    Several teachers have died of COVID-19 disease in Sweden

    School closures were quite effective: “Association Between Statewide School Closure and COVID-19 Incidence and Mortality in the US” Search JAMA July 29 2020 and look for the Auger article of above title and associated editorial. From the article:
    ” COVID-19 cumulative incidence in states at the time of school closure ranged from 0 to 14.75 cases per 100 000 population. School closure was associated with a significant decline in the incidence of COVID-19 (adjusted relative change per week, −62% [95% CI, −71% to −49%]) and mortality (adjusted relative change per week, −58% [95% CI, −68% to −46%]). “We are about to conduct another grand experiment – this time with our school kids.” Considering how effective they have always been in bringing common cold/flu home to their parents I suspect a bunch of people will be contracting COVID-19 in this experiment. We’ll be seeing results by the end of September – Mid October.

    If I had school age kids they’d be home schooled this coming school year. I have volunteered to help with the grandkids already.

    We could largely shut this virus down in a few weeks time if we’d universally follow some simple precautions and procedures to dampen the transmission. But, apparently, Americans would rather “bet on the come” of a vaccine in five-six months time while cases and deaths pile up.

    • I don’t know where you came up with this stuff but Sweden did NOT close it’s schools and had one teacher die of Covid 19, not “several” and had 2 staff members in school die of Covid 19. And , you are insane if you truly believe you can “shut this virus down”. Until such time as it pervasive in the population, it will continue to spread. And “cases” are a non problem because they are people that have been or are infected. They are seldom hospitalized and even less, dying. The basis of the article’s subject is proven in your hysterical response. Fear is the enemy, not the virus.

      • Sorry for the confusion: It might be clear from the other examples I cited I consider “staff” in a school equivalent to “teacher” in a school. But, strictly speaking they are not.

        It is also not clear whether staff were infected by students or visa versa. From Science magazine May 22, 2020 “How Sweden wasted a ‘rare opportunity’ to study coronavirus in schools” it was said: “However, a scan of Swedish newspapers makes clear that school outbreaks have occurred. In the town of Skellefteå, a teacher died and 18 of 76 staff tested positive at a school with about 500 students in preschool through ninth grade. …. In Uppsala, staff protested when school officials, citing patient privacy rules, declined to notify families or staff that a teacher had tested positive. … At least two staff members at other schools have died, … .”

        This is old information but more than 2 IS several.

        From Covid-19 in schoolchildren A comparison between Finland and Sweden (Two months ago?) (search: covid-19-school-aged-children.pdf site:www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se will find it) there have been 381 cases in teachers in Swedish schools, day care through secondary.

        If you read what I said you’ll see I said it could be done and said it won’t be in the USA. The average incubation time of this disease is 5 – 7 days. Just shy of 99% develop symptoms by 14 days. The longest I’ve found is 21 days. Significant reduction in transmissions of viral particles between individuals for a month or so would kill it off. The recent “Lancet” meta analysis referenced on these pages earlier provided Risk Reduction rates for mask use, single sided and double sided along with same for social distancing. Essentially masks and social distancing each reduce the density of “susceptible” and “infected” individuals in the population. Statistically, encounters between those who carry the virus and those who can get the disease become so low that, for all practical purposes, “herd immunity” and a Ro less than 1 are achieved which results in extinction of the virus. You do the math.

    • And yet, even your statistics won’t be enough to convince the nay sayers that this isn’t a government conspiracy. I think at this point, all we can count on is for natural selection to run its course, and we will pick up the pieces and dig graves as needed
      You can’t fix stupid.

      • I agree with every point you made and have made similar comments elsewhere. An interesting aspect to wonder about is whether there are easily identified characteristics of the segments of the population (aside from stupid) which define the sets which are being selected against. Will the selection be significant in shifting the physical/political/etc. demographics of the society?

      • Point demonstrated.

  • Absolutely. this is fear and hysteria based on zero science. This idiocy has had lasting effects and has permanently ruined some lives. I know there are some children that will forever be scarred by the panic stricken parents with no logical progression abilities. The kids should go back to school and people should get back to their lives, while they still have lives to go back to.

  • Ascribing a negative emotion is easy.


    People don’t want to reopen businesses not because they understand the importance of having an economy, no they are greedy.


    Need a pop culture quote? “Greed is good.”


    Boy, that was easy.

  • Good little subject. I suggest you dig a little deeper before you cry wolf. You obviously are not self employed, or maybe not employed at all. Prohibiting people from providing for their family’s and putting food on the table is a fundamental right of all Americans. Maybe you should move someplace outside where you’d be happier among your own ilk.

  • If kids don’t go back to school at least furlough half of the Anchorage School District teachers & administrators. Let’s start getting some budget savings at least from this “plannedemic”!

    • You might be on to something.
      Add a class action lawsuit against the Municipality to recover property taxes paid to Anchorage’s education industry for a product they won’t provide… this could work.

  • I too look at this from the Right, but I reach some different conclusions; (1) If the schools are already guilty of the poor performance you say, and I believe they are, then I say let’s begin to close them down. It was the parents, not the taxpayer, who had the sex; let the parents figure out how the education industry in Alaska has gone so wrong, Covid or not. Tele-education is an important answer to our post-oil dilemma, namely that we are not about to pay a broad-based tax to education kids in the bush while we pay property and sales taxes to pay for education in the boroughs in which we live, and Covid has shown us the solution. (2) If the Covid is largely a fiction and a fabrications as a pandemic then why do people want lawmakers to grant blanket immunity from liability? If someone gives me Covid through disregard or disrespect for my life, and I live, then they will meet Mr. .45, not my attorney. (3) Why does no one talk about making Red China pay dearly for what they have put us through? Hussein (the Iraqi, not the erstwhile US President) was only suspected of owning certain weapons and we hanged him. Are we so intimidated by Red China that they get a free pass? If so then I dread what they will do next.

  • We have, supposedly, opened up our communities wisely and cautiously. It doesn’t appear to have worked. Cases are now double what they were about a month ago. If we “reopen” again, perhaps we should not try the same thing again. Einstein. Insanity.
    Fear is response to real or perceived danger. Fear of perceived danger is usually innocuous, unless it runs rampant, like fear that the government is coming to take our guns or prohibit us from religious practices (obviating the need to control those that include human sacrifice ((other than Jesus)) or cruelty to animals). Fear of something that can kill you, even if you don’t know everything about it (we don’t know for sure exactly how gravity works, but practical experience has proven strongly persuasive), is a survival tactic. The coronavirus has proven elusive and moderately fatal, but remarkably tenacious. Perhaps the author of the article would like to rethink his recommendations.
    Darwin awards are handed out daily. I have fortuitously dodged receiving one up to this point, but I see no reason foolishly to seek one out.

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