Teachers union prez misleads on CDC study in slamming Abbott for banning mask mandates in schools

Matt Welch noted a few days ago how absurd it is that Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers insist they want schools fully reopened this fall while continuing to attach absurd little conditions to that reopening. “She still wants reduced class sizes, maximal masking, distance-educating carveouts for teachers still scared to teach in class, and extra district/state monies in addition to the federal bonanza,” he wrote. “She still warns darkly about variants, and says stuff like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent masking relaxation for vaccinated people ‘portends a potential surge of the virus.’”

She’s been complaining about schools not having enough soap too, Welch marvels — after the feds have spent more than $100 billion on public schools over the past year.

What brand of soap are these schools are buying?

The latest twist in Weingarten’s “we can reopen if we just do these 50 things I want” offensive is this tweet from last night:

Sounds pretty reckless by Greg Abbott. Outlawing mask mandates in schools after the CDC just released data on how useful they are? “This business of these children not being vaccinated and parents not wanting them to be vaccinated is going to cause problems,” said another AFT official about Abbott’s order. “It is going to cause a lot of suffering and illness. I think that is a travesty.”

Did the study really say that masks were a “key factor” in stopping COVID, though, as Weingarten claims?

Here’s what it said, per NPR:

The new study comes from Georgia and compares COVID-19 infection rates across 169 K-5 schools. Some schools required teachers, staff and sometimes students to wear masks; some did not.

Between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11, researchers found that infection rates were 37% lower in schools where teachers and staff members were required to wear masks. The difference between schools that did and did not require students to wear masks was not statistically significant.

So masks on students don’t seem to make a difference, which is what we might expect given the low rate of infection in kids. Masks on adults do make a difference — or did, I should say, since this study was conducted last winter before the vaccines were widely available.

But now that they are widely available, now that teachers everywhere have had a meaningful opportunity to get vaccinated, now that the CDC has said vaccinated adults can remove their masks indoors, what’s left of this study? Why should masks matter in a post-vaccine America?

The most you can say for Weingarten’s position is that, with more contagious variants like B.1.1.7 having spread in the U.S. since the study was done, Abbott might want to allow a mask mandate for unvaccinated adults only. Although we could turn that around on the union by wondering why, if we’re going to do mandates, we don’t simply mandate vaccinations for teachers as a condition of employment. They have a special duty to keep kids safe, one might argue, because kids under 12 are the only segment of society that can’t be vaccinated yet and teachers are around them all day long.

How would Weingarten and her members feel about that mandate?

For cripes sake, even Andrew Cuomo is dropping mask mandates for activities involving children:

Weingarten’s going to keep using kids and their temporary vulnerability to infection as an excuse to make demands of school districts, but NPR noted today what’s been clear for awhile now. COVID isn’t any threatening to young children than the flu is.

To date, out of more than 74 million children in the United States, there have been about 300 COVID-19 deaths and a few thousand serious illnesses. By comparison, the CDC registered 188 flu-related deaths in children during the 2019-2020 flu season. (This past year, there was essentially no flu season at all.)…

For children in particular, the risk of serious consequences from COVID-19 is the same magnitude as the risk they face from the flu…. But many parents seem more worried about the new and less familiar disease. That anxiety is heightened by the new guidelines on mask-wearing. But experts urge parents to try not to worry too much.

Not only are kids at low risk when unvaccinated, increasingly they’re eligible for vaccination too. Just this morning Moderna finally joined Pfizer with data that its vaccine is safe and highly effective in kids aged 12 to 15. Younger kids are already being studied, with vaccinations for them possibly available this fall. What will be Weingarten’s excuse to keep schools closed then?

Actually, we already know what it’ll be. She’s going to claim that the low COVID numbers are being cooked somehow. How do we know that? Because, allegedly, she’s already done it in private conversation:

I had relayed to her beforehand how ‘Florida schools have been open since September, and no significant difference in case numbers or other statistics was found between them and California’s numbers.’ Her explanation for this narrative-contradicting statistic was that the state of Florida has ‘been hiding cases.’

When I asked for evidence to support this claim, she merely stated that ‘De[S]antis lies and fires people .. look what he did to the health officer[.] People don’t want to talk because they are terrorized[.]‘

She then began to push the conspiracy theory that Rebekah Jones, a “top scientist,” was fired from Florida Department of Health (DoH) for refusing to falsify COVID-19 case numbers in order to support Governor Ron DeSantis’ plans to reopen the economy.

The claim that Florida has been “hiding” cases has been debunked. But if you’re willing to argue that schools can’t reopen because they lack soap after more than $100 billion in spending, you’re willing to argue conspiracies too.

I’ll leave you with this quote that made the rounds on Friday night, as it’s emblematic of the pity party that public-school teachers have thrown for themselves since last March. Everyone’s tired from the pandemic, most of all parents who had to take over their kids’ education when teachers refused to do their jobs despite being able to work in an environment that’s at lower risk for COVID than some retail jobs.

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