Tagged Disparities

Distritos escolares lidian con cuarentenas, mascarillas y miedo

En un distrito escolar, las familias están sacando a sus hijos de la escuela. En otros, los estudiantes aparecen con mascarillas.

Los distritos escolares a lo largo del país, y en particular aquellos con grandes poblaciones asiático-americanas, se han apresurado a responder al brote del nuevo coronavirus, que ha matado a más de 2,000 personas (al 19 de febrero) y ha enfermado a decenas de miles más, casi todas en China.

Hasta el momento, se han confirmado 15 casos en los Estados Unidos (además de los 14 pasajeros del crucero Diamond Princess que arribaron enfermos), principalmente en California, hogar de aproximadamente un tercio de los inmigrantes chinos de la nación.

Los distritos pisan territorio desconocido cuando aplican reglas federales a sus cuerpos estudiantiles. Y, en algunos casos, están tomando decisiones para abordar los temores de los padres, no la enfermedad real, sin orientación oficial. Están sopesando si permitir que los estudiantes trabajen desde casa, incluso si no han viajado al extranjero recientemente, o si les permiten usar mascarillas en clase.

“Estamos haciendo todo lo posible para cumplir” a medida que evolucionan las reglas y el brote, dijo Jenny Owen, vocera del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Duarte, unas 20 millas al noreste del centro de Los Ángeles y donde aproximadamente el 6% de los estudiantes se identifican como asiáticos.

Los síntomas de la enfermedad por coronavirus, denominado COVID-19, varían desde tos leve o secreción nasal hasta neumonía grave y dificultad para respirar. Los científicos estiman que el período de incubación abarca hasta 14 días y aún están investigando si puede propagarse cuando las personas no tienen síntomas visibles.

Para evitar la diseminación del virus en los Estados Unidos, el gobierno federal ha emitido reglas para los viajeros que regresan: los ciudadanos estadounidenses y los residentes permanentes que estuvieron en el epicentro del brote en la provincia de Hubei, en China, en los 14 días anteriores deben someterse a una cuarentena obligatoria de dos semanas en una instalación administrada por el gobierno. Aquellos que visitaron otras partes de China deben quedarse en casa, en “auto-cuarentena” durante dos semanas.

Estas normas entraron en vigencia el 2 de febrero y, como resultado, un programa de intercambio que traía a niños de China a las escuelas de Duarte se canceló temporalmente para evitar que los estudiantes fueran puestos en cuarentena, dijo Owen.

Las nuevas normas ayudaron a aclarar la confusión, especialmente para las familias que habían viajado recientemente desde China y se preguntaban si debían o no enviar a sus hijos a la escuela, dijo Don Austin, superintendente del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Palo Alto en el Area de la Bahía, de casi 12,000 estudiantes y en el que aproximadamente el 36% de los estudiantes se identifican como asiáticos.

“Cuando escuché por primera vez sobre el concepto de auto-cuarentena, mi primer instinto fue que esto podría ser problemático si estamos solos, tratando de crear algunas de estas políticas y prácticas sobre la marcha”, agregó.

Pero los distritos escolares y los departamentos de salud locales aún tienen que tomar decisiones rápidas en casos que caen fuera de las pautas federales.

Los funcionarios de salud del condado de Ohio, en West Virginia, pidieron a una familia que retirara a un niño de la escuela el 3 de febrero para someterse a una cuarentena de 14 días, a pesar que las pautas federales no se aplicaban al historial de viajes del estudiante, dijo Howard Gamble, vocero del Departamento de Salud del condado de Wheeling-Ohio. El niño acababa de regresar de Hong Kong, que no es parte de China continental. Pero un miembro de la familia que había viajado informó síntomas similares a los de la gripe al regresar.

Los Centros para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) respaldaron la decisión del distrito, dijo Gamble. Los CDC no respondieron a una solicitud de comentarios.

Falta orientación federal sobre otras preguntas que los distritos escolares están considerando.

En el Distrito Escolar Unificado de San Ramón Valley, en el Área de la Bahía, casi el 40% de los 32,000 estudiantes se identifican como asiáticos. Algunas familias sacaron a sus hijos de la escuela y pidieron al distrito que disculpe sus ausencias mientras completan el trabajo escolar desde casa, a pesar que no han viajado recientemente a China o no han estado en contacto cercano con viajeros de China, dijo Christopher George, vocero del distrito.

El distrito dijo que sí.

“Queremos que nuestras familias tengan la opción, incluso para las que tienen miedo de enviar a sus hijos a la escuela”, dijo.

El Distrito Escolar Unificado de Palo Alto ha recibido solicitudes similares, y el superintendente Austin dijo que está permitiendo que, por ahora, las escuelas decidan.

A diferencia de las cuarentenas que terminan después de 14 días, quedarse en casa para evitar la exposición al coronavirus no tiene fecha de finalización, dijo.

“Si este virus continúa propagándose por todo el mundo durante X cantidad de meses, ¿en qué momento diríamos que tienes que volver a la escuela?”, se preguntó George. “La intención no es que todos los estudiantes que no están expuestos se queden en casa como medida de precaución”.

Otra área gris para los distritos escolares es el uso de mascarillas.

Los CDC no recomiendan el uso de máscaras para el público en general porque no son una forma efectiva de prevenir infecciones. Pero en algunos países asiáticos, usar una máscara facial para protegerse contra la contaminación del aire o los gérmenes se considera normal.

Algunos distritos escolares, incluido el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Arcadia, en el condado de Los Ángeles, permiten que los estudiantes y miembros del personal vayan a la escuela con mascarillas si lo desean, siempre que las usen por razones preventivas y no porque estén enfermos.

“Fue una decisión bastante fácil para nosotros”, dijo Ryan Foran, portavoz del distrito, donde cerca del 66% de los 9.400 estudiantes se identifican como asiáticos. “Usar máscaras no es nada nuevo en nuestra comunidad”.

En el cercano Distrito Escolar de Garvey, los maestros y el personal les preguntan a los estudiantes con mascarillas si se sienten bien, pero no los excluyen de las actividades escolares, dijo Anita Chu, superintendente del distrito, donde cerca del 60% de los estudiantes son de ascendencia asiática.

En el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Alhambra, donde aproximadamente la mitad de los estudiantes se definen como asiáticos, los administradores desalientan el uso de máscaras y tratan de explicar a las familias que no protegen contra la enfermedad, dijo Toby Gilbert, vocero del distrito.

Eso es un buen consejo científico. Sin embargo, los esfuerzos del distrito se han encontrado con una petición en línea de change.org pidiendo a los administradores que permitan a los estudiantes usar mascarillas y que cancelen las clases por temor al virus. La petición tiene más de 14,000 firmas electrónicas, pero no está claro cuántas son del distrito.

Funcionarios de salud pública del condado de Los Ángeles “nos dijeron que las máscaras dan una falsa sensación de protección y se suman a un clima de alarma sin ayudar”, dijo Gilbert. “Siempre hemos permitido las máscaras, pero queríamos que los padres supieran que no estaban protegiendo”.

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California Noticias En Español Public Health

School Districts Grapple With Quarantines, Face Masks And Fear

In one school district, families are pulling their kids out of school. In others, students show up in face masks.

Educators in one Southern California community agreed to suspend an exchange program to keep visiting Chinese students out of quarantine.

School districts across the U.S., particularly those with large Asian American populations, have scrambled to respond to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people and sickened tens of thousands more, almost all in China.

So far, 15 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., mostly in California, home to about one-third of the nation’s Chinese immigrants.

The districts find themselves in uncharted territory as they apply new federal travel rules to their student bodies. And, in some cases, administrators are making decisions to address parental fears — not actual disease — with no official guidance. They’re weighing whether to allow students to work from home, even if they haven’t traveled abroad recently, or let them wear face masks in class.

Balancing these requests against broader public health needs often leads to different conclusions.

“We’re just doing our best to comply” as the rules and outbreak evolve, said Jenny Owen, spokesperson for the Duarte Unified School District, about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles and where about 6% of students identify as Asian.

Symptoms of the coronavirus disease, dubbed COVID-19, range from a mild cough or a runny nose to severe pneumonia and difficulty breathing. Scientists estimate the incubation period spans up to 14 days and are still investigating whether the illness can spread when people have no obvious symptoms.

To prevent the virus’s spread in the U.S., the federal government has issued rules for returning travelers: U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who visited the epicenter of the outbreak in China, Hubei province, in the previous 14 days must undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine at a government-run facility. Those who visited other parts of China must stay home and “self-quarantine” for two weeks.

The policies began Feb. 2, and as a result, an exchange program that brought children from China to Duarte schools has been temporarily halted to prevent the students from being quarantined, Owen said.

State public health departments are using the federal rules to draft guidelines for school districts.

The policies made a “night and day” difference in clearing up confusion, especially for families who had recently traveled from China and were wondering whether or not to send their kids to school, said Don Austin, superintendent of the nearly 12,000-student Palo Alto Unified School District in the Bay Area, where about 36% of students identify as Asian.

“When I first heard of the concept of self-quarantine, my first instinct was, this could be problematic if we’re alone on that and trying to create some of these policies and practices on the fly,” he said.

But school districts and local health departments still have to make quick decisions in cases that fall outside federal guidelines.

Health officials in Ohio County, West Virginia, asked a family to retrieve a child from school on Feb. 3 to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine, even though federal guidelines did not apply to the student’s travel history, said Howard Gamble, a spokesperson for the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. The child had just returned from Hong Kong, which is not part of mainland China. But a family member who made the trip reported flu-like symptoms upon return.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported the district’s decision, Gamble said. The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal guidance is lacking on other questions school districts are weighing.

At the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in the Bay Area, nearly 40% of 32,000 students identify as Asian. A few families have pulled their kids out of school and asked the district to excuse their absences while they complete schoolwork from home, even though they have not traveled to China recently or come in close contact with travelers from China, said Christopher George, spokesperson for the district.

The district said yes.

“We want our families to have the option, even for the families who are afraid to send their kid to school,” he said.

Palo Alto Unified School District has received similar requests, and superintendent Austin said he’s allowing individual schools to decide — for now.

Unlike the quarantines that end after 14 days, staying home from school to avoid coronavirus exposure has no end date, he said.

“If this virus continues to spread around the world for X number of months, at what point would we say that you have to come back to school?” he said. “The intent is not for every student who has no exposure to stay home as a precaution.”

Another gray area for school districts is the use of face masks.

The CDC doesn’t recommend the use of masks for the general public because they aren’t an effective way to prevent infections. But in some Asian countries, wearing a face mask to protect against air pollution or germs is considered normal.

Some school districts, including the Arcadia Unified School District in Los Angeles County, allow students and staff members to come to school with face masks if they wish — provided they’re wearing them for preventive reasons and aren’t sick.

“It was a pretty easy decision for us,” said Ryan Foran, spokesperson for the district, where about 66% of the 9,400 students identify as Asian. “Wearing masks is nothing new in our community.”

At nearby Garvey School District, teachers and staff “respectfully and gently” ask masked students if they are feeling well but don’t exclude them from school activities, said Anita Chu, superintendent of the district, where about 60% of students are of Asian descent.

In the Alhambra Unified School District, where about half of the students identify as Asian, administrators discourage the use of face masks and try to explain to families that they don’t protect from disease, said Toby Gilbert, a spokesperson for the district.

That is sound scientific advice. Yet the district’s efforts have been met with an online change.org petition asking administrators to allow students to wear face masks and cancel classes over fears of the virus. The petition has more than 14,000 electronic signatures, but it’s not clear how many of those are from within the district.

Los Angeles County public health officials “advised us that masks give a false sense of protection and add to a climate of alarm without being of help,” Gilbert said. “We have always allowed masks but wanted parents to know they weren’t providing protection.”

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California Public Health

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Happy Friday! In news that is technically really good and exciting but is also kind of icky: yarn made from human skin could eventually be used to stitch up surgical wounds as a way to cut down on detrimental reactions from patients. As CNN reports, “The researchers say their ‘human textile,’ which they developed from skin cells, can be used for knitting, sewing and even crochet.” My face has been stuck in the scream emoji since I read this story, so please join me. (Also for those who think neat!, make sure to check out Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, which has a journal bound with human skin and is actually very cool.)

Now on to what you may have missed this week.

It’s that time of year! President Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address to Congress, where he declared the nation’s future to be “blazing bright.” During his speech he promised to “never let socialism destroy American health care,” encouraged Congress to send him a bill on drug pricing (to which Democrats began chanting the name of the legislation the House has already passed), and touted his administration’s push for price transparency in health care.

He also said that Democrats were trying to provide health coverage for immigrants who are in the country illegally; called for a ban on abortions that are late in term; promised to always protect Medicare; said more than 7 million people have been shifted off food stamps during his term; and took credit for a drop in health insurance premiums. Various outlets fact checked these statements — which range from completely false to misleading to true — so I’ll link to a collection of them.

Fact Checking State Of The Union: Premiums, Pre-existing Conditions, Price Transparency, And More

The New York Times: Six Takeaways From Trump’s 2020 State Of The Union Speech

Stat: Dems Interrupted The State Of The Union To Chant For Their Drug Pricing Bill


And now for the coronavirus roundup, where I sifted through hundreds of stories so you don’t have to. Before we dive in, just a reminder that there are still only 12 confirmed cases in the U.S.

— As coronavirus cases in China skyrocket past 30,000 (with 636 deaths), Chinese officials are now performing house-to-house searches in Wuhan, collecting the sick and warehousing them in quarantine centers. In the city, there’s a growing sense that the residents are being sacrificed for the good of the rest of the country. “There must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever,” said Vice Premier Sun Chunlan.

The New York Times: China Tightens Wuhan Lockdown In ‘Wartime’ Battle With Coronavirus

— The death of one of the first Chinese doctors to warn about a coronavirus outbreak sent waves of grief and anger through a nation that’s growing more and more frustrated with how its government is handling the outbreak.

The New York Times: A Rare Online Revolt Emerges In China Over Death Of Coronavirus Whistle-Blower

— After a week of cases jumping by double-digit percentages, health officials still say it’s too early to declare that the virus has peaked.

The Wall Street Journal: World Health Authorities Warn Virus Hasn’t Peaked After China’s Deadliest Day

— Hundreds more Americans were evacuated from China and will be quarantined by the U.S. government. But the outrageous fact I learned this week is that those people (and their insurers) are on the hook for any medical costs that arise from being quarantined. For those who are deemed unable to afford health insurance, the government will pick up the tab but it might outsource some of those costs to programs like Medicaid when possible. The evacuees also have to pay for their flight out of China and the cost to get to their final destination when the quarantine is over.

CNN: What It Means To Be Under The Coronavirus Federal Quarantine In The US

— In what seems a bit like the start of a dystopian reality TV show, thousands of cruise passengers are being quarantined on two ships off the coast of Japan and Hong Kong. A third cruise has been turned away from multiple ports.

The Washington Post: Trapped On Coronavirus-Ravaged Cruise Ship, Diamond Princess Passengers Struggle To Keep Spirits Up

— This story is an interesting look at how the first case in the U.S. was discovered, and more broadly showcases local public health officials who are often the ones on the front lines of a new outbreak.

The New York Times: Inside The Race To Contain America’s First Coronavirus Case

— The majority of human diseases, including the coronavirus, are zoonotic, or passed from animals to humans. If you want a brief summary of some notable ones throughout history, check out this piece from WSJ that includes a shout-out to a 5,300 mummified man who, before he died from an arrow, suffered from Lyme disease.

The Wall Street Journal: Plagues From The Animal Kingdom

— Not to be all doom and gloom, it seems to be humans’ lot in life to constantly be at war with pathogens. That means even if we contain the coronavirus, there’s just another deadly pathogen waiting in the wings.

Bloomberg: Man Vs. Microbe: We’re Not Ready For The Next Global Virus Outbreak

Meanwhile, this year’s strain of the flu is hitting children particularly hard. More than half of the positive flu tests from public health labs this season have been in children and adults under the age of 25.

The Wall Street Journal: The Flu Is Hitting Children Especially Hard This Season


It might be hard to focus on anything but the results snafu at the Iowa caucuses, but advocates for disabled voters are also reporting back on how the efforts to expand access played out. The Iowa Democratic Party took strides this year to better help disabled voters participate, and for some the experience was positive. Others, however, said that reality looked a lot different than what the party’s messaging promised.

Stateline: Confusion Reigned In Iowa Caucus — Even Before The Chaotic Results

Stat: Amid Iowa Chaos, Some With Disabilities Got An Accessible Caucus Location


In theory, employers pay their workers less because part of their benefits package includes health insurance. But if the country moved toward a “Medicare for All” model, would workers see their wages increase dollar-by-dollar of what was being spent on coverage? Not necessarily.

The New York Times: Would Your Wages Rise Under ‘Medicare For All’?


Although the Trump administration’s roll-out of the “Healthy Adult Opportunity” program that would encourage states to shift toward a block-grant style of funding drew lots of attention, a little-noticed change that could lead to big cuts flew somewhat under the radar. Governors of both parties, however, are sounding the alarm that an arcane fiscal accountability rule could lead to cuts up to $49 billion a year.

The Associated Press: Trump Rule Could Lead To Big Medicaid Cuts, Governors Warn


As is often the case with bans, teenagers are already finding a way around the e-cigarette flavor restrictions that went into effect this week. The FDA only regulated reusable vaping products, but disposable pods (with flavors like pink lemonade) are widely available at gas stations and the like.

The Associated Press: FDA Crackdown On Vaping Flavors Has Blind Spot: Disposables


VA Secretary Robert Wilkie abruptly fired his undersecretary, James Byrne, this week in what he called a “simple business decision.” Wilkie was forced to defend the decision because Byrne was well-liked by the veterans community, and the loss was just the latest in a long string of turnovers at the top of the troubled agency. Some also questioned if the dismissal had anything to do with the investigation of sexual assault allegations by Navy veteran Andrea Goldstein.

The New York Times: Deputy Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Is Abruptly Dismissed


And in the miscellaneous file for the week:

— Following the recent deaths of 15 inmates, the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the Mississippi prison system, which seems to be in the grips of a violent crisis.

The New York Times: Justice Dept. Opens Civil Rights Investigation Into Mississippi Prisons

— Anonymous reporting systems that have been set up to help prevent school shootings have actually been helping combat the epidemic of suicides in teens. Schools and local officials are pouring billions of dollars into preventing the next mass attack, and yet self-harm and suicidal ideation are what students are reporting far more often than any kind of suspicious activity. Public health officials say this should be a wake-up call about the real threat to young people.

NBC News: School Tip Lines Were Meant To Stop Shootings, But Uncovered A Teen Suicide Crisis

— How do you raise kids to prepare them for the projected negative effects of climate change without causing more trauma, anxiety and depression in a generation that’s already struggling to cope with such mental health issues? It’s a fine line to walk, experts say.

The Washington Post: Eco-Anxiety Is Overwhelming Kids. Where’s The Line Between Education And Alarmism?


And that’s it from me! Have a great weekend.

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