Friday, October 30, 2020

COVID-19 When Doctors Disagree- Controlling the Pandemic

 When Doctors Disagree- Controlling the Pandemic

My angle: Parenting and Covid-

A drive-by event

This article from the latest edition of The Economist brings up a topic discussed at PTA meetings, playground play dates and class “drive-bys.” A new COVID term is a drive-by: an informal party compliant to health guidelines by adhering to a format of “driving by” a predetermined location decked out with a banner, window-painted car and everybody wearing a mask. When people get out of their cars at a drive-by the adults stand far apart and the kids play and everybody hopes nobody says anything about the event escalating to more of a social-distance party.

Should we allow ourselves to achieve herd immunity by not preventing the spread of the disease throughout the population? Or should we maximize suppression of the disease by testing, tracing and isolating those who test positive? The two sides of this discussion are at odds with each other and both are supported by online petitions available for signature. One side of the argument is the Great Barrington Declaration- the side of herd immunity: let the disease take its natural course through the population with extra protection provided for the most vulnerable members of society. The greatest risk in this approach is calculating who is most at risk and successfully isolating and protecting that group. The casualties from this approach mean more short term death and loss. The opposing view is called the John Snow Memorandum named for an epidemiologist in the 1850s: we should take all preventative measures and precautions to protect everybody from Covid-19 at all times. Although more protective in the short term, this could cause longer term loss from the ripples of the economic stagnation.

The PTA and playground version of the aristocratic debate is the following: Should we isolate in our homes and not participate in group play dates, garage social gatherings and drive-by parties (especially when they morph into an event where everybody gets out of the car) or should we relax the rules and gather outside school for birthday parties, play dates and other social events. Should our kids attend school with social distancing implemented, or remain in a remote learning situation? It’s a very real debate amongst parents because the health and education of our children is at stake.

On one hand, I know parents who don’t want to deal with all the turmoil of change. For kids onsite- how long will that last before they are forced to switch back to a completely online model when kids test COVID positive? On the flip side of the turmoil of change is the dullness of staying home- for kids doing just remote learning- how do these kids socialize, get exercise and participate in any organized group activity? This tension has been somewhat relieved most recently by the reopening of playgrounds. Up until a few weeks ago, all social distance and drive-by events took place in large public areas like parking lots and open fields - not public parks. The images in this entry were taken at an event that took place in a large open field available for “passive use.” Technically, people were not supposed to gather on this field- but technically we were a ‘drive by” event where people happened to get out of their cars for a “few minutes.” These few minutes may have been the only few that some of the kids had to socialize with other kids in weeks.

Play dates in people’s houses are another issue. How quarantined are the kids in each household? Do they match in their policy regarding exposure to other people? So far, the consensus seems to be that a play date in someone’s driveway with masks and social distancing is low enough risk that COVID won’t be spread. But this is amongst my social group. And it is usually just two kids.

I know parents who think COVID just needs to take its course through the population and wreak its havoc before it will just go away- the herd immunity philosophy. Those are the people who don’t wear masks, don’t social distance and generally don’t stop the spread of the disease. And they have the freedom to do that- but it makes it harder for families who choose to social distance. It creates two opposing factions of parents- the last thing we all need is more division amongst us.

It’s really an impossible situation- but notable that the argument going on amongst scientists has a PTA manifestation.