Coronavirus Chronicles — No More Pencils, No More Books?

What are the chances that America’s children can return to classrooms any time soon? A glance at some recently published facts and figures might give an indication. As the daily new case totals go up and up, writers Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal frame these eloquent phrases:

A new and brutal stage now menaces the Sun Belt states, whose residents face a nearly unbroken chain of outbreaks stretching from South Carolina to California. Across the South and large parts of the West, cases are soaring, hospitalizations are spiking, and a greater portion of tests are coming back positive.

Statistics can be served up in myriad frames, so let’s take something easy to visualize: sick people in medical settings, hooked up to machines, surrounded by masked figures intent on sticking needles into them. On May 30, 34,650 COVID-19 patients were in American hospital beds. The number went down almost to a slim 27,000 and then right back up again. On June 30, it was 34,830. In other words, the number of people sick enough to be hospitalized bounced right back up to where it was a month ago.

On June 25, there were 41,000 new cases. In other words, the day’s new-case total was higher than the number of already-occupied beds. Perhaps the enormity of that figure doesn’t register on the consciousness, so writer Umair Haque says it in a couple of other ways:

America makes up just 4 percent of the world’s population — but it has 26% of the globe’s Coronavirus caseload. America had 25% of the world’s Coronavirus cases today — and that number’s rising — and yet it has less than 5% of the world’s population.

This point (framed by The Atlantic‘s Meyer and Madrigal) is very important:

It can take up to 14 days for someone to show symptoms; it can take another two weeks for that person to appear in the data as a confirmed case. This means that […] virus statistics tell you what was happening in a community two to three weeks ago.

A daycare center is in many ways similar to a school, and the situation in Texas day-care centers is not encouraging. Reese Oxner reported,

As of Tuesday, there were 950 reported positive cases of COVID-19 — 307 children and 643 staff members — at 668 child care locations. Statewide, 12,207 licensed child care operations are open, and total reported coronavirus cases have risen from 59 cases in mid-May to 576 on June 23.

“Guidance” from the federal government is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and many states have declined to take it at any stage. But just for the record, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that daycare facilities keep their young charges six feet apart. That’s only one child at a time in the sandbox! Considering that the main mission of preschool education is to teach sharing, cooperation, and togetherness, this sounds like a tall order.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is not a government body but a professional organization, and its opinion is that three feet of distance is plenty, in light of the observation that “the relative impact of physical distancing among children is likely small based on current evidence and certainly difficult to implement.” In any case, the AAP feels that the educational advantage of physical presence in school outweighs the health risks, which is a bold position.

In quite a few locales, the concept of “reopening” society is a joke because Americans have exercised their right to selfishly do as they please all along. At the end of June, national expert Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that the new cases per day number would only get worse.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A Devastating New Stage of the Pandemic,”, 06/25/20
Source: “US Historical Data,”, undated
Source: “How Bad is America’s Coronavirus Explosion? Much Worse Than You Think,”, 06/26/20
Source: “More than 300 children in Texas day cares have caught COVID-19, and the numbers are rising,”, 07/01/20
Source: “Dr. Anthony Fauci says U.S. coronavirus outbreak is ‘going to be very disturbing,’ could top 100,000 new cases a day,”, 06/30/20
Image by loco steve/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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