As the summer comes to a close and Coronavirus cases remain at an all-time high, school districts across the nation are having to make a big decision about whether to reopen schools for the Fall of 2020 semester. While President Trump has openly encouraged schools to reopen, the decision itself to do so is in the hands of each school district. This decision, however, is much bigger and more nuanced than some may think.
According to the CDC, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are five times greater for Black people compared to those that are white, and four times greater for Hispanic or Latino people compared to White people. Additionally, a report made by the United Nations found that the death rate of COVID-19 for African Americans is double that of any other racial group in the United States.
The UN report points to several reasons for these disparities. Namely, these minority groups are marginalized and discriminated against. Additionally, access to healthcare, economic inequality, overcrowded housing, a bias in care and treatment, as well as the fact that these individuals tend to work at higher risk jobs, as essential workers, all play a role in their higher number of cases, hospitalizations, and death rates.
Furthermore, as cases continue to rise, reopening schools could play a significant role in the spread of coronavirus across the nation. By holding in-person classes, students and teachers will be exposed to more people, all sharing a common space. Additionally, sitting indoors for an extended amount of time with others is considered a very high-risk activity. Public health experts rank school reopening as a moderate-high risk activity, ranking it as level 7 out of 10 for risk level. Furthermore, students attending school would not only run the risk of getting infected themselves, but also possibly bringing the virus back home to elderly or more at-risk family members.
This concern is even greater for Black, Latino, and Hispanic students, who are disproportionately affected by the virus. For these students, reopening schools could devastate their families and communities. This begs the question: is it ethical to open schools knowing that it will increase the spread of the COVID-19 and further the already disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, and Hispanic communities?