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Is the anxiety over New York schools reopening about public health – or politics? | Emma Brockes

From some of the chatter among parents, you’d think that sending children back into classrooms was a risk with no upside

There are another two weeks on the clock until state schools go back in New York, and the temperature around Covid discourse is changing. Teachers will be required to be vaccinated; the kids will be masked; and random Covid testing will continue into the autumn. Meanwhile, the test positivity rate in the city hovers at about 4% (in schools, in June, that figure was 0.03%, confirming earlier suppositions that schools aren’t big sites of transmission) and the vaccination rate among adults, at 70%, is among the highest in the country. Still, from some of the chatter on parenting websites and social media, you would think that sending kids back into classrooms constituted a risk of impossible proportions, with no plausible upside whatsoever.

The anxiety is real, though catastrophising is also an indulgence. Like hate-reading and unvanquishable grievance, doom-mongering is a guilty pleasure, one that delivers concrete psychological benefits. By deciding to believe that things are, have been, and always will be terrible, we absolve ourselves both of the burden of making plans, and of offering much of an account of what we’ve been up to. In the case of Covid, this low-key impulse towards the worst-case scenario is magnified by the much greater political forces that attend every position in relation to Covid. Anti-vaxxers and anti-mask campaigners are, clearly, the victims of various delusions, but their fiercest opponents can be delusional, too. If, to prove how pro-science, pro-teacher safety or anti-anti-vax you really are, you are willing to make the case that wearing a mask has zero effect on a child’s ability to learn, for example, then you are probably motivated as much by politics as public health.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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