Tuesday, August 31, 2021


This is from an interview UFT President Michael Mulgrew did on PIX 11 on August 27:

Anchorman: Is remote learning..., do you want that to be an option and is there the staffing for it?

Mulgrew: It's not a question of do we want; it will be an option; it won't be an option as it was last year. At the end of June last year, we were closing a thousand classrooms a day, those children were being taught remotely and that is when we had 300,000 students, so we're going to need a remote program. So for us, the teachers will do the job but we have to make sure that they're not being overburdened and that the Department of Ed is doing its job to support the teachers in the work they're trying to do. And that is what that negotiation is about. I know the mayor likes to say there is no remote; it's just not realistic.

Anchorman: So what are you negotiating?

Mulgrew: We're negotiating the fact that now teachers will have to be doing a regular day of work, setting up a classroom and all of that and at the same time now, that the city and we understand this, they need to set up a digital classroom and all of the rest of it. So this is a lot more work than they normally do.

My take is that if the Delta variant spreads like wildfire throughout NYC schools, there will be plenty of classrooms closed that will go virtual. That seems very likely. Teachers will be the ones who have to do the extra work Mulgrew talked about and there will be little or no compensation. 

Mulgrew admits on PIX 11 that in June the DOE was closing a thousand classrooms a day and this was before the more contagious Delta variant was all over the place. At that time, the vast majority of the kids were not in the buildings. They were learning remotely. Having so few students in buildings kept infections at a lower rate than they would otherwise have been and gave many parents and other New Yorkers the chance to get vaccinated so by the end of the school year Mulgrew could make his premature claim that we had reached herd immunity. 

Now that the United States with Delta is again one of the countries most negatively impacted by the pandemic as there are over a thousand Americans a day dying and doctors fear children of color are particularly at risk, it seems to me to be a little insane to negotiate on what to do when kids get COVID instead of figuring out how to truly minimize infections. This could be best accomplished by again having a remote option opened up to every family, especially those with children under 12 who cannot get vaccinated. 

I am no scientist and don't pretend to be one. That said, in my non-scientific opinion, the de Blasio-Mulgrew strategy now seems to be to throw a giant "infect the kids with COVID party" and hope for the best in terms of hospitalizations and deaths because children have had better outcomes with COVID than adults.

I don't understand why the radical right who come to this blog are not praising de Blasio and Mulgrew for opening schools at full capacity. It looks like a strategy to infect as many kids as possible. It is quite close to the infect everyone with COVID to build natural immunity declaration that folks on the right love. It is a weird kind of survival of the fittest approach.

I'd prefer a remote option for those who don't want to participate in this social-scientific experiment.

Monday, August 30, 2021


As Delta variant rages out of control in the USA and the government and many people continue to pretend the pandemic is over, our colleagues in Chicago returned to school this morning with only a very limited remote option. Teachers will be returning in New York next week and the kids are coming back on September 13 with a remote option only available for very few. 

I am worried about the kids, including my own who are 12 and 7 as obviously the 7-year-old cannot be vaccinated. I am concerned for the adults too as it seems this country is just in major denial about COVID, particularly when it comes to schools. The national mood seems to be we are tired of the pandemic so we will move on. COVID has other plans, however, and there are some dire consequences. Look at what is occurring in schools already opened.

This is from AL.com by columnist Kyle Whitmire:

Whitmire: The South walked kids into a COVID buzzsaw. Don’t repeat our mistakes, America.

America, it’s time for class. Take a seat and pay attention.

Pay attention to Tennessee, where 36 percent of new COVID cases are among children, about triple the rate of a year ago.

Pay attention to Georgia, where more than 125,000 students have already had in-person school disrupted.

Pay attention to Mississippi, where COVID cases among students, teachers and staff are more than 10-times what they were this time last year.

Pay attention to Alabama, where …

Well, we can’t say how bad things are here because our public health officials can’t yet compile the data we need. We’re driving this school bus with our eyes closed.

In its latest attempt to show the rest of the country that we know better, the South has shown America, alright. We’ve played our customary role. Like the kids in those grisly Drivers Ed videos, we’re the cautionary tale.

Don’t let this happen to you.

If you’re not from the South, you might be wondering how we could have such problems in schools this time of year when school starts after Labor Day. Through some quirk of the calendar I can’t explain, schools here start in early August, a month or more before the first bells ring elsewhere in the country. This little asynchronicity gives the rest of you the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.

Whitmere now has the numbers for Alabama and they are horrible:

UPDATE: After this column published, the Alabama Department of Public Health launched a public dashboard for COVID cases in Alabama schools, although the data it uses is still incomplete. The Alabama Department of Public Health now reports that more than 5,571 students contracted COVID in one week, a 700 percent increase over the same time last year.

Is NYC going to be any better? More people are vaccinated here and the city says they improved ventilation in schools but this story in Chalkbeat shows the DOE probably didn't buy the best product:

Brent Stephens, a professor and chair of the civil, architectural, and environmental engineering department at the Illinois Institute of Technology, recently conducted an independent test of the product after Allen raised concerns about the device on social media. The Intellipure was among the least efficient, he found. It ranked ninth out of the dozen his team tested in terms of its clean air delivery rate, or CADR, which measures how often a purifier turns over the air in the room.

Once again, I listened to Dr. Michael Osterhom's weekly CIDRAP podcast on COVID-19 and I became deeply concerned as I paid very close attention to the part on kids and schools which starts around the 45-minute mark.

He talks about the vaccine for kids under 12. He says that only 20% of kids who could be vaccinated have received at least one dose.

He then says we have to stop with the "happy talk" about the schools. Public health is doing a disservice on schools being opened throughout the US. Public health has bought into the emotional issue of in-person education being needed but we have to be transparent and honest. Public health is saying the risk of kids missing in-person learning is so great that we will emphasize that over other data on what the risks might be. Data used for CDC guidelines on schools was collected before Alpha and Delta variants came to the United States. The idea that there was very little transmission from kids was valid in the first 8-10 months of the pandemic. They don't hold up now. CDC recommendations have some validity but they are built on a house of cards. 3 feet distance if you have a face cloth covering on defies gravity. He wants adequate masking. Aerosol won't stop at 3-feet or with plexiglass.

Look what is happening in the last couple of weeks in the Southern states. Osterholm goes over some of the data. Over 1 in 100 school-age children have tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia. Florida has the same situation. Over 11,000 infected students and over 2,600 staff positive. His conclusion: He doesn't think it's possible to get kids back to schools safely today. We gotta tell the truth. CDC says the priority is getting kids back to in-person schools. CDC's priority should be the science. What does safely mean? It's not what's going to happen in the next 6 weeks. CDC recommends universal indoor masking but what about the quality of the masking? What are we doing putting kids in harm's way by putting them in rooms closer than 3 feet? The aerobiology is terrible. Do you think if you were closer than 3 feet to someone smoking you would smell it?  You bet you would. CDC misrepresenting what science says. They have dropped the ball on this one.  Science is telling us it is impossible to open up schools with delta spreading. Put beliefs aside. Health equity is real. CDC says health equity is a critical part of this. It is not scientifically sound information to say you can make schools safe. We can make them safer.

There is a hierarchy of environmental controls:

1-Vaccines, they are not being used effectively. The vaccine will trump a mask every day. Why don't we put an emphasis on vaccine mandates? We know it will tear our communities apart.

2-Ventilation, we need rooms with 5-6 air exchanges per hour. Use portable air cleaners. HEPA filters very effective. It may be too expensive or they might not be available. You can build a Corsi Box.

3-Physical distancing, plexiglass shields are part of hygiene theater. 6-feet isn't magical. Someone 20 feet in front of me on the sidewalk was smoking and I smelled it. 3-feet distance is wrong, wrong, wrong. It defies gravity to think it will make a difference.

4-Testing and quarantine. Frequent testing is needed. CDC is wrong saying 15 minutes of exposure for transmission; it is probably only seconds to a minute with Delta. Quarantine is needed if exposed. Pediatric intensive care units in this country are filled in the United States

5-Masks. A good quality mask can reduce transmission. Face cloth coverings provide little protection. You need an N95 or KN95 or barrier face covering. Next level to N-95. Putting a mask under a nose is like closing three of four doors on a submarine. Quality masking.

Delta is going to do what it's going to do. CDC has provided unscientific recommendations.

Next up, Dr. Osterhom introduces Dr. Jenna, who is an intensive care unit physician. She promotes vaccination. and talks about how demoralized front-line healthcare workers are because of patients who don't vaccinate and ask for experimental remedies that don't work and then threaten to sue if they don't get them. It's like a house being on fire and someone coming and yelling at a firefighter saying to use a squirt gun. The vast majority in the ICU are unvaccinated or a few who are vaccinated but were unable to get an immune response. Training can't prepare us for the anger. We have PTSD, panic attacks and insomnia. It's not safe to travel which she usually does to relax. ICU professionals are frustrated as information from trustworthy sources is being blatantly ignored. She adds we are spread so thin. Misinformation and politics are getting in the way. People are moving beyond the pandemic but it isn't over for me. 

The system is not created for this pandemic. She urges people to get vaccinated. She is confident the vaccine is safe and will keep people out of the ICU. Patients in ICU are almost all unvaccinated. People coming in now are younger and don't have comorbidities. Pregnant women coming in. Babies born early. Patients in ICU for weeks and months. 25% have long-haul symptoms.

 She volunteers to vaccinate people. Every patient she vaccinates is one less person she will see in the ICU. ICU doctors will tell you to run, not walk, to get the vaccine.

There is more. Please listen to this woman.

If you want numbers, here are some: 

What about a real remote option?


A picture from a crowded Chicago high school says so much.

Saturday, August 28, 2021


It is difficult to understand why anyone is still debating mandated vaccines and masks in schools.

This is from CNN:

(CNN)An unvaccinated elementary school teacher who took off their mask to read to students ended up infecting more than half of them last May -- and they went on to infect other students, family members and community members, California public health officials reported Friday.

It's a prime example of how easy it is to undermine efforts to protect children too young to be vaccinated, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

The teacher came to work even though they had Covid-19 symptoms and then took off their mask to read to the young students, a team at Marin County Public Health reported in the CDC's weekly report on death and disease. The teacher assumed the symptoms indicated allergies, not infection, the investigators found.

There were 193,000 new COVID-19 cases yesterday in the United States and 1,756 more deaths. Can we concede that we are doing something wrong yet? School opening has already been a disaster in the South. NYC needs a remote option.

Thursday, August 26, 2021


I am quite biased but Camille rocked it defending the vaccine mandate on CNN in a debate. You can see it over there, or on YouTube or watch it below.


Basically, the UFT is going along with the DOE's homecoming opening plan. I say as a parent and part timer in the schools that it is totally inadequate and will be an invitation for COVID-19 to infect schools. No remote option for most families, no real social distancing, minimal testing, etc. 

Michael Mulgrew's latest email:

Dear _________,

The city today released its full health and safety plan for the 2021-22 school year, which builds on the strategies we used successfully last school year to keep our school communities safe.

Health and safety continues to be our top priority. We have been working with city and DOE officials throughout the summer to ensure that our members and our students remain safe when schools fully reopen in September amid the pandemic.

New York City schools will follow similar health and safety protocols as last school year on cleaning, ventilation, masks and personal protective equipment, and daily health screening.

Here are highlights of other features of the plan:

Physical distancing in schools

The DOE will follow the CDC recommendation to maintain at least 3 feet between students within classrooms. When it is not possible to maintain 3 feet in a given school, the DOE advises layering multiple other prevention strategies. During meal service, schools will use outdoor spaces and additional spaces in school buildings where possible.

COVID-19 testing in schools

Every school will have 10 percent of unvaccinated individuals who have submitted consent for testing in their school population tested biweekly. Students and staff who are fully vaccinated are not required to be tested.

Positive cases of COVID-19 in schools

Elementary Schools: If there is a positive case in a classroom, all students in the class will be instructed to quarantine for 10 calendar days.

Middle and High Schools: In the event there is a positive case in a classroom, students who are:

  • At least 12 years old, vaccinated and not showing symptoms will continue to attend school in-person.
  • At least 12 years old, vaccinated and showing symptoms will be directed to quarantine for 10 calendar days.
  • Unvaccinated will be directed to quarantine for 10 calendar days. Those students who test negative on Day 5 of their quarantine can return to school on Day 7.

Remote Instruction

The mayor has finally acknowledged the need for virtual instruction for medically fragile children and for those in quarantine, something we have maintained was necessary since last spring.

We are still working out the details of this remote instruction and other challenging aspects of the safety protocols, and we will continue to push for acceptable solutions to these issues at the bargaining table.

See the full plan

Starting Aug. 31, we will train the COVID-19 building response team in every school to ensure all protocols and procedures are being followed correctly. We will be reaching out to chapter leaders with more details next week. More than 3,000 UFT members benefited from this training last fall.

Update on the vaccine mandate

We are moving ahead with impact bargaining with the city on its new vaccine mandate for DOE employees. While the UFT is a proponent of the vaccine, and we know an overwhelming majority of our members have already been vaccinated, we have a duty to make sure that the city’s mandate is implemented correctly and legally.

In impact bargaining, we will ensure that the city respects our members’ rights by law and the DOE-UFT contract as it implements the mandate. We will be working at the bargaining table to ensure a fair and equitable process for medical and religious exemptions, an independent review and appeal process for members who are denied an exemption, and an appropriate outcome for members who decline to be vaccinated.

The Municipal Labor Committee is weighing a lawsuit challenging the city Department of Health’s authority to mandate the vaccine. Although our attorneys believe the mandate has a strong legal foundation, as part of the MLC, we support its effort to ensure that every detail of this mandate meets the relevant legal standards.

We know you still have questions as you prepare for the opening day of school in September. We will continue to update you on the latest developments. I hope you are able to attend our next all-member town hall on Thursday, Sept. 2, where I will report on these topics and more.


Michael Mulgrew's Signature

Michael Mulgrew
UFT President


The NYC Department of Education put this health and safety guide out and sent it to parents. My nonscientific opinion is it is way too weak and is an invitation for COVID.

For example: 

During lunchtime, masks may be removed so students can eat comfortably at a safe distance from one another. Masks may also be removed during designated “mask breaks”, during which students will maintain physical distance from each other.

What are the distancing requirements?

Physical distancing is another important part of our multi-layered strategy to keep our school communities safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing.” Additionally, wherever possible, elementary schools will keep groups of students consistently together or have teachers move between classes in order to minimize movement of students. It is important to note that the CDC emphasizes that schools should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement. 

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a respected epidemiologist, said that thinking three-foot social distancing in schools would stop the virus is beyond pixie-dust wishful thinking.

Where the heck is the UFT and Michael Mulgrew? One would think this guide had to have passed through the UFT. Except for the electronic town hall and a couple of emails, it would appear that President Mulgrew has been put into the witness protection program. 

South Bronx School has the same question and wonders why the UFT, unlike the Chicago Teachers Union, is not making demands for safety and sharing them with members. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021


If you want evidence that the people that are anti-COVID vaccine mandate are a tiny minority, take a look at the video of the city workers' rally at City Hall today. CBS 2 covered it and said it was "dozens" protesting. 

Even if we give the benefit of the doubt and say maybe it was over a hundred, compare that to the June 30 march and rally when hundreds of retirees and a few active city workers came out to protest the privatization of Medicare.

 AM New York covered it via this blog:

Hundreds of retired city employees converged in the shadow of National Museum of the American Indian amidst a record-breaking heatwave on June 30 to decry a mass shift to their health care plans. The Municipal Labor Committee is set to alter the Medicare plans of 250,000 individuals to a for-profit plan: Medicare Advantage.

In my humble opinion, the anti-vax mandate group is small, albeit loud. One anti-vaxxer said he was going to pull out of the UFT. 

Here is my question for the anti-mandatory COVID vaxers:

Since it is clearly legal to have a vaccine mandate for school employees, besides demanding impact bargaining for a medical exemption, which the UFT did, what do you want the Union to do?

Tuesday, August 24, 2021


Good news, we have a governor today who is not Andrew Cuomo. 

From Governor Kathy Hochul's first speech as covered by City and State:

Hochul hit the ground running on her first day with an early focus on the pandemic. “Your priorities are my priorities, and right now, that means fighting the delta variant,” Hochul said. She said she is directing the state Health Department to institute a universal mask mandate for all people entering schools, the first instance of statewide guidance that many districts had asked for a while ago. Hochul also said the state will launch a “back-to-school COVID-19 testing program” to ensure student and staff safety. Hochul said she is working with local partners to get a vaccine or weekly testing requirement for school employees across the state. “Priority No. 1, we get children back to school and protect the environment so they can learn and everyone is safe,” Hochul said. She also opened the door to the prospect of reopening mass vaccination sites that were shut down now in order to get booster shots out to New Yorkers.


Leave it to Michael Mulgrew to at least figure out when he made a completely unforced error. In yesterday's statement, the UFT President claimed: "Our first priority is keeping our kids safe and the schools opened." He neglected to mention UFT members who pay dues and his salary. Well in the latest email, (see below), he has added the UFT members. It took him a while but at least he figured out who he is supposed to represent and included the members. That's progress, everyone.

Dear ______,

On Aug. 23, the mayor announced that the city is mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for all DOE employees as part of a public health intervention. Employees must have proof of the first shot of the vaccine by Sept. 27. This announcement is the first of several announcements we believe are to come about city employees being mandated for the vaccine.

With the Delta variant continuing to spread and Pfizer just announcing the full FDA approval of its vaccine, the city believes that those eligible for the vaccine must do their part to help keep our children safe. 

As a union, our first priority has been keeping our kids and members safe and the schools open. New York City public school educators have led the way on this issue, with the great majority already vaccinated. We estimate that close to 80 percent of our membership is already vaccinated, so we know that as a union we have already done our part to help the city to beat this virus and protect our schools. 

This decision is not up to the union. However, while the mayor is asserting his legal authority to mandate the vaccine for city employees, by law the details of this mandate must be negotiated with the UFT and other unions, and if necessary resolved by arbitration.

Religious and medical exemptions to vaccine mandates are in place in existing laws, yet we know there are other nuances and details of this mandate that will need to be worked out. Therefore, we have informed the city that we would begin impact bargaining on the issues. We will keep you informed on the details as they become available.


Michael Mulgrew

UFT President

Monday, August 23, 2021


You know where I stand. Here is UFT President Michael Mulgrew's statement:

 Educators of NYC chimed in:


Meisha Porter's email:

Dear Colleagues,
I hope this summer is treating you well. As summer winds down and we begin to gear up for the 2021-22 school year, I hope you're all getting time to restore before heading into our year of homecoming.  
This morning, the Mayor, Commissioner Chokshi and I made an important announcement about health and safety requirements for all DOE employees to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our school communities and colleagues safe. Effective September 27, all DOE employees are required to provide proof that they have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 
Employees who have one dose but who are not fully vaccinated by September 27 will still be expected to update their records when fully vaccinated.  
We encourage all staff who have not completed their COVID-19 vaccination to do so as soon as possible. More information about locations where New Yorkers can receive a vaccine for COVID-19 can be found at vaccinefinder.nyc.gov or call 877-VAX-4-NYC. 
In order to provide the DOE your vaccination status, please upload proof of vaccination through the DOE’s Vaccination portal, here: https://vaccine.schools.nyc/. 
For more information and updates, visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Portal page on the DOE InfoHub.   
Proof of vaccination can be an image of your vaccination card, NYS Excelsior Pass, or other government record. Submitting this information will support New York City’s pandemic response and recovery efforts, and help ensure that the DOE is a safe place to work for all employees.   
The privacy and security of your information will be protected by technical, physical, and administrative safeguards, including encryption. This information will be kept confidential in accordance with federal, state, and local laws. If you encounter technical issues using the Vaccination Portal, please contact the DOE Help Desk by opening a ticket online or calling 718-935-5100.   
We will continue to share updates on health and safety policies and protocols for schools as well as borough and central offices leading up to the first day of school. Thank you for all you are doing to keep yourself, your loved ones, your colleagues and the students you serve safe.   
In partnership,
Meisha Porter
Chancellor, New York City Public Schools



The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine – becoming the first in the U.S. to win the coveted designation and giving even more businesses, schools and universities greater confidence to adopt vaccine mandates.

Up until now, the mRNA vaccine, which will be marketed as Comirnaty, was on the U.S. market under an Emergency Use Authorization that was granted by the FDA in December. Since then, more than 204 million of the Pfizer shots have been administered, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal health officials had been under mounting pressure from the scientific community and advocacy groups to fully approve Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine ever since the drugmakers submitted their application to the agency in early May. The companies submitted a Biologics License Application, which secures full approval, to the FDA on May 7 for patients age 16 and up.

FDA scientists evaluated “hundreds of thousands of pages” of vaccine data, according to the U.S. agency.

Pfizer’s vaccine met the agency’s “high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated.”

Sunday, August 22, 2021


Sue Edelman has a piece in the NY Post that shows that nothing is changing when it comes to sexual harassment complaints at the Department of Education. The DOE defends principals, not teachers.

After a Lower East Side high school principal was accused of sexually pressing his groin against a teacher’s leg at a staff holiday party, a Department of Education lawyer asked witnesses for help “to prepare a defense,” records show.

John Colin, a special-ed teacher at the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, filed a sex-discrimination complaint with the state Division of Human Rights against his boss, Principal Derek Premo.

Premo approached Colin and two female teachers at Pianos, a Lower East Side tavern where the Dec. 19., 2019, gathering took place. 

Premo pressed his groin against Colin’s leg, under the bar-height table — and kept it there during the entire 20-minute conversation, the complaint states.

“It was very uncomfortable because I could feel his penis on my leg, and he was leaning his face very close to mine. . . VERY uncomfortable, ” Colin stated.

“Then he started telling me about how he and his husband liked to have parties,” Colin wrote, adding that Premo emphasized the word “parties” and was “looking directly into my eyes when he said it.”

Colin named the two fellow teachers as witnesses, saying he discussed the incident with them the next day.

He put off filing a complaint during the pandemic, when he worked remotely, but did so this year after uneasy feelings resurfaced during a sex-harassment seminar.

Weeks later, DOE lawyer Sari Goldmeer Rella  wrote a letter to both witnesses citing the complaint, and saying she needed assistance “to prepare a defense.” She asked them to call her.

In the letter, reviewed by The Post, Rella also told them not to discuss the matter with Colin, and added, “If you are contacted by anyone from the (State Division of  Human Rights) do not discuss the case and refer that individual to me.”

That raised the eyebrows of Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad School education professor David Bloomfield.

“It appears they’re inappropriately using their supervisory authority over the witnesses to suppress evidence in the state investigation,” he said. “They can’t keep an employee from speaking to an investigating authority. They’re apparently using their leverage over the teachers to protect themselves.”

You can read the DOE spin if you like. To me it's same old DOE. Teachers last, always.


A majority of the City Council including Speaker Robert Johnson have now signed Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger's letter to Chancellor Meisha Porter seeking a remote option for the fall for NYC public schools.

The key part:

With growing uncertainties of the Delta variant and as we wait for a vaccine to be developed and approved for distribution to children 12 years old and under, we cannot force parents to send their children into the classroom. I urge the Department of Education (DOE) to offer a remote option in the fall for kids who are not of vaccination age and also for immunocompromised students. 

Pressure is also building from teachers and parents as the petition that we helped create that calls for a remote option in NYC schools, mandated vaccines, and other demands for a safe reopening has now surpassed 5,000 signatures at change.org.

In addition, we now have a medical doctor supporting the petition's demands.

Finally,Bloomberg of all places, has an article on the remote option. 

Parents speak out:

It is creating, in my opinion, an inflexible system that denies, inhibits or limits participation by parents and the community,” said Tom Sheppard who represents the presidents of the city’s 32 local Community Education Councils. “For me, that is unacceptable.” Sheppard said thousands of parents have signed petitions pleading for a remote option in the event the virus spreads to their children’s schools.

Jennifer Goddard, a Sheepshead Bay mother of a 9-year-old son with asthma, and an overactive immune disorder, called the back to school plan “unimaginably cruel.” Her son, who’s been hospitalized with the flu in the past, enrolled virtually last year and thrived academically. “You are willing to send him back into a dangerous situation and leaving parents like me no alternative but to choose between his education or his life,” Goddard said.

Saturday, August 21, 2021


This is from silive.com:

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- During an appearance on WNYC radio Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that next week the city will start laying out detailed plans for the return to public schools, while it also considers whether to require teachers be vaccinated for the coronavirus (COVID-19) with no test-out option.

As of now, teachers -- like other New York City employees -- must either be vaccinated or get tested weekly for the virus.

But when host Brian Lehrer said some parents are calling for the testing option to be eliminated, de Blasio said his administration is considering it.

“We’re actively looking right now at different actions we could take in terms of the schools,” he said. “So, right now, as you know, it is a vaccine or test. We’re looking at additional options right now.

“We’re talking to the stakeholders about it. There’s a lot of energy out there for a larger mandate, and that’s something we’re considering quickly.”

This blog supports the mandated vaccine for employment for anyone legally eligible to receive the vaccine as long as there is a medical exemption. 

This news may influence the mayor's decision: Pfizer is expected to get full FDA approval in the coming week for their COVID vaccine for those 16 and over.


The Food and Drug Administration is on track to approve Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for adults as soon as next week, three people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.

The long-anticipated announcement would make Pfizer's Covid-19 shot the first to receive full licensure from the federal government, a milestone in the nation's year-and-a-half pandemic battle.

It would also come as the Biden administration grapples with a resurgence of infections fueled by the Delta variant — a worsening situation that has prompted a redoubling of efforts to vaccinate the roughly 85 million Americans who have yet to get a shot.

The available Covid-19 shots have long been considered safe and highly effective. But Biden administration officials are hoping the full approval, which would apply to people 16 and older, will spur a wave of vaccinations among holdouts who have waited months for the FDA to put its formal stamp on the Pfizer vaccine.

Spare us, please the dark web comments on how the FDA process isn't on the level. Don't waste my time.


For all of you who questioned my comparing Australia's approach to fighting COVID-19 with Florida, abc.net.au in Australia has done what we did. They even interview an Australian living in Florida.

While Australia's biggest states are currently in lockdown, the US state of Florida is living up to its nickname of "America's playground".

Australian entrepreneur Nick Sharp — originally from Victoria — runs several cafes and restaurants, and now owns an Aussie brew pub called Bay13, in Miami. His staff are free to wear masks or get vaccinated — or not, it's their choice.

"There's no restrictions, so everybody's free to go to work, to go to school, and to go out to restaurants or retail," he told 7.30.

Like we keep saying, everybody has the choice. If you want to get vaccinated, you can. It's widely available, it's free. Testing is still readily available.

"And of course people, if they want to, can wear masks — and that's kind of been the stance here for quite a while now."

Australia's population of 26 million is comparable to Florida's 22 million, but when you consider the figures around COVID-19, the numbers are starkly different.

Currently, Australia's daily COVID-19 cases are being measured in the hundreds, but last week Florida recorded more than 150,000 cases.

The total number of deaths in Australia is still less than 1,000. Florida has now passed 41,000, by some reports.

How can we let this go on in this country? The article continues by talking about how Americans can freely get COVID shots but only 51% of Floridians have and how the virus is totally politicized here. Then, hospital workers are interviewed.

"We're back to square one. That's why I'm frustrated," one ICU doctor said.

There has also been shock at the devastation being wrought by the Delta variant on younger patients.

"It's between the ages of 25 and 40, so it's really young patients that are dying right now," said David De La Zerda, the manager of ICU at Florida's largest hospital, Jackson Memorial Hospital. 

"I never saw in my life so many deaths that I saw in the past year. It's just unbelievable.

"In about 36 hours, we had 80 new patients in the ICU, which is pretty dramatic.

"All of them are COVID [patients]. We don't have anybody with non-COVID anymore in our ICU, so that tells you how bad it is.

"And [they are] very young, really young patients [who] are also dying … so it's been pretty tough, the last 24 hours."

Dr De La Zerda said almost all his patients had one thing in common.

"Five per cent of our patients are vaccinated, and 95 per cent are unvaccinated," he said.

Former acting head of America's Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Richard Besser, said there was a lot the US could learn from Australia, but he stressed Australians should not let their guard down while vaccination rates were low. 

"The variants that are circulating — the Delta variant in particular — is so incredibly transmissible that without very high vaccination rates, it will rip through communities and do incredible damage," he told 7.30.

I really hoped we were better than this in America. Could we finally learn from Australia? I doubt it but one never knows.

Friday, August 20, 2021


One of my most important sources for COVID-19 information is Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who is the Director of The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. I never miss his weekly podcast and eat up every word when he is on a news show although I don't always agree when he voices an opinion.

Back in March of 2020, Osterholm predicted there could be 480,000 fatalities from COVID-19 in the U.S. on the Joe Rogan podcast. Osterholm said it was 10-15 times worse than the seasonal flu. 

Osterholm admitted his biggest error when Alpha variant (b-117) didn't explode in the United States in the spring of 2021 outside of Minnesota and Michigan. In addition, he cautions repeatedly about needing humility in the face of this virus as our knowledge evolves so the science is corrected when we get more data. His podcast is on weekly. As I stated before, I never miss it although I get COVID-19 news from plenty of other sources too.

He talks about the schools around the 1-hour and 3-minute mark of this week's edition. These are my notes on his remarks about the schools.

He is asked by host Chris Dall about the schools. Osterholm responds that the schools are going to be a severe challenge and in a sense we have this real experiment going on and our kids are being experimented on and he has a real problem with that.  Osterholm has five grandchildren himself. 

He talks about the need for in-person education. He then says there are two camps: one saying we need in-person learning for kid's development, parents needing to work and economic issues with parents not being able to stay home. The other camp saying not on my watch, my kids are at risk; I don't want this to happen to my kids. In-class education people won. 

They made recommendations to the CDC that are not based on science. They are from the first nine months of the pandemic, before we had Alpha and Delta. They concluded kids could be three feet apart and could put a hanky on their face and be fine. We know that is not true. Kids can transmit this virus and get infected readily. It is at a lower percentage for kids experiencing severe illness but we have challenges with pediatric cases and pediatric hospitalizations with kids in serious condition are at an all-time high now. Early weeks of school in Southern states have so many kids quarantined. 

To think that we can stop a virus like this now being three feet from someone is beyond pixie-dust wishful thinking. He wants his grandkids in school but we have to acknowledge the risk. Many schools have not done improved ventilation. Many teachers are vaccinated but many parents are not. Once COVID is in the school it is like lighting a match in a small piece of wood that becomes a forest fire. Sending kids to school is an invitation to spread the virus. You can't put kids in a room where they are 3 feet apart. We need effective masking (N95, KN95s that fit kids). 

CDC saying kids can be 3 feet apart reeks of anti-science. Osterholm supports CDC but CDC is just plain wrong here. There has to be an objective view on this. We need to do much more in our schools before we can put kids in schools safely. We need better ventilation,  testing, respiratory protection. This is really critical and we don't have it. 

Osterholm then talks about how the pandemic will eventually end. Please listen to the podcast.

Thursday, August 19, 2021


We have respected Washington Governor Jay Inslee because of his early get-tough, let the scientists share the credit approach to fighting COVID-19 in March of 2020. The results were fewer deaths per person compared to New York (see below) and also compared to many other states where the politicians delayed taking action. Governor Inslee may be closing the barn door a little too late with the delta variant yesterday but he is taking strong action.

This is from the Seattle Times:

 OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has brought back a statewide mask requirement and ordered all public, private and charter school employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as subject to their employment.

The governor’s announcement Wednesday comes as cases of COVID-19 cases surge and Washington’s hospitals are straining under a shortfall of health care staffers.

Inslee’s orders represent some of the strictest measures in the nation to tamp down on a fresh wave of COVID-19. They have already brought fresh rounds of protesters to the Capitol campus by those opposed to the vaccine or government mandates.

In a news conference Wednesday where he was joined by state Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal and Health Secretary Umair Shah, Inslee said Washington is breaking new records for hospitalizations.

“More than 95% of the COVID hospitalizations we see today are among the unvaccinated,” said Inslee, adding: “And it is heart-rending for us to see losing our neighbors, our co-workers, our students to a preventable disease.”

Further down:

Inslee’s vaccine mandate for thousands of state employees, contractors and now K-12 and university employees is, in fact, likely the strictest in the nation.

Wednesday’s order expands that requirement to K -12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities who will have to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. Since it takes time to get two shots and for the second shot to take full effect, the process must be started much earlier than that.

Higher-education staff and contractors also fall under the mandate, as well as certified, licensed and contracted early learning and child-care providers.

And, the higher education mandate includes coaches. Inslee said Washington State University (WSU) football Coach Nick Rolovich’s decision not to get vaccinated did not play in his decision either way on the new orders. Inslee said coaches are just like other higher education employees, subject to the mandate.

License-exempt employees in early learning, child-care and youth-development programs also fall under the vaccine mandate. Those who refuse will lose their jobs unless they qualify for medical or religious exemptions.

And more:

Wednesday’s announcement comes about a week after Reykdal sent Inslee a letter “strongly encouraging” him to include school employees in his sweeping order requiring state employees and health care workers to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

In recent weeks there’s been a push by national and local elected officials, health experts and teachers union leadership to require a vaccine mandate for school employees. At Wednesday’s news conference, Inslee became the third governor in the country to require some sort of vaccine proof for school employees. Although Inslee’s order has been the most stringent.

For anyone interested in comparing Washington's COVID and population numbers with New York's, we have them. New York has a population of 20.4 million while Washinton has about 7.8 million people. Washington has far fewer deaths from COVID-19.

To stop a contagious disease from spreading, it is necessary to go hard early in my non-scientific opinion. The government must stamp out the disease before it spreads in the community. That tough approach is really being tested in New Zealand this week. Please watch prime minister Jacinda Ardern's press conference as the PM and her science minister, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, go hard on a handful of community cases in Aukland. They sound like detectives trying to solve a crime. They call trouble spots areas of interest. It is unbelievable the way they put a countrywide lockdown on in a day. It wasn't easy but let's see if it succeeds.  Australia is also having real challenges with delta but we showed the other day how their deaths are forty times lower than a comparably populated Florida

New Zealand's go hard, go early approach still seems the best way to prevent mass deaths from this pandemic. It contains the virus before it spreads throughout the community. Australia does that too but not quite as well. A key ingredient is that the public's cooperation is absolutely necessary for lives to be saved. A sense of we are all in this together.

We don't have that unified public cooperation for sure in the United States but some of the arguments against vaccine and mask mandates are just plain juvenile. For those who keep making their case using a pre-adolescent notion of what freedom is, I would like you to take a look at a government action where you could get your head blown off that has been ruled constitutional. This is from Arver v United States (1918) where the Supreme Court in a 9-0 decision held that military conscription is constitutional:

In reaching its decision, the Court rejected the argument that compelled military service is repugnant to a free government and in conflict with all the great guarantees of the Constitution as to individual liberty. “Indeed, it may not be doubted that the very conception of a just government and its duty to the citizen includes the duty of the citizen to render military service in case of need, and the right of the government to compel it,” [Chief Justice Edward D] White argued.

I do not favor conscription but I know damn well it is legal if Congress and the President want it. Freedoms are limited.  The safety of the public and the republic as a whole comes before the individual. It is a balancing act and when the government goes too far like I believe e they did with the Patriot Act, there is justified pushback.

The government in a free society can legally compel you to fight in a war and they certainly can mandate that you take a vaccine in a pandemic so you can work a job safely and lower your risk of infecting yourself and others. In addition, the legality of mandated masking has been settled too in the government's favor.

The debate on this blog is basically done on this issue. You can go over to join a group on a different site to spread the anti-vax nonsense if you like. The majority will oppose you as the public is with employer vaccine mandates by a percentage of 52-38 according to this Gallup poll. That is way outside the margin for error. This isn't about your freedom or mine It's about stopping the madness where over 620,000 Americans are dead because of COVID-19. That's one of the worst death rates in the world. We should not accept it. 

PS  An edited comment I made on a prior post:

I looked up the New Zealand numbers and did a rough comparison with the US. The population is around 5 million and they have had 26 deaths from COVID. The US population is 333 million. We are 66 times bigger. So if we multiply 26 X 66 we get 1,716. That's about how many deaths we should have if we compared ourselves to New Zealand. We have 622,000 COVID deaths in the United States. By my social studies teacher math, you are about 362 times more likely to die from COVID in the US compared to New Zealand when we adjust for population size. These statistics are repugnant to this American. We can do much better if we united.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


Someone sent me this from the PBA Website. It is a letter from PBA President Patrick Lynch to the retirees. The union has had a longstanding strategy of non-cooperation with the city where they just take most of their contract disputes to arbitration. 

Politically, Lynch can blame any bad deal on a terrible arbitrator and pattern bargaining where one city union settles on a percentage salary increase in a round of collective bargaining with municipal unions, and then all of the rest of the unions receive basically the same terms. 

Whether or not the PBA has achieved gains over other municipal unions by making a third party settle many of their contracts is certainly debatable. Lynch is doing that here by refusing to accept for his members the retiree health benefits Medicare Advantage plan the city and MLC agreed to. 

Retiree Health Benefits Update: MLC Votes for Medicare Advantage Plan

August 2, 2021

Dear PBA Retirees,

I am writing to update you on an important issue involving the city’s health-care coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees.

As you may be aware, the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization comprised of unions representing city employees, voted on July 14 to adopt a customized group Medicare Advantage Plan for NYC retirees, which would replace the current Senior Care plan that provides additional medical coverage (Medigap) to Medicare-eligible retirees.

The PBA did not participate in this vote. On June 7, well in advance of the vote, the PBA sent a letter to City Labor Commissioner Renee Campion advising that the PBA has not consented to health benefit changes for our retired members, and we object to any retired members being placed into a Medicare Advantage plan unless or until an agreement to do so is reached through collective bargaining.

Our letter to Commissioner Campion reiterates our long-standing objections to the MLC’s purported attempts to bargain with the City over health benefits and other matters on behalf of all city employees. Over the years, the PBA has consistently refused to surrender our bargaining certificate to the MLC or any other group.

In this instance, the Medicare Advantage plan proposal arises from a 2018 health-care savings agreement between the City and MLC, which was adopted by many individual unions as part of their overall contract settlements in the most recent bargaining round.

Since the PBA has not adopted the terms of the 2018 health-care savings agreement in collective bargaining, we have filed a Step III grievance with the Office of Collective Bargaining objecting to the application of any of the agreement’s health benefit changes to our members. That grievance is awaiting arbitration.

As you are no doubt aware, the PBA is also awaiting interest arbitration for the 2017-2019 bargaining round. The City’s demands to the arbitration panel include a proposal for PBA retirees to be placed in a Medicare Advantage plan. Arbitration hearings are set to begin this fall.

The City has not yet indicated whether it will attempt to unilaterally impose the Medicare Advantage plan on PBA retirees when it goes into effect on January 1, 2022. Nevertheless, as the details of the MLC-adopted Medicare Advantage plan may be relevant to our upcoming arbitration proceeding, we are providing the enclosed information so that you will fully understand the changes the City is contemplating.

The attached information was produced by the City of New York and MLC regarding the Medicare Advantage Plan the City wants the PBA to voluntarily accept or would like to submit to the PERB arbitration panel for decision. The PBA has not agreed to this new plan and is challenging the City's submission of this proposal to arbitration. This information is being provided for information purposes only.

As always, we will continue to update you on any significant developments with this issue going forward.


Patrick J. Lynch



There is an excellent piece in Salon by the Chief-Leader's Bob Hennelly explaining how the CDC didn't listen to union warnings when they took off the mask mandate in May. Hennelly starts right off attacking the Biden administration on COVID and then gets to the details.

From the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration, our national response has been fractured. Tragically, that dysfunctional response has continued under President Biden, who pledged during his campaign to defeat the virus by making decisions guided by sound public health science and not an economic calculus that was the hallmark of the Trump tenure.

In May, with Biden in for four months, the CDC executed a Bushesque "Mission Accomplished" move in the war on COVID. The nation's premiere health agency inexplicably lifted the universal mask mandate for vaccinated Americans in public indoor settings, even as tens of millions of Americans were not vaccinated and living in counties where below 40 percent of the eligible population had their shots.

The unions that represent nurses and healthcare personnel, as well as essential workers in the food processing and distribution sectors, went ballistic fearing for the safety of its members. But because the corporate news media avoids labor stories you most likely missed it.

The unions warned that the CDC was relying on an honor system which would put their members at risk and would set the stage for the proliferation of an even more contagious variant that would hit hardest the communities of color with the lowest level of vaccine acceptance.

Both things happened and the results, though still unfolding, have been catastrophic.

In their drive to "return to normal" and "get the economy back on track," our national policy makers opened the door wider to the ultra-contagious delta variant. As the variant started to get traction, President Biden described our pandemic as a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," which ignored the possibility that Delta could set the stage for yet another variant that could be more effective at undermining the efficacy of the existing vaccines.

Nurses sound the alarm

In a May 17 tweet, the New York State Nurses Association, which represents 40,000 Registered Nurses, issued a warning: "The rushed CDC mask guidance is a rollback on patients' & workers' protections across the country. The path to stop the virus is more than the vaccine alone. This guidance will push communities to remove their masks sooner than recommended—risking lives."

Key among their concerns: In the neighborhoods of color hardest hit by the coronavirus, where a large portion of the essential workforce resides, the rate of vaccination is well below the 50-percent threshold found in whiter, more affluent areas.

Charlene Obernauer, the executive director of the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, said her group had heard from unions representing grocery-store workers that were pressing their employers to stick with the mask mandate.

"We would support the unions that are calling for the mask mandate to stay in place," Obernauer said during a phone interview. "There is still a disparity in terms of the rates of vaccination between white communities and communities of color."

"We are calling on all those businesses who employ Local 338 members to continue to encourage mask-wearing in their stores and following safe practices in their establishments," texted Nikki Kateman, the political and communications director of Local 338 Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in New York. "Out of respect to the health, safety and sacrifices of our members, we strongly encourage everyone to mask up at places like the grocery store and pharmacy.

The unions were totally right. There are many more details that I encourage everyone to read and here is Hennelly's conclusion:

As we approach the last half of the second year of this scourge, nearly 650,000 Americans have died. Another 37 million have been infected with COVID-19; in a nation with 330 million people, the number of infected is more than 10 percent of the population. The pandemic is likely to leave several million Americans dealing with long term health issues.

Maintaining the universal mask mandate would have meant less virus transmission, reduced the chance of spawning new variants and shown essential workers the protection they and their families deserved.

I really hope that printing this criticism of the Biden administration puts to bed the notion that I am on "team blue" and am a cheerleader for Biden on COVID or other issues just because he is a Democrat. Please, let's dispense with the Democrat v Republican comments. Jonathan Halabi described the COVID political situation quite well in a comment earlier today:

Jonathan said...

Florida's anti-safety measures compare poorly to New York's half-measures.

But we are still seeing half-measures in New York.

Which means that there are two groups - the nut jobs who think COVID is just like the flu, and that being required to wear a mask is an assault on freedom - and the Democratic politicians who want to take some measures, but not too many, and who want to open things, including schools, as quickly as they can while conveniently cherrypicking data - two groups who are imperiling our safety.

The New York Times and I-stay-at-home-You-go-to-school reporter Eliza Shapiro fall in that second category. Some of the anonymous posters here fall in the first. Yuck.

Monday, August 16, 2021


Florida has a population of close to 22 million people while Australia has around 25 million so they have similar population sizes. Australia is much bigger in size but most of its population is concentrated in several urban areas along the coast. Australia has taken a zero-covid approach in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. It was successful for a long time but now much of the country is under some kind of lockdown due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. It has broken through into the community.

Vaccinations have not gone well in Australia mostly due to fears of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of a blood clot scare. This Guardian program describes the situation in great detail. Only 18% of Australia's population is fully vaccinated. It is going poorly.

So what are the COVID-19 numbers in Australia as they go through a very challenging period? I googled it.

Less than a thousand deaths from COVID in Australia since this pandemic began even with the vaccine hesitancy, terrible vaccine rollout and Delta spreading. Schools are also closed throughout much of Australia as this in-depth feature from ABC.net news Australia shows. One part that struck me:

At the start of another week of home learning for thousands of Australian students, and with those in south-east Queensland head back to campus in masks, a return to school-as-normal seems further away than ever.

"It's just the awful truth," says Catherine Bennett, Chair in Epidemiology at Deakin University's School of Health and Social Development in Melbourne.

Yet calculating the risk is an equation that would confront even the most able extension maths student.

Further down:

From an epidemiological point of view, Bennett says, schools are "just perfect" as a vehicle for transmission.

"If you were trying to design a way to improve transmission in the community, you would first say 'let's bring schools into the mix'," she says.

Now let's look at Florida. While Governor Ron De Santis is backing down from his threat to withhold pay from school officials who defy his no mandatory masks in schools order, Florida is still the poster child in many ways for a least restrictive COVID environment where just about anything goes in many parts of the state. How has that worked out?

Okay, it isn't a perfect comparison between Florida and Australia but they are somewhat similar. Any way you look at it, COVID is over 40 times more deadly as of today in Florida compared to Australia. If you care about saving lives in this COVID pandemic, you gotta get tough, including closing borders by the way, before the virus gets out of control, not after.

Sunday, August 15, 2021


Daniel Alicea is a NYC middle school teacher and UFT Delegate. He has started a group called Educators of NYC and he is the co-host of WBAI's Talk out of School with Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters. 

Educators of NYC's current poll (albeit unscientific) shows that 87% of hundreds of respondents think there should be a remote option this coming school year for NYC parents and students. In a more just world, Daniel would be one of the people running the UFT. The piece below was sent to us by Daniel.

This is from the NY Post article mentioned below.

Hello New York City family!

We must keep up our fight to keep our city’s children, elderly, and immunosuppressed, and most vulnerable safe from this latest Delta variant COVID wave. As a result, the 8 demands of parents, families, and educators for a safe 2021-22 school year are gaining momentum.

On Thursday night, Dan Alicea of EONYC posted these demands in a Change.org petition. View it here: http://change.org/safenycschools

It asks our community of New Yorkers to support a safe and equitable return to our city schools this fall in the midst of this new surge of COVID-19. These include mandated vaccines for all those eligible, vaccine equity for underserved areas, a universal mandate for masks at DOE facilities, heightened COVID-19 testing and safety protocols for in-person learning, and a remote option for our city’s families.

It now has well over 2k supporters. It was also featured in a New York Post article, yesterday. Read it here: https://nypost.com/2021/08/14/nyc-teachers-demand-safer-reopening-with-remote-option-and-no-academic-screenings/

We're asking you to share this petition with those in your circle, today.

All those who believe more should be done to ensure those in our care, you can also take ACTION, right now, by calling 311 and tell the Mayor that we are standing in ONE VOICE. Read the 8 demands from the petition to the 311 rep who will let De Blasio know we remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping our city safe.

Also, I implore you to also sign this petition by a coalition that has been fighting for a remote learning option in the last few months. It asks not only for a remote learning option, but it spells out a clear, inclusive, equitable, and culturally responsive plan for what it should look like.

View this other petition here: http://tinyurl.com/nycremoteoption

We are a tribe of love. A community of New Yorkers who take care of one another.

Share this urgent message with someone today.

Love wins. #protectNYC #protectNYCkids