Politics and COVID-19: What Students Should Keep in Mind

Julia Koziatek, Editorial Editor

Belleville West is just one of tens of thousands of high schools in America grappling with the choice of whether to return to in-person learning this year, or not. This choice isn’t black and white–it is complex, and varies from district to district. The size of the district, the internet and technology students have access to, the positivity rate of the surrounding area, and what measures schools are capable of affording to ensure safety are just a few of the factors that come into making this decision. The complexity and importance of this issue makes it all the more worrying that nationwide, these decisions could also be influenced by politics. The stark politicization of America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has effectively put millions at risk, and students should be aware of it. 

This politicization of the coronavirus outbreak has been occurring since its inception in March, becoming particularly evident when U.S. governor Ron DeSantis of Florida waited weeks to issue a shelter-in-place order as cases rose in the state, doing so only after President Donald Trump’s “demeanor” toward the virus had shifted, as CNN reported

Another crucial player in combating the coronavirus is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which too has been impacted by political interference. Recently, the Washington Post reported that as guided by the White House’s task force for fighting the coronavirus, the CDC issued a recommendation in August that those without COVID-19 symptoms “do not necessarily need a test”, later reversing the decision on September 18th after health experts pointed out that up to 40% of those carrying the coronavirus show no symptoms. 

Additionally, POLITICO, after obtaining and reviewing emails sent to CDC officials, reported that communications aides from the Department of Health and Human Services have requested and been granted access to review weekly CDC reports detailing the developments of the pandemic, in order to allow the messaging of the President and the CDC to align more closely. Furthermore, Michael Caputo, the spokesperson of the Department of Health and Human Services, notably has no scientific background. This article from POLITICO goes further in depth on this particular situation.  

While these examples are occurring more on a national scale as opposed to local, they serve as crucial reminders that as schools reopen across the country, it is important for students and staff alike to be aware of the factors which affect these decisions, because those who return to school over the next few weeks and months will be the ones facing the consequences of them.