Parents of schoolchildren protested in several cities around the United States over the weekend, increasingly frustrated by the off-again-on-again reopening policies in some school districts and blanket closures in others a full year after the pandemic began, despite growing scientific evidence that schools can reopen safely if they follow basic procedures.
Several hundred people rallied in downtown Naperville, Ill., on Sunday to urge officials to give students the option of returning to the classroom five days a week. Wielding signs with messages like “Get our kids back in school” and “Flip the school board,” demonstrators chanted, “Five days a week,” The Naperville Sun reported.
In San Francisco, hundreds of parents and children marched on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule, arguing that a partial reopening falls short, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Similarly, parents demonstrated at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, according to a local news station, saying a tentative agreement with teachers for a partial reopening in April was not enough.
Parents pressing for in-person classes say that remote learning leaves students feeling emotionally and socially drained at home.
They have the Biden administration on their side. Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have been traveling the country in a campaign aimed at reopening schools. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines last month saying it was safe for schools to reopen if they could ensure measures like proper masking, physical distancing and hygiene were taken. The recommendations called for every elementary school to open in some fashion.
In early February, The New York Times surveyed 175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — who largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time, in-person instruction. Some said that was true even in communities where coronavirus cases were widespread, with proper safety precautions, including adequate ventilation and avoidance of large group activities.
Teachers’ unions have largely continued advocating slower reopenings to keep educators safe, with some unions saying access to vaccinations was a requirement before returning to schools; teachers are now eligible for them in all states. (The C.D.C. guidelines do not make vaccinating educators a prerequisite for reopening schools.)
In response, some parents have started campaigns to run for school board seats and have founded political action committees to push for school reopenings.
And in several states run by Republican governors, including Arizona, Iowa, Texas and Florida, state officials have begun ordering schools to offer in-classroom instruction for at least some grades.
In Redmond, Wash., this month, parent and student demonstrators called for an immediate return to in-person learning. Video of the event, captured by a local news station, shows people holding up signs that read “Open schools now” outside the Lake Washington School District resource center.
“My heart is breaking. I have two middle school kids who haven’t been educated for a year,” one parent told Q13 Fox Seattle.
Cara Cohen, a 46-year-old special-education advocate, said she attended a rally this month in support of a full reopening of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Massachusetts, where her 16-year-old son is a sophomore.
“Children, in a lot of classes, are having to teach themselves,” Ms. Cohen said. “It’s just not the same capacity of learning that they get when they are face to face with the teachers.”
In the year since the pandemic upended the U.S. economy, more than four million people have quit the labor force, leaving a gaping hole in the job market that cuts across age and circumstances.
An exceptionally high number have been sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. Others gave up looking because they were discouraged by the lack of opportunities. And some older workers have called it quits earlier than they had planned.
These labor-force dropouts are not counted in the most commonly cited unemployment rate, which was 6.2 percent in February, making the group something of a hidden casualty of the pandemic.
Now, as the labor market begins to emerge from the pandemic’s vise, whether those who have left the labor force return to work — and if so, how quickly — is one of the big questions about the shape of the recovery.
There is some reason for optimism. Economists expect that many who have left the labor force in the past year will return to work once health concerns and child care issues are alleviated. And they are optimistic that as the labor market heats up, it will draw in workers who grew disenchanted with the job search.
Moreover, after the last recession, many economists said those who left the labor force were unlikely to come back, whether because of disabilities, the opioid crisis, a loss of skills or other reasons. Yet labor force participation, adjusted for demographic shifts, eventually returned to its previous level.
But the speed with which the pandemic has driven workers from the labor force could leave lasting damage.
Facebook said on Monday that it planned to expand its efforts to help get people vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The social network said it would roll out a new location-based tool to direct people to the clinics nearest to them that offer vaccinations, which users can find inside Facebook’s main app.
The company will also have an information center for Covid-19-related questions and data inside its Instagram photo-sharing app, building on a similar effort that Facebook introduced last year. And it will keep adding automated chat bots to WhatsApp, which can text users information on where to get vaccinated.
“By working closely with national and global health authorities and using our scale to reach people quickly, we’re doing our part to help people get credible information, get vaccinated and come back together safely,” Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, said in a company blog post.
While Facebook previously allowed anti-vaccination groups on its platform to flourish, last year it pledged to remove Covid-related misinformation from its site. It also labeled posts related to the coronavirus with links to its official information center so it could direct people to sources like the World Health Organization.
But critics have said that false or misleading data about vaccines and the virus continues to be visible in private groups and pages on Facebook.