LA: Distance learning only

The New York Times reports:

California’s two largest public school districts said on Monday that instruction would be online-only in the fall, in the latest sign that school administrators are increasingly unwilling to risk crowding students back into classrooms until the coronavirus is fully under control.
The school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego, which together enroll some 825,000 students, are the largest in the country to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August.
The decision came as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced some of the most sweeping rollbacks yet of California’s plans to reopen. Indoor operations for restaurants, bars, wineries, movie theaters and zoos were shut down statewide on Monday, and churches, gyms, hair salons, malls and other businesses were shuttered for four-fifths of the population.

Is this a good decision? The decision likely will help limit the spread of the disease, but also put a significant burden on working parents with school-age children. Further, children’s learning, likely will not be the same with distance compared to in-person learning. A difficult decision to make for any politician.

What explains the decline in COVID deaths despite the rising number of cases?

Take a look at these two graphs. The first gives the number of new COVID-19 cases from John Hopkins University. It is a scary graph.

The second graph is the number of COVID deaths from IHME. Not nearly as bad.

CDC reported death numbers are similar. In fact, the number of deaths in recent weeks is no different from normal according to the CDC.

One reason for rising cases is that we are doing more testing. Thus, we are catching more cases. People who are hospitalized with critical illness are more likely to be tested and thus as we expand the number of tests, we are now catching more of the less severe cases with the additional testing.

However, testing does not explain everything. We see that as cases are rising, so is the number of hospitalizations. Thus, this is not just a testing story. Real–not just detected–cases are rising.

Most likely, the existence of more effective treatments (e.g., remdesivir and dexamethasone) and physicians gaining experience treating the disease is responsible. Among hospitalized individuals, death rates have been falling dramatically in recent weeks.

There is much still to be learned about the causes of these divergent trends and much more research is needed.