Coronavirus closed Michigan schools for 3 weeks. CDC says that's not long enough

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention questions whether school closures have impact on slowing the spreads of viruses. (Shutterstock)

March 30: Whitmer to end Michigan school year; seniors graduate, others move up

Less than 24 hours after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed all schools in the state, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention questioned whether such stark actions slow the spread of coronavirus.

According to a seven-page guidance report from the CDC, school closures of four weeks or less “do not impact” the spread of the virus or the number of cases needing health care measures such as hospitalizations.

Michigan schools are closed for three weeks, beginning Monday.

“There may be some impact of much longer closures (8 weeks, 20 weeks) further into community spread, but that modelling also shows that other mitigation efforts (e.g., handwashing, home isolation) have more impact on both spread of disease and (amount of cases requiring) health care measures,” according to the report released Friday.

Hong Kong, which closed its schools, had no better success reducing the spread of coronavirus than Singapore, which didn’t close its schools, according to the CDC.

The report also warns that prolonged closures can have the unintended consequence of spreading the virus to grandparents. People over age 60 and with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of serious illness and death from coronavirus than children.

 “Almost 40 percent of U.S. grandparents provide childcare for grandchildren,” the CDC wrote. “School closures will likely increase this percentage.”

At her late-night announcement Thursday, Whitmer said the shuttering of public and private schools was “a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health.”

State Superintendent Michael Rice at the announcement added “this is about protecting the most people in Michigan.”

Yale University’s Nicholas Christakis, who studies social networks and the spread of epidemics, argued recently that proactive school closures like in Michigan – sending children home before there are known coronavirus cases in their communities – worked during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1917.

Christakis told Science Magazine this week that St. Louis, which closed schools for 143 days, had a death rate from the Spanish Flu one third of the death rate in Pittsburgh, which closed schools for 53 days.

“Closing schools before there’s a case [has] been shown to be one of the most powerful nonpharmaceutical interventions that we can deploy,” he told Science Magazine. “It’s not just about keeping the kids safe. It’s keeping the whole community safe. When you close the schools, you reduce the mixing of the adults—parents dropping off at the school, the teachers being present. When you close the schools, you effectively require the parents to stay home.”

Editor's note: The headline on this story was changed March 15 to more accurately summarize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's position on school closures.

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Comments

ALE
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 11:52pm

"'...When you close the schools, you effectively require the parents to stay home.'"

Only if the parents are lucky enough to not have to go to work, taking their kids to a daycare or caregiver still happens because work is how a family eats and has a roof. Some folks work from home, but my partner, one of the many employees of the dominant service industry, is not going to be able to do so and as long as people go out to eat (and he says the lunch rush went at a steady clip today), he will be going to work. Adults will still mingle because there isn't another option. There is no safety net for this here.

While closing schools may have worked in 1917, a lot has changed since then when most households with children had a stay at home mum.

LH
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 1:56pm

Add to this that day care centers are also starting to close. While I understand the perceived wisdom of closing schools, the law of unintended consequences is running amok here. Among the consequences I am most concerned about is the potential impact on grandparents, who are typically among the most vulnerable in any epidemic. How many parents who, like your partner, have to work, will send their kids to grandma's? It has been shown that children serve as carriers of diseases like the flu, and it appears to be true of the coronavirus as well, from what I have read. Kids get mild cases of such diseases, or may even have no symptoms, but they pass the virus on to others who may be much more vulnerable. I'm not sure what the best solution is, but I do know that politicians typically do not think about the longer-term social and economic impacts of their one-size-fits-all decisions. There is tremendous pressure to take some kind of action quickly, and that action may not be the best alternative for everyone.

Ka
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 12:07pm

HONG Kong - not Honk Kong

Drake
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 12:58pm

They appear to be talking out of both sides of their mouths... “There may be some impact of much longer closures (8 weeks, 20 weeks) further into community spread, but that modelling also shows that other mitigation efforts (e.g., handwashing, home isolation) have more impact on both spread of disease and (amount of cases requiring) health care measures,” according to the report released Friday.

So explain to me how one accomplishes "home isolation" while in school? If everyone is practicing home isolation, THEY WON'T BE IN SCHOOL

Rebecca
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 10:48am

Yes, this makes zero sense! Staying home and isolated makes a big difference, so how exactly is that accomplished if schools are open??

J
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 10:50pm

"Honk Kong"?

Monica Williams
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 5:03am

Thank you for that alert!

Matt
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 5:27am

This article is a bit more nuanced than the headline would lead a reader to believe.

Donald
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 8:51am

And Ferndale, MI is having a contractors going from house to house to replace 3 year old RF water meters!!!
To spread the disease!!!
Both my wife and I are 70 Years old and have health problems. I am a disable veterans. This was told to the Ferndale water Dept.
I was told that If we did not let them in to change the water meter they would turn off our water and condemned our home!

Donald
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 8:52am

And Ferndale, MI is having a contractors going from house to house to replace 3 year old RF water meters!!!
To spread the disease!!!
Both my wife and I are 70 Years old and have health problems. I am a disable veterans. This was told to the Ferndale water Dept.
I was told that If we did not let them in to change the water meter they would turn off our water and condemned our home!

Anna
Tue, 03/17/2020 - 10:33am

It is perfectly acceptable to ask for the utility worker's ID through a closed door, unlock the door to them, then back 6-8 feet away, and tell/show them where to wash their hands on entry, and where your meter is from a safe distance. Those folks are NOT incentivized to come to work sick, and they have been sensitized to the need to maintain appropriate "social distancing" when working in people's homes. Call the Ferndale Water Department back and ask them to come back on a particular day this week. You don't have to have any more physical contact with these workers than with your mail carrier or a delivery man.

Leslie Delemeester
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 10:11am

Please reconsider your title! It gives the wrong idea. The idea isnt that school closings dont help. The idea is that school closings must be longer than three weeks to make a significant difference. A retrospective study published in 2007 JAMA reveals school closings ARE beneficial. We all know the governors and school superintendents are likely to extend the closures at some point. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/208354

Amy Chism
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 12:16pm

You do realize that most of those kids don't stay home. They go to child care, as a preschool teacher this worries me because just in my school we have children from 7 different school systems coming into the building now to spend the day. So, it will not stop the spread, they just made it worse. They need to close the child care centers too.

Nancy Flanagan
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 1:39pm

Thanks to Ron French and Bridge Magazine for good, state-focused reporting. Not sure who writes your headlines, but they're often unnecessarily inflammatory.

We have no idea what the impact of closing schools for three weeks will be. It's one of those 'better to act than be sorry you didn't act' situations. I fully expect the number of cases to rise, even with social distancing, and the closing of schools extended, possibly to the end of the school year. Twenty weeks? That's the beginning of the next school year, when hopefully we will have come through this crisis, not unscathed, but in better shape than states that are waiting longer, to see what happens.

What we should be doing right now, instead of arguing about the CDC and the Governor, is finding temporary and long-terms solutions for the very real child care problem (and let's not forget the food supply problem). I have seen teachers all over the state offering advice, learning opportunities, and reassurance to students that they will not be forgotten, that their well-being matters. That's where we need to focus our efforts and our generosity.

Our society is not set up to help people--no universal health care, no employment safety nets. We have to worry about a huge percentage of the population not having basic needs. We don't need arguing over CDC recommendations.

Thanks again--Bridge has been a wonderful resource for Michiganders in this crisis.

Dj
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 3:22pm

I have a report that says this. No I have a report that says that... Fact is if you are fortunate enough to be able to lockdown, you decrease your risk of exposure. There’s safety in numbers, including the number of days away from sick people! Be safe but be smart.

Iron mountain mi
Tue, 03/17/2020 - 11:18am

Tues march 18 am. I'm Conflicted with our government and govenor in Michigan.
I was a flat lander for 30 years now a yooper for 30 years now.
PLEASE..close the auto industries and MANDATE mandatory screening for those who want to cross the mackinaw bridge.
WE don't have the resources in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan like the lower has.
We are the forgetting part of this state.
Please help us too.

Fuzzbean
Thu, 03/19/2020 - 12:09am

Obviously three weeks is not enough. Duh. They just don't want people freaking out if they tell them no school until September or no school until the vaccine is ready in 2021. Three weeks is just a start, and to give them time to think.

TEF
Mon, 03/23/2020 - 12:00pm

"Hong Kong, which closed its schools, had no better success reducing the spread of coronavirus than Singapore, which didn’t close its schools, according to the CDC."

So why are we closing the schools at all? We didn't close the schools for the flu seasons that have posed far greater threats to our children. This pandemic is becoming more of a panic than a medical crisis. We have lived through much worse without the public doing more than raising an eyebrow.

David Jones
Mon, 03/23/2020 - 2:03pm

Michigan is so far behind other states. Florida closed all schools and gave the students in 11th grade and under the option to redo that year or move on. My kids school still says they will be open April 13th. Come on Michigan pull your heads out of the sand.

David Jones
Mon, 03/23/2020 - 2:04pm

Michigan is so far behind other states. Florida closed all schools and gave the students in 11th grade and under the option to redo that year or move on. My kids school still says they will be open April 13th. Come on Michigan pull your heads out of the sand.

Mark
Mon, 03/30/2020 - 2:29am

Ok so all this tells us is that the CDC is also run by morons and should be ignored.

NOTHING MORE THAN A REALLY BAD FLU SEASON, MOVE ON NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

Situation normal.

Go out and act like nothing happened. I am. This chinese "virus" is a joke along with all the hysteria-causing media and bureaucrats who are fuming about it.