WSWS, covid-related

The global campaign to reopen schools drives COVID-19 deaths past one million
Genevieve Leigh, WSWS, Sep 22 2020

Pedro Garcia, 4, arrives for the first day of school at the Mosaic Pre-K Center
in Queens, New York, Monday Sep 21 2020. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)

The world is closing in on a grim milestone of one million deaths from COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. The US, with only 4.25% of the world’s population, accounts for nearly one-fifth of the deaths worldwide, or 200k people. The reopening of schools is now a focal point of both the efforts by the ruling elites to abandon the most basic precautions against the spread of the virus and the growing resistance of workers and youth throughout the world. In the US, public health experts are warning of an “apocalyptic fall,” in large measure because of the opening of schools and colleges. In a deliberate effort to conceal this danger, the CeDC on Monday retracted passages from guidelines it released just a few days before, acknowledging that COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through airborne particles, stating:

In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.

On Monday, 90k pre-K and special education students returned to the classrooms in NYC, the nation’s largest school district. After a series of protests by teachers and parents last week, including at poorly ventilated schools, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the full resumption of in-person learning for hundreds of thousands of students until Sep 29, one week from today. The reopening of the schools across the country has already led to tragedy, including the deaths of at least three teachers reported last week alone. Colleges and universities have also been hotspots, with at least 90k infections over the last few weeks. While this policy has been spearheaded by the Trump administration, it has been backed and implemented by Democrats who run state governments and the largest urban school districts.

In Brazil, which has the world’s second highest number of COVID-19 deaths, with over 137k dead, Bolsonaro has denounced educators who have struck and protested against unsafe conditions as an “an extreme left” minority who do not want to work. His ostensible political opponents in the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) plan to resume face-to-face instruction in Sao Paulo, the largest school district in the Americas with 2m students by Oct 7. Across Europe, schools are reopening despite a resurgence of infections and death. A poll released in Britain Monday revealed that 82% of schools have been forced to send students home to self-isolate because they cannot get a test for the virus. PM Johnson remains emphatic about keeping schools open no matter what the cost, even as new cases are expected to rise over 50k a day within the next several weeks. In France, the education ministry announced Sunday that classes in preschool and primary schools would “continue to be held as usual,” even if a classmate tests positive for COVID-19. In Germany, teachers and child-care workers are charging that government officials are deliberately concealing the outbreak of infections. In South Africa, the world’s fifth-worst-hit country from the coronavirus, the African National Congress is moving ahead with school openings this week after a delay due to a spike in cases.

What is motivating this global war against students, teachers and other educators? Whether they admit it or not, capitalist governments around the world have adopted the policy of “herd immunity,” that is, allowing the virus to spread without restraint. Even conservative estimates say this would lead to more than 23m deaths globally in the coming years. The US and many other leading capitalist countries took their lead from Sweden, whose government officials knew that schools would become superspreaders but deliberately kept them open, as Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell wrote last March, “in order to reach herd immunity more quickly.” Governments in the US, France, the UK and other countries pointed to Swedish officials’ claims that keeping the schools open had not appreciably impacted the spread of the virus. But authorities in Sweden, which has one of the highest COVID death rates, have since admitted that they did not track infections among school children. And even larger outbreaks, which caused schools to close, were not counted in the official case totals.

The back-to-school campaign is driven not by public health, let alone the needs of children, but by the concerns of the ruling class. After handing over trillions of dollars to prop up the banks and major corporations, governments are sending children back to school so their parents can resume producing the profits needed to finance this mountain of debt. The growing realization that governments around the world are deliberately infecting children and teachers with the deadly virus is provoking immense anger and opposition among educators, with hundreds of protests around the world against the reopening of schools and colleges. On Aug 5, the SEP issued a statement calling for the formation of rank-and-file committees to prepare for a nationwide strike to stop this homicidal policy. the SEP wrote:

The measures demanded by teachers correspond to what scientists and epidemiologists insist is necessary to stop the spread of the pandemic. Two absolutely opposed social interests are involved. Teachers are fighting for life. The ruling class is fighting for profits and death.

Since this call to action, a global network of Educator Rank-and-File Safety Committees has begun to emerge. Committees have already been formed throughout the US, including in the two largest school districts in the country, NYC and LA. Committees have been formed in Michigan, Texas, and Florida. Similar committees have been launched in Germany, the UK, and Australia. These committees are independent of the corporate-controlled trade unions, which have worked to suppress opposition to the opening of the schools. The demands of the safety committees are based not on the interests of the capitalist class, which has enriched itself while a million people around the world have died, but what is necessary to protect the lives and well-being of children, educators, and the entire working class. In waging this struggle, the rank-and-file committees have adopted the demand for the immediate closure of all public, private and charter schools; full income protection to all parents and caregivers who stay home with their children; and for the trillions of dollars handed over to the rich to be redistributed to provide full funding for public education, online instruction, high-speed internet, food security, mental health care, special education support and all other resources needed to provide the best quality remote learning.

The rights of the working class, including the right to health, safety and life, depend upon the international coordination of its struggles and the development of a powerful socialist movement whose aim is the expropriation of the ruling class and the reorganization of economic life on the basis of social need, not private profit. The SEP and its youth and student wing, the IYSSE, are at the forefront of the fight to mobilize the working class in a revolutionary struggle against the source of all suffering wrought by the pandemic: the capitalist system. We urge youth, educators and all other workers to join the fight for life and the working class, which is the fight for socialism.

Youth and students on the front-lines of the pandemic in the US endure low-paid unsafe jobs and endless financial struggle
Melody Isley, WSWS, Sep 22 2020

As the US surpasses 7m confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 200k deaths, the population is only just beginning to feel the effects of the pandemic. With the pandemic triggering an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression, the American ruling class has taken advantage of workers’ economic anxieties to push for a deadly return to school, and the reckless return to work that will endanger millions of people regardless of ethnicity or age. Every day, millions of essential workers are put at risk, most of them young people. Universities have prioritized their finances over student safety by allowing millions of students to resume on-campus instruction and take up residence in dormitories. This has led to hundreds of outbreaks across the US, and will prove to have countless tragic and deadly consequences. In Southern California, for example, San Diego State University’s president decided to counter criticisms by claiming a “plague of parties” continues to cause the university’s rising daily case count, with 802 positive students as of Sep 19. Instead of shouldering any responsibility for putting students in harm’s way, administrators and politicians across the country echo these sentiments, blaming students for rising cases, and making ineffective cosmetic adjustments to their policies, attempting to tame negative headlines and relieve them of liability. This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, released an insulting “public relations” video starring “certified young person” Paul Rudd via Twitter. Resembling a “Saturday Night Live” skit, Rudd paints the picture that youth are indifferent to wearing masks, using “hip and funny” slang in a rap music style sequence. The supposedly comedic video breaks down to Rudd yelling at the supposed audience of young people:

Just wear a mask! It’s not that hard! People are dying! It’s preventable! I shouldn’t have to make it fun!

Cuomo shared this video, now with almost 8m views on Twitter, in order to blame young people for the pandemic, and draw attention away from his own disastrous handling of the COVID-19 crisis. New York state has the highest death count in the US and Cuomo has received pushback from teachers and students over his drive to reopen schools in NYC and across the state. It is the hope of Governor Cuomo, and politicians and bureaucrats like him, that by blaming students and young people for the worsening pandemic, that they can avoid accountability. Similarly, in July, Trump incorrectly blamed protests and young people for a spike in cases, conveniently ignoring his own reckless rhetoric regarding masks and ignoring many states’ premature reopening at the start of the summer.

The ruling class would like Americans to think that the virus is being spread due to students’ immaturity, blaming their ‘not-yet-developed pre-frontal cortex’ and their penchant to have irresponsible parties and gatherings. The fact of the matter is that the ruling class and US policy-makers are at fault for the deaths of more than 200k Americans and tens of millions losing their jobs. Students who have contracted COVID-19 are not to blame, and neither is their supposed party-going. Students and young people are, in fact, vulnerable to the disease because they are forced to work due to arbitrarily being categorized as “essential workers.” Those under 30 are the most likely to be low-paid ‘essential’ workers—including health care workers, those in retail and food service, agriculture workers and your local barista. Essential workers are almost guaranteed to be exposed to the virus either from the public, or their coworkers. Many of these workers report unsafe conditions and fear for their own health and safety, and for their loved ones that they could unknowingly expose to the virus. They report their employers not providing PPE, allowing social distancing, or proper cleaning supplies and protection from the public. Many workers confront customers who can effectively ignore mask-wearing requirements and employers that do not give hazard pay and health-care benefits. The majority fear loss of pay or retribution of some kind if they request time off or cannot return to work due to health reasons, leading many to continue working while unknowingly ill.

The WSWS spoke to Mazee, a 25-year-old worker in Kansas City. Mazee works two different bartending jobs and was recently let go from her third job as a waitress. Mazee has an auto-immune disease but is compelled to work as she is the only source of income for her family, including her immuno-compromised mother. She is constantly battling anxiety and depression, and her savings have been wiped out by health-care costs, as she has no health insurance and has been forced to shoulder those costs herself. On her jobs, Mazee says she wishes the public knew what essential workers are going through. Echoing many fearful and struggling workers, Mazee explained:

It’s hard to find people who care. We’re called essential, but we’re replaceable. There’s always someone else forced to sacrifice their health to their job.

Exhausted and at risk, Mazee is nonetheless forced to work in unsafe conditions to survive. Lynda, a 29-year-old worker from San Diego, told the WSWS that she was working two jobs at the start of the year, at a bar and at a coffee shop. Because of the pandemic she lost her main source of income as the bar shut down permanently, and she was forced to pick up more hours at a local coffee chain. Like many workers, Lynda feels she is not provided adequate protection by her employer and is scared to take time off or call out sick or fears looming costs like her car breaking down, or potential eviction from her apartment. In a sentiment close to many working people, Lynda expressed frustration with the impossible tasks she has faced under the capitalist system and since joining the workforce after the 2008 financial crisis:

There’s no way to get up. It’s endless crises since I started work when I was 17. I don’t know how to fix this. They tell me ‘just work hard,’ but I work for $13/hr. I can’t make more than that. Even with so much time, working for 12 years at all kinds of jobs, and I can’t get out.

Inequality, wage stagnation and economic hardship of all kinds plague every worker; however, young workers and students are the most vulnerable to the economic challenges of the pandemic. For most workers in the US, an unexpected expense of $500 would be catastrophic. Workers have not recovered since the 2008 recession, and will now face an even greater challenge in the coming years with the COVID-19 depression. Many young people are burdened with astronomical student debt, and endure low wages and high expenses, like health care, that keep them in constant financial distress. While Millennials became the largest working generation, with every member being of working age, the number employed fell by 16% this spring as the US economic output collapsed. Gen Z, largely those just coming of age, have yet to even attempt to grow their savings or establish themselves in the workforce. This youngest generation will bear the brunt of the historic economic struggles to come, and will largely become trapped in low-paying, easily exploitable work as they face fewer job opportunities and greater debt than their elders. The COVID-19 crisis presents an unprecedented challenge to all people, but especially those who are on the front lines. The younger generations already experienced the highest levels of stress, clinical anxiety and depression in recent memory.

The ruling class is targeting victims of the pandemic in order to distract workers and the public from the fact that the self-interest of the financial elite has already cost the world nearly 1m lives and the livelihoods of millions more. At every level, officials are attempting to find a scapegoat, and a distraction, from their homicidal negligence. The ruling class would like younger workers and students to be assaulted by the effects of the crisis for years to come, while also taking the blame. Workers everywhere are being sacrificed in order to build up the wealth of the ruling class and maintain their power. The COVID-19 pandemic and the crises facing young people and workers are not an unpredictable act of the universe, but a foreseeable consequence of the capitalist system that is based on the exploitation of the working class, creating a society based on historic levels of inequality. Hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been avoided had the ruling elite warned the public back in January when they were made aware of the COVID-19 threat, but the crisis has been profitable for the financial oligarchy who sees a silver lining payday from mass deaths of the elderly and pensioners. Masses of youth and workers are becoming politically aware, and a revolutionary struggle is appearing as the only path forward to guarantee that lives will be placed before profits. Workers and youth alike must unite together in the US and internationally in the fight against the homicidal policies of the ruling class and join in the revolutionary struggle against the capitalist system. To this end, students and young people should join the IYSSE to fight against the deadly return to school and oppose the continual threats to their safety by organizing independent rank-and-file safety committees in their workplaces to demand better conditions and enter the fight for their health and safety.

Jacobin magazine embraces Trump administration’s murderous “herd immunity” policy
Andre Damon, WSWS, Sep 21 2020

Workers wearing PPE bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, Apr 9 2020
(Photo: John Minchillo/AP)

On Saturday, Jacobin magazine, which is affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, published an article promoting the policy of “herd immunity” advocated by the Trump White House and the fascistic right. The article takes the form of an interview with Katherine Yih and Martin Kulldorff, a pair of academics advocating the so-called “Swedish model” of allowing large sections of the population to become infected with COVID-19 in the name of achieving “herd immunity.” During the interview, Kulldorff argued:

Schools and universities should reopen … young, healthy people contribute to the herd immunity that will ultimately benefit all.

Jacobin reporter Nicole Aschoff tossed softball questions at Kulldorff and Yih, failed to challenge any of their claims, and then added her own observation that the closures of businesses has caused “additional pain” beyond the impact of the pandemic. In a passage approvingly retweeted by Jacobin publisher Bhaskar Sunkara, Kulldorff declares:

The lockdown is the worst assault on the working class in half a century.

By choosing to publish this article, the editors and publishers of Jacobin have endorsed the Trump administration’s homicidal response to the pandemic, which has killed 200,000 Americans so far. Trump’s entire response to the pandemic was based around crippling all measures to contain the disease and reopening businesses and schools as quickly as possible. Last week, Trump publicly embraced the strategy advocated by White House COVID-19 advisor Scott Atlas, who is the US’ leading advocate of allowing the pandemic to spread unchecked throughout the population. He said:

With time, it goes away… You’ll develop, like a herd mentality… I think it will go away very quickly. A lot of people do agree with me. You look at Scott Atlas.

Among those who agree with both Trump and Atlas is Kulldorff, who Jacobin presents as a leading authority on the pandemic. Last week, Kulldorff defended Atlas and his “herd immunity” policies against 98 Stanford epidemiologists, doctors and other scientists. The Stanford academics, expressing the overwhelming sentiment among all reputable scientists, published an open letter stating:

We believe we have both a moral and an ethical responsibility to call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by Dr Scott Atlas. Encouraging herd immunity through unchecked community transmission is not a safe public health strategy. In fact, this approach would do the opposite, causing a significant increase in preventable cases, suffering and deaths, especially among vulnerable populations, such as older individuals and essential workers.

Kulldorff unequivocally defended Atlas. In a letter to the editor of the Stanford Daily, he wrote:

It is natural and reassuring that Atlas also consider plummeting childhood vaccinations, postponed cancer screenings, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, deteriorating mental health and more house evictions, just to name a few.

Kulldorf has been even more explicit on Twitter. Responding to a statement by Biden, “If the president had done his job… all the people would still be alive,” Kulldorff wrote:

In the Jacobin interview, Yih advocates for abandoning measures to keep the disease from spreading:

There is a kind of simplistic goal of keeping people from getting infected, period. Now this may seem like a worthy goal, but with a highly contagious respiratory virus to which most of the world’s population is probably still not immune, people are going to get infected. The virus will spread, quickly or less so, until herd immunity is reached.

Jacobin reporter Nicole Aschoff abdicates her basic duty as a journalist to point out that China, South Korea and Singapore have all contained the pandemic through rigorous testing and contact-tracing, in combination with lockdowns. Among the lies told by the advocates of herd immunity is that governments would protect the elderly while they allowed the rest of the population to get infected. The reality behind this policy was shown in Sweden, where keeping schools open, with the direct intention of infecting the broadest segment of the population, was accompanied by the abandonment of efforts to protect the elderly in nursing homes, leading to some of the highest death rates in Europe. When confronted with this reality, the advocates of herd immunity say that the high death rates in Sweden were the result of a failure to properly implement protections for the elderly, but this too is a lie. The massive death toll for the elderly in Sweden is a direct consequence of its herd immunity policy.

The claim put forwarded by Kulldorff and Yih, and echoed by Aschoff, that lockdowns benefit the “managerial class” while “throwing the working class under the bus,” is so stupid that it is degrading to even answer it. It is self-evident that reopening factories, schools, and other non-essential workplaces while the pandemic is raging endangers workers and their families. Jacobin accepts the entire framework of the ruling class’ response to the pandemic. They accept that resources will not be made available to workers who cannot work because of the pandemic. They accept that no safety measures will be put in place to ensure the health of workers in essential industries. Socialists argue that workplaces must remain closed until the pandemic is contained, and that workers must be provided full pay and benefits while workplaces are not in operation. Even this modest demand, elementary from a public health standpoint, is inconceivable to both the Jacobin interviewer and the interviewees. Kulldorff welcomed the Jacobin article on Twitter, declaring:

In the US, there is a now second front against lockdowns, from the left.

The first front, of course, is led by the neo-Nazi right, which organized anti-lockdown protests throughout the country in April and May, and by every government in North America, Europe and the global south, which have abandoned effectively all efforts to contain the pandemic. In reality, there is only one “front” against vigorous efforts to contain the pandemic, and this “front” is an attack from the right against the working class. Jacobin has allied itself with the Trump administration in its homicidal efforts to get workers back on the job to generate profits for Wall Street. Just two months ago, the DSA published a statement opposing the premature reopening of schools, declaring:

The ruling class are forcing a premature return to in-person learning in schools just as COVID-19 rates spike across the country. The push to reopen schools by both major parties is an act of political violence. We demand NO reopening until our schools are safe for students and all staff.

This statement by the DSA stands as an indictment of the policies now advocated by Jacobin and, by extension, a substantial portion of the leadership of the DSA itself. The timing of the Jacobin interview is significant. Throughout the US, school districts are herding teachers and students back into classrooms that are hotbeds of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are being assisted by the trade unions, which have worked to sabotage all independent resistance to the back-to-work policy, including the recent strike by graduate students at the University of Michigan. Jacobin, speaking for the privileged sections of the upper middle class that staff the trade union bureaucracy, finds itself increasingly opposed to all measures to combat the pandemic, even amid mounting working-class resistance to Trump’s back-to-work campaign. At the same time, Jacobin is preparing the arguments that, in the event that Biden assumes office following the election, would be used to carry out essentially the same policies as the Trump administration. It should be noted that Thomas Friedman, the columnist for the NYT, the house organ of the Democratic Party, first developed, in late March, the slogan “the cure can’t be worse than the disease” in opposition to lockdowns, a phrase that was embraced by Trump and used to carry out a nation-wide premature return to work with the assistance of Democratic governors. Jacobin’s open embrace of Trump’s herd immunity policies stands as a confirmation of every warning made by the WSWS about the brand of middle-class politics embraced by the DSA. In defining these organizations as “pseudo-left,” we explained that this was not a slur but a sociological definition. Words have meaning. By embracing and openly advocating the policies of the Trump administration, the publishers of Jacobin have made themselves complicit in the administration’s crimes. The millions of working people whose friends and loved ones died needlessly will not forget the words and actions of Jacobin.

Johnson government says COVID-19 infections could hit 50k/day as pandemic spins “out of control”
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Sep 22 2020

Witty, Johnson & Vallance in Downing Street on Mar 3, 2020.
(Photo: Frank Augstein/AP)

Coronavirus infections could reach 50k a day within weeks, with 200 deaths a day by November, Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the Johnson government, warned yesterday. Whitty and Vallance gave a televised address, following discussions with Cabinet ministers over the weekend. PM Johnson is to chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee today followed by a cabinet meeting. He is then expected to make a televised policy speech on the COVID-19 crisis. Following the statements of Whitty and Vallance, the UK’s chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland moved the COVID-19 alert level from Level 3 to Level 4, stating:

After a period of lower COVID cases and deaths, the number of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations.

Level 4 means the virus “is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially.” The only level above this, Level 5 poses the “material risk of health-care services being overwhelmed.” Another 4,368 new infections and 11 deaths were recorded, with the number of cases requiring hospital ventilation in England doubling in eight days to 154. Johnson has spent months lying that the pandemic was under control and “on a downward slope” to justify a disastrous reopening of the economy and schools. Whitty and Vallance have now admitted this has resulted in an exponential spread of the virus. Citing the Office for National Statistics, Vallance said:

It’s now estimated that roughly 70k people in the UK have COVID infection and that about 6k people per day are getting the infection. At the moment we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days. If that continues unabated, and this continues doubling every seven days, then what you see is that by mid-October you would end up with 49k new cases per day.

This level of infection would be expected to lead to about “200+ deaths per day” a month after that, Vallance warned. This level of death was first seen on Mar 26, as the pandemic took hold with deaths soon rising to more than 1k/day soon after.

Slide used by Vallance and Whitty showing the Covid-19 infection rate
in the UK rising to nearly 50k/day based on the current trajectory.

Vallance showed a slide pointing to the enormous growth in infections in Spain and France. He stated:

The increase in case numbers has translated into an increase in hospitalisations. As the hospitalisations have increased, you will see that not unexpectedly, deaths are also increasing. So there is a simple message from this slide: Which is as the disease spreads, as it spreads across age groups, we expect to see increase in hospitalisations and unfortunately those increases in hospitalisations will lead to increase in deaths.

Addressing claims that the virus has mutated and is no longer as deadly as it once was, Vallance stated:

The virus has genetically moved a bit but it has not changed in terms of its propensity and its ability to cause disease and to cause death.

Vallance, an early advocate of a “herd immunity” strategy, conceded that only an estimated 8% of the population had been infected and that antibodies for those who develop them can fade over time, with reports of people being re-infected. Therefore, the majority of the population remain susceptible. A further graph showed infections as they affected age groups. Vallance said:

The lowest increase has been in children and in the population aged 70 to 79 but in every age group we’ve seen an increase. Could that increase be due to increased testing? The answer is no. The proportion of people testing positive has increased even if testing stays flat.

Slide used by Vallance and Whitty showing the surge in Covid-19 cases
among age groups since the economy was reopened in July.

In March, the Johnson government was the first to state openly that herd immunity was its policy, with Vallance declaring that the infection of tens of millions was “desirable.” What has driven government policy from the outset was not the health of the population, but how to restore the profits of the corporations. After Vallance had laid out the perilous situation, Whitty said:

Ministers making decisions have to walk this very difficult balance. If we do too little this virus will go out of control and we get significant numbers of increased and indirect deaths but if we go too far the other way, then we can do damage to the economy.

Neither Vallance nor Whitty made any attempt to explain why there was a resurgence of the coronavirus across Europe and in the UK. But the slides they referred to all showed the resurgence started from July, as the Johnson government and its counterparts reopened the economy. As Vallance said when introducing the rise in infections among all age groups:

What we see from July as we look at increases in cases per 100k of population, is an increase which has occurred over August and has increased into September.

Vallance, Whitty, Johnson, et al know full well that it was the government ending of the lockdown and social distancing that has led to the explosion of coronavirus. Infections are taking place in the thousands at workplaces, on the public transport network, in schools, and will soon sweep through universities. By Monday evening, the number of schools recording infections had reached 1,439, with a poll revealing that 82% of school across England (around 20k) have sent pupils home to self-isolate because they cannot get a coronavirus test.

The government’s propaganda is now centred on blaming the population, particularly the younger generation, for the spread of COVID. Last week it introduced, along with draconian fines, a “rule of six,” under which groups of six or more people are not allowed to gather. This will do nothing of substance to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It is as much of a fraud as the local lockdowns introduced in many parts of the country that are all porous and have done nothing to stop the spread of the disease. Yesterday, four more areas of Wales were put under lockdown, meaning around 13.5m people in the UK live under local restrictions. The failure of such partial measures is designed to encourage the sentiment that nothing could be done to halt the spread of coronavirus and that we must all learn to live with it. The rampant spread of the disease was the inevitable product of the rush to open the economy in July and August, with the government doing nothing to develop a systematic, mass track and trace system over the last nine months. All its efforts were instead aimed at ensuring the handover of hundreds of billions to the corporations in bail-out funds while granting them access to free money by ramping up the printing of money via quantitative easing.

The government faces no opposition to its the murderous herd immunity policy within the political establishment and a compliant media. As COVID-19 cases surge, the BBC has come forward as the unvarnished mouthpiece for the Johnson government. On Monday BBC News published an article, “COVID: Is it time we learnt to live with the virus?” by health correspondent Nick Triggle. The message was clear. It’s time to get used to the idea of people dying from the disease. Triggle proceeds to cite only scientists opposed to lockdown:

Prof Carl Heneghan, the head of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, says the current situation is ‘utter chaos’ with a constant stream of new restrictions and schools sending whole year groups home when just one person tests positive. All this at a time when the level of infection is still very low. This, Prof Heneghan says, is the consequence of trying to suppress the virus. Instead, he argues we should accept it is here to stay and try to minimise the risks, while balancing that against the consequences of the actions we take. Prof Robert Dingwall, a sociologist and an adviser to the government, believes the public may well be now at the stage where it is ‘comfortable’ with the idea that thousands will die from COVID just as they are that they die of flu.

The article concludes under a subhead: “What about herd immunity?” with Triggle citing Oxford University scientist Sunetra Gupta’s support for a herd immunity strategy. “This is how we have always managed viruses,” Gupta says. Disparaging the clear majority of scientists and health professionals critical of the government, Triggle writes:

Dingwall believes it is only a particular element of the public health and scientific leadership who worry about driving down the infection level.

Whistle-blowers speak out as German authorities cover up coronavirus cases at schools and day-care centres
Martin Nowak, Gregor Link, WSWS, Sep 22 2020

Moritz sets off for his new school in Gelsenkirchen, Wednesday Aug 12 2020. (Photo: Martin Meissner/AP)

By the end of the summer holidays, hundreds of teaching and care facilities in Germany had been infected. But the school and health authorities, as well as the federal and state governments, with the support of the trade unions, are doing everything in their power to continue the life-threatening policy of opening schools for regular operations and covering up outbreaks. A report in Der Spiegel quoted a letter from a Hamburg teacher to the German Education and Science Union (GEW) saying:

The number of suspected cases has increased in the last week and children were sent home in scores every day. It is not known whether any of these were tested at all, and which of them were positive, as there was no obligation to inform the public.

Another writes:

Since Monday, an upper school pupil has also been affected, who is in hospital and has to be ventilated with a severe course of the illness. It is depressing for everyone when a fellow pupil is fighting for his life. For days on end. The outcome is still unclear.

Der Spiegel also reports the case of Theodor-Heuss-Realschule in Dortmund, where there had been a positive coronavirus case a fortnight ago. On the instructions of the authorities, the school management had only sent those sitting adjacent to the infected pupils into domestic quarantine. Further information was not provided by the authorities. Der Spiegel continued:

In the new school year, several schools across Germany had to close down completely or individual classes and years were sent into quarantine. How many schools nationwide are affected is not recorded statistically by the authorities.

In the fight against the pandemic and for full transparency concerning the infection process, however, educators are also confronted with the trade unions themselves. A recent survey the GEW (education sector union) showed that more than 70% of their members felt “not sufficiently protected” from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and a majority were in favour of the compulsory wearing of masks in the classroom. Der Spiegel summarises the GEW’s position, which has always vehemently rejected compulsory mask-wearing in class, by saying that a further closure of schools “must be avoided if possible.” Patrizia, an after-school teacher from a large city in Baden-Württemberg, drew a stark picture in an interview with the WSWS of the consequences of the ruthless opening of schools in regular operation which highlights the “back-to-work” policy of the ruling elites in every country. She said:

I am working at an integration institution, a so-called ‘focal point school’ with over 300 children from socially deprived families, 98% of whom depend on bonus cards. Originally, we were 22 caregivers in the after-school care centre.

Due to the catastrophic understaffing, Patrizia’s facility, a small, old all-day school with a separate after-school care building, had already served notice of the overload that staff faced in the past, but the provider then only hired a single replacement teacher, who is currently on sick leave. In the meantime, three of her colleagues have suffered burn-out. Patrizia explained:

The provider’s own employees regularly resign because it is far too much to do for one person. Many other colleagues belong to the risk group and have therefore been given time off or are doing office work from home. This means that we are currently only nine educators in total.

When Patrizia’s team recently decided to shorten the opening hours so as not to have to fully cover late and early duty, the school authorities immediately intervened. Such an emergency measure, they said, was “not legal” because “the parents had paid for the child-care relationship.” With an average of 33 children per employee, there can be little conception of a “child-care relationship.” But the same devastating shortages, Patrizia notes, prevail in every corner of the institution.

There is a total lack of hygiene! We do not even have an active cleaning service! If we educators didn’t disinfect the tables in between times, nothing would be cleaned at the moment, not even the toilets. As a result of coronavirus, the school management has, for the first time, seriously checked whether there is enough soap in the toilets. Because we only received two fabric masks per person from the provider, I had to buy an FFP2 mask at my own expense.

Protection against aerosols, the most important form of spreading the coronavirus, is also not guaranteed.

In our classrooms, a plexiglass panel hangs in front of the teacher’s desk and there are stickers on the floor to help keep social distance, but this is impossible due to the lack of staff.

The teachers are not allowed to use the FFP2 mask. For the same reason, says Patrizia, there is also a mixing of the different groups of children, despite the sometimes time-delayed breaks. As the WSWS has repeatedly stated, under these conditions, which prevail at institutions throughout Germany and Europe, schools and day-care centres become veritable breeding grounds for the coronavirus. The politically criminal role played by the school and health authorities of the federal states in covering up new infections, intimidating critical educators and enforcing regular operations against all warnings and resistance was already evident at Patrizia’s facility immediately after the summer holidays during the first days of classes last week. She says:

On the Monday after the school holidays, there were suspicious cases because positive cases were reported in several families, but since the parents concerned were still waiting for their test results at that time, all children had come to school. On Tuesday, four children were indeed confirmed to be infected.

After a joint consultation with her colleagues and the school management, Patrizia went home feeling “run ragged.” She reports:

The school refuses to react, the headmistress reports false data to the health authority and keeps quiet about the mixing of the children’s groups, which is a consequence of the lack of staff. Only the ‘formally’ responsible teachers and group educators are to be quarantined, although, in reality, we all come into contact with different groups every day. A colleague of mine has strong symptoms. I have also had myself tested.

Patrizia and her colleagues explicitly pointed out to the school management that all teachers are to be considered contacts of infected persons. However, although they jointly refused to put further children and colleagues in danger with their regular presence under these conditions, a general quarantine was only granted after a member of staff personally presented herself to the health authorities and described the real situation. Patrizia added:

Meanwhile, the teachers in our facility continue to work as they are and do not go into quarantine. If the authorities and the school management had had their way, we would not have been quarantined either. At the same time, the isolation period itself has been reduced to a few days, so that all staff were expected back to work as of Monday. In my opinion, the health authorities are not working properly. They do not look at the situation on the ground at all. I don’t think they have ever heard of aerosols.

After her courageous move, Patrizia and her colleagues were confronted with fierce accusations from the school management and some parents. She said:

The psychological strain on us is immense. I give us two weeks, then we can have ourselves committed. If we do nothing, it will go on forever. The bad thing is that it’s the same all over Baden-Württemberg. We are not allowed to talk to the press, we are not allowed to make political statements. It’s in our employment contract, and there has already been trouble because of it.

Given the policy of deliberately under-funding educational institutions for decades, the refusal of the responsible health authorities to conduct mass testing and their reluctant implementation of quarantine measures, Patrizia concluded:

I think the whole thing is politically intended. The coronavirus cases ‘must not be.’

This assessment is now being confirmed by more and more parents and educators from all over Germany. Sandra, whose son attends a grammar school in Bochum, told the WSWS about her fight against the cover-up by the school and health authorities. She says:

This is now the fourth infected person at our grammar school, but lessons are still going on. The health department even refuses to register contact persons correctly. They are simply not documented unless the people affected or the schools name them by name. The newly formed team at the health authority works without a contact address, without a telephone number, without an email address and without a face. This opaque ‘secret team’ is now in charge of research and policymaking, but is allowed to remain completely out of the public eye.

Sandra herself is a qualified social education worker and social worker and worked in schools before the pandemic began.

As it turned out, in the meantime, my son has had contact with children of an affected age group. He has ambiguous symptoms but was not named by the school, so it is not recorded. When I asked the city council, they sent me a kind of standard letter with ostensibly personal passages.

In the letter, excerpts of which Sandra published in a Facebook group, it says that her son is “not subject to any contact category and no further action needs to be taken.” Although Sandra is free to have her symptomatic child “tested for coronavirus via a general practitioner,” the health insurer “cannot judge” whether “a test is covered by health insurance.” In general, Sandra should best “do nothing.” If her son became infected, Sandra said, she now had written proof that the authorities considered “no further measures” to be “necessary” to prevent infection and mass outbreaks. She says:

If my son has coronavirus, as the test will show, he may be treated as a ‘school infector’ instead of someone infected by the school.

Meanwhile, the paediatrician refused to “charge the test to the health insurance company,” because “my son does not have coronavirus, because otherwise, the health authority would have carried out the test.” And this even though it had been the health insurance company that had referred her to “a general practitioner” for a test in the first place. The cover-up of coronavirus cases in schools and day-care centres makes it clear that the governments at state and federal level and authorities are in no way concerned about the welfare of the child. They want to keep child-care open at all costs to avoid absenteeism and to secure the profits of the corporations. Action committees for safe education are being founded all over the world to combat this policy of death. We call on readers to register now and tell us about their own experiences.

COVID-19: French NPA’s Révolution Permanente web site lines up with Macron’s school re-opening
Anthony Torres, WSWS, Sep 22 2020

Amid growing international opposition among teachers and workers to the reopening of schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Anti-Capitalist Party’s (NPA) Révolution Permanente (RP) web site is making itself an accomplice of state policy. While making tactical criticisms of state health guidelines, it tacitly supports a deadly reopening of schools. Its demands are entirely compatible with the activities of the French union bureaucracy. The unions are leading efforts to push workers back into the factories and pupils back to school. The Stalinist General Confederation of Labor (CGT) explicitly supports Macron’s and Merkel’s EU bailout. It signed a May 20 statement with the German Union Federation (DGB) that:

especially applauds the Franco-German initiative to relaunch the European economy presented by the French president and German chancellor on May 18 2020 after the coronavirus crisis.

The reopening of schools and the massive bank bail-outs are at the center of this plan. The back-to-school policy is accelerating the pandemic, which has already cost nearly a million lives worldwide. Everywhere this policy arouses enormous opposition. Hundreds of protests have denounced it. More than a hundred Facebook groups have been formed internationally, attracting hundreds of thousands of supporters. In this context, RP has published a series of articles discussing how to reopen French schools. The article, titled “Reopening with Covid: ‘schools are not ready’ say an association of doctors,” admits school re-openings “constituted a serious stimulus to the epidemic as in Israel or Chile.” In fact, German intelligence expects a million lives could be lost, just in Germany, without drastic social distancing measures. However, RP claims that the danger comes not from recklessly reopening schools, but from “confusion” and “inconsistently applied” state health protocols:

The 2020 back-to-school took place on Sep 1, and already, classes have been closed in five establishments in mainland France and one in Réunion island. But even more worrying than the closure of classes are inconsistent health protocols reflecting the great confusion which dominates this new school year in these special circumstances.

RP worries that COVID-19 infections in schools and the absence of health measures are driving growing opposition among teachers and parents. In an article titled “A chaotic school restart: we want free masks, massive testing and recruitment,” it writes:

With insufficient health procedures and a lack of human resources and means to safely receive pupils, reasons for anger among teachers are not lacking.

A class gulf separates the demands of teachers and workers want to stay safe and those of RP, which refuses to call workers and teachers to mobilize against the reopening of schools. The danger for teachers, students and their families stems not from one or other school reopening protocols, but from any attempt to reopen schools amid a deadly pandemic. The WSWS and the Parti de l’égalité socialiste (PES) have called upon teachers to mobilize with other workers to prepare an international general strike against the reopening of schools and the return to work, which expose millions of people world-wide to mortal dangers. In the US, since the reopening of high schools and universities, more than 51k positive cases have been recorded on 1k campuses across the US, of which 35k occurred over the last three weeks. In France, the rapid growth of the pandemic is extremely dangerous. As the country records about 10k new infections per day, 32 establishments and 524 classes have closed after two weeks of the return to school.

RP provides a “left” cover for the carrying out of school reopenings by the unions and ruling elites. RP is not opposed to school re-openings and the back to work drive, quite the opposite. It tries to present its reactionary demands in a “militant” light, such as free masks and tests for students and teachers carrying out dangerous, in-person teaching in crowded classrooms, but RP has only minor differences with the State, compatible with trade union policy. RP aims to channel mass opposition to school re-openings behind impotent calls to modify back-to-school health protocols, whereas teachers and workers have to oppose the back-to-school campaign itself. Teachers and workers are facing deadly conditions. RP covers for this policy, insisting it is not a conspiracy:

There is no conspiracy to be found in the health and economic measures taken by the ruling elite. This would be to imagine spiritual darkness (a state of mind that it would then be possible to change?), where in fact it is only a question of class interests. One must not let a crisis go to waste, as the airline companies so often remind us.

In fact, history has shown there is no worse “darkness” than accepting to sacrifice millions of lives to the material interests of the capitalist class. The pandemic has shown the ruling elite’s contempt for workers’ lives. For months, governments internationally were informed of the deadly nature of the virus by intelligence agencies and Chinese authorities. But they long refused to take efficient measures like social distancing and lock-downs, and the middle-class parties like the NPA acquiesced to this reactionary policy. The only viable strategy for workers in these dangerous conditions is to mobilize to impose a lock-down in decent conditions for all, spending massive resources on supporting workers and small businesses and increasing health-care spending, in an international struggle by the working class to take power. This requires a political break with parties like the NPA, which are tied to the union apparatus and the ruling establishment. Conscious that workers’ radicalisation is developing outside the unions, RP proposes

committees of teachers, parents of pupils, students and school staff, independent of school management and the State, emerge in the situation in order to propose an alternative to the capitalist handling of the return to school and its consequences.

RP proposes to create workers and teachers committees. However, unlike the PES, it does not make clear that organisations created by workers need to be rigorously independent from the trade unions. This is because, like the NPA as a whole, it is closely tied to the CGT union and wants to subordinate these committees to the unions and thus to the EU’s policies. The NPA as a whole speaks for affluent elements of the upper middle class tied to the unions and the universities. Its support for EU policy is rooted in material class interests. Through EU bailouts, the financial aristocracy injects billions into the banks and financial markets. On the one hand, the state then forces workers and pupils back to work and school in order to extract profits on these vast numbers of capital; on the other hand, these finances flow into the coffers of the unions and the stock portfolios of the affluent middle class. Teachers and workers should expect nothing of benefit from RP. Workers and teachers face the task of creating their own independent committees of action, breaking with the unions and their allies like RP and the NPA, and to mobilize these committees in a struggle for socialism against the pandemic and the capitalist system.

Spike in Canada’s COVID-19 infections exposes criminality of back-to-work, back-to-school drive
Roger Jordan, WSWS, Sep 22 2020

Over the past two weeks, COVID-19 infections have surged across Canada. The dramatic rise in cases, which in some provinces are now more than three times higher than in August, is the direct product of the ruling elite’s criminal back-to-work and back-to-school policies, which are aimed at guaranteeing corporate profits regardless of the cost in human lives. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, recorded 425 cases on Monday, its highest daily tally in three-and-a-half months. This followed over 400 cases being registered on both Friday and Saturday. Reflecting the fact that the virus is now spreading out of control, authorities in Ontario have conceded repeatedly for several weeks that they are unable to determine the origin of around 50 percent of the new infections. Around two thirds of current infections are among those under the age of 40, confirming that the government’s reopening of the economy is chiefly to blame. Over 400 people under the age of 20 are currently infected, many of whom are no doubt school children. Two Ontario schools have already been forced to shut down in-person classes, less than two weeks after they reopened for the first time in six months. The virus is also reaching into the political establishment, with both Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet testing positive in recent days.

Responding to the rapidly deteriorating situation, Ontario’s right-wing premier, Doug Ford, held a press conference Saturday, where he sought to blame the population at large for the looming disaster. He complained about “wild parties” and lax adherence to social distancing regulations, as he announced that private gatherings will henceforth be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outside. However, the government remains adamant that it will not limit school class-sizes or the number of workers in factories and other congested workplaces. Neighbouring Quebec, which was the epicentre of the pandemic last spring with over 5.5k of Canada’s 9.2k deaths, is also experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with 587 new infections announced Monday. More than 400 infections were recorded on both Saturday and Sunday, forcing the province’s right-wing Coalition Avenir Quebec government to announce new restrictions on gatherings in Montreal and Quebec City. Quebec’s director of public health, Horacio Arruda, who played a leading role in enforcing the reopening of schools in late August, said Monday:

We are in the second wave. The situation is serious. The virus is everywhere in Quebec.

But like the Ontario Conservative government, Quebec Premier Francois Legault and his CAQ government are determined to press forward with their reckless drive to “reopen” the economy, and especially the schools, so that parents can be forced to return to the job and resume producing profits for big business. The politicians’ claim that the resurgence of cases is the result of irresponsible behaviour on the part of the population is a slanderous lie. While a small minority of people disregard social distancing and other public health measures, they are akin to petty thieves when compared to the real criminals in the political establishment, who early on declared their support for a premature reopening of the economy and a policy of effectively letting the virus run rampant. In late April, for example, Legault asserted that “herd immunity,” allowing the virus to infect 70% or more of the population, is “the best way out of the current pandemic.” Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu had earlier told Canadian Press that pursuing a policy of “herd immunity” is not necessarily a bad thing.

Canada’s chronically under-resourced public health system, which has been ravaged by decades of savage austerity, is proving totally inadequate to cope with the rise in cases. Test centres across the country, but especially in Ontario, have been overwhelmed, with wait times routinely extending to six and even eight hours. Back in July, the federal government set a target of 200k tests per day. Two months later, the provinces have failed to get even a third of the way there, with only between 60k and 65k tests currently being administered daily. The threat of a dramatic rise in deaths is made all the more likely by the fact that nothing has been done by the political establishment to prepare Canada’s dilapidated hospitals and provide overstretched health-care workers with the additional resources that they need to successfully combat the pandemic. Yesterday, for example, the Globe and Mail reported the Ontario government has failed to act on the recommendations of an infectious-disease specialist, made in a June report, “to build infection prevention and control measures inside the province’s long-term care facilities.”

Medical professionals have borne the brunt of this callous and calamitous handling of the pandemic. The Canadian Institute for Health Information revealed in a report released earlier this month that as of late July, almost 20% of coronavirus infections in Canada were among health-care workers, well above the international average. The crisis in health-care is also creating serious problems in the treatment of other health issues. On Saturday, the pediatric section of the Ontario Medical Association launched a petition protesting the lack of any preparation to ensure the distribution of flu vaccines to children ahead of the onset of the flu season. The petition states:

We would like to express our urgent concerns regarding an imminent crisis in influenza vaccination. Right now, Public Health seems to expect the status quo from years past, when individual doctor’s offices and scattered flu clinics gave flu vaccines.

While health and critical social services have been forced to get by on shoe-string budgets, Canada’s wealthy and super-rich have never had it so good. According to a recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s wealthiest 20 billionaires have seen their combined wealth rise by a staggering $37b in the six months since the beginning of the pandemic. On the other hand, the latest labour force statistics showed that 1.1m fewer Canadians were employed than prior to the pandemic, and a further 713k were still employed, but have lost more than half of their income. Galen Weston, who owns Canada’s largest grocery store chain, Loblaws, has seen his family’s wealth increase by $1.6b to $10.8b during the pandemic. This was no doubt helped by Weston’s decision in June to rob the mostly low-paid and part-time grocery store clerks of the $2/hr pandemic bonus instituted in late March. 1.4k workers at Dominion Foods, a subsidiary of Loblaws in Newfoundland, are about to enter their fifth week of strike action in pursuit of higher wage increases and job security. In a tentative contract, endorsed by Unifor, but decisively rejected by rank-and-file Dominion workers, Loblaws offered them a meager $1 /hr wage increase stretched over three years.

The ever-deepening social chasm between the capitalist elite and the vast majority of the population is the outcome of the policies pursued by the entire political establishment. During March and April, the principal concern of the federal Liberal government and the entire opposition, from the Conservatives to the New Democrats, was to ensure an unprecedented bail-out of the big banks and financial oligarchy. Under Trudeau’s supervision, over $650b was funneled by the government, the Bank of Canada, and various Crown agencies into the financial markets, the banks and big business to prop up the fortunes of the rich and super-rich. As soon as the bailout was complete, a reckless campaign spearheaded by the Trudeau government and endorsed by the trade union bureaucracy and corporate-controlled media was unleashed to force working people back to unsafe working conditions. The social crisis created by the government’s miserly $2k/-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments was exploited to this end, with many workers left with no choice but to risk infecting themselves and their family members if they wished to avoid financial ruin. A key plank of the back-to-work drive is the reopening of schools, which has already proven to be an accelerant in the pandemic’s resurgence. The goal of Trudeau’s Liberals, the right-wing provincial governments, and of the trade unions, which have refused to organize any opposition among teachers to the reopenings, is to ensure that children can return to the classroom so that their parents are “free” to be ruthlessly exploited to boost corporate profits.

The next stage in the reopening of the economy will begin with the Trudeau government’s Throne Speech tomorrow, which will outline a series of pro-corporate measures designed to boost the “competitiveness” of Canadian capitalism. Newly-installed Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, fresh from slashing financial aid to laid-off workers last month by 20%, has spent recent weeks consulting with Canada’s six large banks and trade unions to craft the ruling elite’s class war agenda. While Trudeau initially made public declarations about his government taking an “entirely different direction” to promote social equality and fight climate change, this inevitably proved to be hollow “progressive” spin. Faced with a sustained campaign by the banks, big business and corporate media demanding his government rein in social spending and ensure any economic stimulus measures focus on boosting “growth” and “competitiveness,” Trudeau and Freeland have bent over backwards to demonstrate they have got the message. Freeland has boasted of her consultations with former Liberal Finance Minister and Prime Minister Paul Martin, who presided over the largest social spending cuts in Canadian history during the 1990s. Asked at a press conference last week what her approach would be on spending, Freeland declared:

We understand the value of wise and prudent fiscal management. Canada has benefited from that approach in the past.

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