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Covid-19 Policy Update #655
Hope everyone had a great weekend. Two items before we get to the Update. First, a bit of personal news as they say. The Washingtonian Magazine named me to their list of Most Influential People in Washington DC which isn’t something I would normally call attention to but for the fact that they highlighted this newsletter as a reason why. It’s an honor to be on the same list with some incredible friends and colleagues including Reg Brown, Josh Bolten, Holly Harris, John Lettieri, Denise Forte, Lindsay Fryer, Rick Hess, Max Eden, Vic Klatt, Nina Rees, Laura Slover, Joanne Weiss, Heather Reams, Ben Wallerstein, Scott Gottlieb, Meredith Attwell Baker, Bruce Mehlman, Joel Kaplan, and Carlos Gutierrez.
Second, we’ve reached an important turning point in the pandemic as the World Health Organization just declared an end to the Global Health Emergency and the COVID national emergency draws to a close on May 11. As the public health emergency has receded, many of you have begun redirecting your focus towards other pressing issues. I also have been devoting more of my time to some new AI projects, efforts addressing the youth mental health crisis, and initiatives supporting IIJA, CHIPS Act, and IRA implementation.
In light of these developments, it seems fitting to gracefully transition this newsletter towards its conclusion. I’ll publish the last issue in June but with the promise of posting occasional updates should any problematic variants emerge or the CDC issues new recommendations that would impact schools or children.
It feels fitting to mark this occasion with a happy hour in DC next month to celebrate all the important contributions this community has has made in responding to the pandemic. I’m still locking in a venue, so more details to come. To better assist with the planning, reply back if you’re interested in attending.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have shared this journey with you, showcasing your work, resources, and research. And while this chapter comes to a close, I look forward to working with and supporting you in the future.
All the best,
Stat: "The decision was made on the advice of a panel of independent experts, the so-called Covid-19 emergency committee, which met Thursday. Though a couple of members of the committee were reportedly hesitant about the move, the majority agreed Covid no longer meets the criteria of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern."
“It’s with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference in Geneva. “However, that does not mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat.”
"While the global risk assessment remains high, there is evidence of reducing risks to human health driven mainly by high population-level immunity from infection, vaccination, or both; consistent virulence of currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sub-lineages compared to previously circulating Omicron sub-lineages; and improved clinical case management. These factors have contributed to a significant global decline in the weekly number of COVID-19 related deaths, hospitalizations, and admissions to intensive care units since the beginning of the pandemic. While SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, the currently circulating variants do not appear to be associated with increased severity."
"The WHO Emergency Committee believes three things: COVID-19 is not unusual and unexpected; Cross-border transmission can’t (and won’t) be stopped; COVID-19 does not require a coordinated international response."
"This doesn’t mean the end of a pandemic."
"This doesn’t mean that COVID-19 is gone. SARS-CoV-2 is currently mutating 2 times faster than the flu. We will get future waves, but hopefully these will be “wavelets” given the population-level immunity from vaccines and infections."
CDC Director to Step Down on June 30: Press release.
In a White House statement, President Joe Biden praised Walensky's efforts to save lives and lead a complex organization during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic with honesty and integrity.
This Is The Solution To The Covid Learning Loss Crisis: Washington Post Editorial Board.
"Reversing this crisis will require a historic investment. The good news is, that’s just what states and school districts have gotten from Congress: approximately $190 billion from coronavirus rescue plans, including the $122 billion chunk in the American Rescue Plan, known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Think tank FutureEd’s most recent analysis found that states and school districts have so far managed to spend about half the money they’d been allotted. They’ll need to spend the rest by 2024 or else it will evaporate. But spend it on what, exactly?"
"The average child in districts that reopened quickly during the pandemic lost the equivalent of about seven to 10 weeks of progress, about a quarter of a normal school year; the average student at high-poverty schools that stayed remote for the majority of the 2020-2021 school year lost the equivalent of about 22 weeks. High-dosage tutoring, done correctly, could compensate, giving kids as much as an additional year of growth every year it’s implemented."
"High-dosage tutoring is essential to make up for the learning loss covid-19 has wrought. It could also help ensure future students don’t lose so much to begin with."
Neera Tanden Will Replace Susan Rice As The Head of the Domestic Policy Council: White House announcement.
IES and NSF Announce New Artificial Intelligence Institute to Accelerate Learning: Press release:
"Today, the Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded approximately $20 million dollars to the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign to create The Institute for Inclusive and Intelligent Technologies for Education (INVITE). This institute is one of a suite of institutes launched by the federal government as part of a $500 million investment, the largest from the federal government in artificial intelligence (AI) to date."
White House Could Agree to Spending Cuts: "A former Biden administration official tells Semafor: “Biden’s team might swallow a compromise if it only involved cuts to discretionary spending, which gets negotiated each year as part of the regular budget process. Among other things, that would take Biden’s climate programs off the chopping block.”
The Pandemic, In One Chart: Via Axios.
Some Messages More Likely to Sway Parents to Vaccinate Kids Against COVID: CIDRAP on new AAP research. "A survey of 898 parents found that more were very likely to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 after reading messages indicating that other trusted parents have done so or that the vaccine is safe, but not when the messages said the vaccine is well-tolerated."
CDC Details Transitions in COVID-19 Data Reporting: Via CIDRAP:
"The new system going forward allows health officials to keep their eye on COVID in a more detailed way than for flu or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), though the CDC is working toward improving data collection for those two diseases, as well."
"CDC officials spelled out the data changes in two reports published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) today. One report explains all of the data changes, and the other examines how well the new hospital-centered tracking indicator performed against the current COVID community level metric."
"Shah said the hospital admission data provide a strong indicator at the local level and has 99% concordance with the COVID community-level tracking system and its familiar maps. The community tracking system has been used as a tool for guiding the public's personal decisions and recommendations such as masking and will be retired when the health emergency expires."
"One of the biggest hospitalization data changes is that reporting of suspected cases won't be required anymore, given that testing is so plentiful. The CDC will still use its hospitalization surveillance network to collect clinical information to better understand the disease and any changes that occur with severity and symptoms."
"Over the past year, over 5,000 school district staff members have reported missing payroll, taxes misreported or delayed 403(b) payments."
"In 2022, the school district transitioned from a 17-year-old payroll system to a new system dubbed EMPowerSF. Almost immediately, hundreds of employees reported payroll issues. Over a year later, those issues still persist, despite the district spending over $30 million on the new system. That’s almost $10,000 per teacher."
"What Alvarez & Marsel’s audit found was shocking: 64 software bugs had gone undetected in the EMPowerSF system for nearly a year, with 18 of the bugs affecting pay rules management, 12 bugs affecting the user interface, 7 affecting leave management, 7 affecting time management, 5 affecting benefits management and 15 bugs affecting other system protocols."
"Trying to virtually transition an offline system with a shortage of documented protocols was a huge bureaucratic bottleneck resulting in 10,410 support tickets requesting assistance in the new software system since it launched in January 2022. The average time to respond to an individual ticket was 102 days, according to the district’s data."
Related: I co-chaired an effort with Cecilia Muñoz, former DPC Director for President Obama, with The Tech Talent Project, the American Enterprise Institute, the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University, and New America that released a report outlining the steps state and local leaders can take with their tech modernization efforts.
Ohio: "The state legislature recently expanded its Ohio Afterschool Child Enrichment (ACE) educational savings account program, which provides qualifying families with a $1,000 credit per child for enrichment and educational activities."
Jobs Report: Employers added 253,000 jobs last month and unemployment fell to 3.4%.
Washington Post: "Most of the country’s missing workers are back, propelling the economy."
The Covid–19 Crisis Is Officially Over and Has Reshaped American Life: Via WSJ.
4-Day School Weeks Gain Steam: Via Axios.
"School districts nationwide are rapidly adopting 4-day school weeks as they seek to cut costs and fill teacher vacancies by dangling 3-day weekends — despite research showing meaningful learning losses that result."
"Nationally, 850 school districts — representing thousands of individual schools — have dropped the 5th day of instruction, up from 650 districts in 2019."
One 12-state study, led by Paul Thompson, an economics professor at Oregon State University and leading scholar of 4dsw policies, found "reductions in both math and English/language arts achievement" in districts that adopted the 4-day schedule. Another found lower math scores in kids who attend 4-day programs, plus higher absenteeism and lower on-time graduation rates."
Elementary Instructional Planning Guide: New resource from ERS.
10 Tips for Hosting a Good Salon Dinner Discussion: Good list from Adam Thierer.
Eligibility of 1.4M Locations for BEAD Funding at Stake as NTIA Weighs a Critical Decision: Approximately 1.4 million locations currently eligible for funding in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) rural broadband funding program would not be eligible if NTIA were to change its definition of “reliable” broadband, according to an analysis by telecom consultancy Vantage Point Solutions.
Progress in Spending Federal K-12 Covid Aid: State by State: Via FutureEd
"States and school districts reported spending about $4.4 billion in federal Covid-recovery funding in the month of March, bringing total expenditures to more than $95.7 billion—or just over half of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, according to the latest federal data."
"FutureEd’s state-by-state breakdown of the data shows that spending is uneven. Schools in four states–Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Washington–has spent more than three fifths of their allotment, while Washington, D.C., has barely used one fifth. In 23 states, schools have spent at least half their total allotment, while only D.C. and Wisconsin have spent less than a third. At least 13 states recorded $100 million in spending in March, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia."
Post Pandemic, It’s Time for a Bold Overhaul of U.S. Public Education, Starting Now: Via Bill Hite and Kirsten Baesler:
"Education leaders must be brave and stand up and admit publicly and repeatedly that this system just isn’t working and discuss what is needed to improve it. Policymakers must revamp our education system’s faulty design and the failed policies that prevent us from trying new approaches."
"We believe that this can be achieved by making the future of learning more personalized, focused on the needs of individual learners, with success measured by progress and proficiency instead of point-in-time test scores."
"KnowledgeWorks, in a partnership with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and educators across the state, developed the North Dakota Learning Continuum, which defines a set of learning expectations for students participating in a competency-based learning model and details what they should know and be able to demonstrate, both during their K-12 career and beyond."
It's Monday!: Head into the week with the enthusiasm of this kid.
Michigan Boy Invites Entire Kindergarten Class to Adoption Hearing: Via ABC News.