We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
CDC says schools may be safe to open
Good news for America’s exhausted homeschool moms and dads: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says schools may be safe to open. According to a new study, K-12 schools that were open for in-person instruction did not contribute significantly to a spike in COVID-19 cases in their communities.
While nursing homes, workplaces, and other areas where people gather in close quarters have increased coronavirus cases, the CDC report says classrooms simply don’t produce that type of “rapid spread.” Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed with the CDC’s findings, noting that “it’s less likely for a child to get infected in a school setting” than out in the broader community.
If more schools do begin to reopen safely, they’ll have to continue to follow CDC guidelines. The report explains, “all recommended mitigation measures in schools must continue: requiring universal face mask use, increasing physical distance . . . increasing room air ventilation, and expanding screening testing to rapidly identify and isolate asymptomatic infected individuals.”
Though many schools have been slow to return to in-person instruction, thanks in part to pressure from teachers’ unions, this new study could be good news for school children (and their parents). The pandemic has greatly affected children’s mental health, and opening schools may be just one way to give them a return to normalcy. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Wall Street app bans small investors after boost in GameStop stock
Wall Street appeared to be outsmarted by a mob of investors this week and faced over $1 billion in stock market losses. The mayhem began after stocks for crumbling company GameStop skyrocketed, alarming leading investment funds like Citadel that had betted huge money against the video-game stock. They soon discovered that their plan to short the stock had been uncovered by a group of small investors in an online forum. The Reddit forum discussed Wall Street’s plan to bet against GameStop and devised a plan to collectively invest in the stock, driving up prices and enriching themselves overnight. Thus, multimillion-dollar investment companies saw astronomical losses that they were forced to counter by also investing in the same stocks they had already bet against.
The hedge funds then took swift and cutting action against small investors, convincing trading platforms like Robinhood to ban further investments in GameStop as well as a handful of other affected companies like Nokia and AMC. As a result, the stocks fell as quickly as they rose, crushing gains by small-time investors and allowing the richest firms to regain some of their lost wealth. Additionally, Wall Street is now receiving support from financial regulators, and even from the White House, a move that many are comparing to the 2008 Wall Street bailout that infuriated struggling average Americans.
In the words of one commentator for Fox Business, “Wall Street now wants to change the rules of the game because a bunch of people with accounts ranging from $500 to $2500 are taking down the billionaires.” Politicians echoed this sentiment, with both New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Texas Senator Ted Cruz condemning Wall Street’s strategic ban as a form of open-market collusion. —Mariel Lindsay
2021 March for Life goes virtual
The March for Life is taking place virtually this year, as organizers worry an uptick in coronavirus cases may make a mass gathering in Washington, D.C. unsafe. The anti-abortion march, which normally gathers hundreds of thousands of marchers, will bring just “a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country” to the National Mall this year, with others attending the event online. The live stream will be available on the March for Life website starting Friday at noon.
Speakers at the virtual event will include Tim Tebow, former NFL quarterback; Lila Rose, president of Live Action; and former NFL player Benjamin Watson and his wife, Kirsten. (The couple recently produced a documentary about abortion called Divided Hearts of America, which Watson said he hopes will present both sides of the issue while ultimately “coming back to our convictions that we need to protect life.”)
The annual march takes place near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the country on January 22, 1973. The march identifies itself as “the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration” and gathers pro-life activists from across the ideological spectrum. Politicians speaking this year include both Republicans and Democrats.
In past years, former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump have spoken at events. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, however, have been vocal about their support for abortion. This year, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the White House issued a statement affirming Biden and Harris’ commitment to “codifying Roe v Wade.” This week, Biden signed a memorandum committing to rescind the Mexico City Policy that stops the U.S. from funding overseas abortions and urging Health and Human Services Department to consider rescinding the Trump administration rule blocking health care providers in Title X family planning program from referring patients for abortions. —MFS
Child suicides double during school closings
Child and adolescent suicides are on the rise since the start of pandemic-related school closures, doubling numbers from previous years. As a result, educators and pediatricians are speaking out, warning about the dangerous decline in youth mental health when isolated from school and social activity.
One hospital resident pediatrician in Chicago expressed the depth and gravity of the mental health crises that children are enduring due to loneliness, isolation, and falling behind in school, claiming to have “witnessed patients becoming increasingly withdrawn and depressed . . . hospitalized at alarming rates for mental health crises.” She likewise points to research and data by the CDC, which demonstrate a significant rise in pediatric mental health-related emergency room visits since the pandemic.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the largest school districts in the nation, the rise of student suicides among children as young as nine became so alarming that public school authorities decided to reopen schools despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. In the words of the Las Vegas superintendent, “When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the Covid numbers we need to look at anymore. We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them. They’ve got to start seeing some movement, some hope.”
A clinical director for a nonprofit that works to prevent suicide explained the devastating effects of school closures on children by noting that schools are truly “the nexus of adolescent life.” —ML
Good News of the Week
Locals support struggling small businesses through crowdfunding
While small businesses struggle to stay afloat amid a prolonged pandemic and consequent closings and bankruptcies, crowdfunding has provided an invaluable glimmer of hope for those beloved institutions whose loyal customers (as well as total strangers) donate to their survival.
The owner of a bar on Long Island has shared his story, saying that he is “forever indebted” to those who raised nearly $20,000 via the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe.
A father of three and recently diagnosed with cancer, Anthony Carino was initially hesitant to take the money because he is “not the type of person who's comfortable asking or taking,” adding that, “the truth is, I really don't know what I would've done otherwise. The money in the GoFundMe made a world of difference for us."
Another desperate small business owner, prohibited from opening his businesses, likewise turned to GoFundMe, even contacting a radio show host about his predicament. The radio show host shared his story and donations began to flood in. "The amount of support we've gotten has been incredible,” he said. “There's really nothing stronger than people helping people. It's such a powerful thing." —ML
Watch of the Week
If you are feeling a waning commitment to your new year’s resolutions, take some encouragement from Sir Anthony Hopkins, who celebrated a personal victory at the end of 2020.