Epidemic Ideas Miss Target; UConn Evades on Race

Again last week most of the coronavirus-related deaths in Connecticut — 70 percent — occurred in nursing homes. What was the policy response?

The teacher unions demanded that all schools terminate in-person classes and convert to “remote learning,” which for many students– those who need schools most — means no learning, and which for most other students means much less learning.

And New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker called for the state to retreat to stricter closure of commerce.

These responses were plainly irrelevant to what has always been the epidemic’s primary threat — to the frail elderly and the chronically ill. With their weaker immune systems and their already strained health, they will be, wherever they are housed, far more vulnerable than children in school or diners in restaurants. But in pursuit of protecting them can the frail elderly and chronically ill be isolated more than they already are without breaking what remains of their connection to their families and their desire to live?

Closing schools, restaurants, and stores won’t change the virus fatality rate in nursing homes. It probably will have little effect on fatalities generally. It will inflict much more damage on education and the sick economy.

Governor Lamont is trying to avoid such a retreat. But how long can he resist the worsening panic and often self-serving clamor, especially when news organizations fan hysteria, portraying what is mainly a threat to nursing home residents as a threat to civilization itself?

While nothing was made of it, the governor’s position got strong support last week from an essay published in The New York Times by two professors at Columbia University — Dr. Donna L. Farber, who teaches immunology and surgery, and Dr. Thomas Connors, who teaches pediatrics. The doctors wrote that separating children from their normal social environment deprives their immune systems of the crucial “training” they get from exposure to infectious organisms.

The doctors wrote: “The longer we need to socially distance our children in the midst of uncontrolled viral spread, the greater the possibility that their immune systems will miss learning important immunological lessons (what’s harmful, what’s not) that we usually acquire during childhood.

“There is already well-justified concern about the impact of prolonged virtual learning on social and intellectual development, especially for elementary and middle-school children. The sooner we can safely restore the normal experiences of childhood, interacting with other children and — paradoxically — with pathogens and diverse microorganisms, the better we can ensure their ability to thrive as adults.”

If those doctors are just Trump crazies, how did they get into Columbia and The Times?

But there’s one reason to be glad of the epidemic. It has caused the University of Connecticut to cancel the 3½-hour retreat it had planned for dozens of its executives with race monger Robin DiAngelo. She was to be paid $20,000 to tell the academics that white people don’t want to talk about race because most of them are racists.

Racist or not, many white people might be reluctant to talk about race simply because expressing disagreement about anything involving race risks getting called racist. Not since the Red scare of the early 1950s have such slander and intimidation worked as well in public discourse as they do today. Back then this was a tactic of the political right. Today the political left revels in it.

But the cancellation of DiAngelo’s visit shouldn’t get UConn off the hook. In August University President Thomas C. Katsouleas made a show of promising to crack down on racism at the university, but nothing came of it, even though a few students and a professor or two this year made racial accusations against the university and students they did not identify. These accusations have not yet been pursued in public, where the university, its employees, and students could be held accountable to the state.

So if UConn is serious about uprooting racism, it should start holding weekly public hearings about racism on campus, demanding specifics. Exactly who are the racists and exactly which policies are racist? The accusers and the accused should speak.

Or does everybody at UConn just want to keep striking righteous poses?

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Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.

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