Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

Here’s a note from TPM Reader GH. It echoes DB’s points about the social effects of school closures. I print this not as something in favor of school closures (I can see the opposite argument) as simply a description of their impact …

I’m a parent of 3 children in Seattle Public Schools and am an employee of Amazon and have been working from home for close to two weeks now. I think there were two things that brought on the decision to close the schools. First, I think teacher absenteeism was approaching a breaking point and they could see the writing on the wall. But secondly, the equity lens. Many of our lower-income students live in multi-generational households. They were, correctly in my opinion, starting to stay home.

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Here’s an update from TPM Reader DB from the Greater San Diego metro. Let’s understand collectively that each of these notes is a snapshot, not necessarily representative of what is happening in other areas or addressing every issue. Taken together though they can give us some partial understanding of what is unfolding in our country …

As usual TPM is out ahead of the curve, educating readers on pros, cons, and consequences of school closings to slow the spread of COVID-19. It was with this foundation that I followed the five (so far) very thoughtful emails from my daughter’s school district over the last few weeks.

Things in the San Diego area just changed suddenly. On Thursday evening my daughter’s district was going to stay open with the email citing the services offered by the schools. On Friday morning, the district decided to close until April 6, which would be the end of spring break, with the email citing the need to limit community transmission. I’m sure the decision was motivated by announcement that the Los Angeles and San Diego Unified school districts are closing. The executive order by the Governor of California issued on Thursday has had a big impact. It looks like it is governors who are stepping up.

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Let me return again to the issue of school closures. Though I’m talking about New York City I’m giving this focus here because the issues are applicable to communities around the country and most or all will be facing these questions in the near future.

(For those who are coming to this as the first thing I’ve written on this subject which you’ve read and think I’m not addressing various issues, I invite you to read this post from Thursday March 12th.)

The most constructive point that has come out of my conversations with readers and also stakeholders either in New York or other parts of the country is that the decision-making can break down when we’re thinking about it in zero sum or binary terms. For instance, TPM Reader DW explained that he can keep his kid home (and plans to do so) but many other parents don’t have that option. As I explained in my response, this is a very good argument for switching to offering both remote and in-person instruction. TPM Reader TP notes rightly that the close or not close discussion can leave out a lot of options for what amounts to triaging different parts of the community that are able to do different things.

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Before signing off after this chaotic day, let me make a final point about the schools. I’ve written very critically today about the decision – perplexing to many – to keep open the New York City public schools. I fear the Mayor is making a grave mistake. That is not because I think he’s making a bad public health decision but because he doesn’t seem to be approaching it as a public health decision at all. He’s looking at it through the prism of the city Department of Education which has many critical equities it manages. But public health, certainly not in this crisis context, is not one of them.

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From TPM Reader MS

I have rooted for Mayor de Blasio since he took a strong stand against stop-and-frisk and for a bold affordable housing plan in 2013. I’ve been an observer of him for many years from inside and outside city government. And I am completely perplexed by his very-in-character decision to not close the schools.

Until today I was on the fence about closing the schools, and have two public school kids myself who need a lot of supervision. But after talking to other parents and some teachers, it’s just inexplicable. (I will acknowledge that I can weather a school closing, as I’m a white collar worker with remote capability and some control over my schedule.)

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I say ‘chaos’ in the title. But I remind myself and you that everybody here is working in a frightening, unprecedented situation. Here from TPM Reader XX in Washington State …

I see your email about de Blasio being lost …

I’ve written in a couple of times recently about this. I work with schools in Washington. In the heart of the problem. District leadership had been looking to health departments for guidance. They simply didn’t get it in an actionable way. I hope someone with good investigative skills does a deep dive into the Snohomish county health department’s response. Woefully lacking or criminally negligent. Or worse.

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New York state and city officials have been pressing the FDA for days to sign off both on new tests but also automated testing. They seem to have finally gotten the authorization today. They’ve also gotten the sign-off to have the state approve testing additional capacity within the state. I know I’m focusing a lot on New York. It’s a location of major spread. But I’m also doing so because the issues are relevant to and often paralleled by the same things happening in states around the country.

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We’re getting our first breakdown of mortality figures from the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy. They should focus our attention on protecting and isolating the vulnerable. Helen Branswell, a reporter for StatNews who has been a critical source of information through this crisis, is sharing information from a teleconference briefing hosted by JAMA. It’s with a top clinician in Lombardy. One slide gives a breakdown of the epidemic by age.

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