Lilly Altavena reported that people are furious about not being able to have their graduation ceremonies. How silly! Keiv Soliman doesn’t want to receive his diploma joined on-stage by a hologram of his principal.
But as the coronavirus continues to cast a shadow on American traditions, making large gatherings like graduation ceremonies dangerous, a virtual ceremony might be the Highland High School senior’s only chance at pomp and circumstance.
Soliman’s school, in Gilbert, Arizona, is staging an elaborate virtual graduation ceremony, where Highland seniors will be filmed walking across a stage to receive their diploma.
Their principal will read student names from a different room. Using “holographic technology,” video editors will then edit the ceremony to make it appear as if everyone was in the same room together.
But Soliman’s friends don’t want a studio-produced graduation, he said. They want a real ceremony. Soliman started a petition, which has more than 600 signatures so far, asking for an in-person ceremony — with masks and social distancing.
“You can’t really replace the real thing with anything but the real thing,” Soliman said.
Graduation ceremonies have become a political battleground for schools, students and parents in the wake of school closures caused by the coronavirus. Some believe they can have a ceremony safely while others are accusing the high-schoolers and their parents of being selfish during a global pandemic.
“This is much bigger than a graduation ceremony,” said Reed Burris, a Gilbert resident opposed to in-person ceremonies. “You should be pushing for people to stay inside.”
Soliman’s petition is one of more than 500 on Change.org, pleading for the preservation of in-person ceremonies across the U.S.
Not the real thing, but… Students will cross the finish line to high school with a lap at the Daytona 500In Knoxville, Tennessee, district leaders backpedaled on a plan to hold graduation without guests when parents revolted.
“There’s a lot more involved in these ceremonies than a student getting a paper diploma and turning their tassel,” Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said.
The discourse shares similarities with the fervent demonstrations staged for and against reopening America’s businesses, as well as the debate over the use of masks in public places. The rancor underscores an increasingly fractured conversation around COVID-19.
Uncertainty looms over ceremonies
Arizona’s stay-at-home order expires Friday. The governor isstill encouraging social distancing, but nothing in his new order appears to forbid gatherings.
The Arizona Department of Health Services recommended on Monday “that mass gatherings (such as graduations, concerts) are not held at this time.”
Even still, the agency outlined steps for attendees and organizers to take if they planned to forge ahead with a ceremony:
- Anyone sick should stay home.
- Attendees should stay six feet away from each other.
- Anyone in a high-risk group should not attend, including older adults and anyone with a serious underlying medical condition.
- Attendees should not touch their eyes, nose or mouth and should use hand sanitizer after leaving the event. They should also wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds upon returning home.
- Attendees should cover their faces at the event.
- They should not borrow or rent graduation regalia.
Major Arizona school districts have either postponed ceremonies or have decided to hold virtual ceremonies.
Chandler Unified, the second-largest school district in the state, wrote to families on May 5 that the district is working on a plan to hold graduation ceremonies at each high school “while still adhering to the recommended CDC guidelines.”
At the ceremonies, students would be seated six feet apart and the audience would likely be limited. The ceremonies would be livestreamed for families to watch.
One superintendent in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, initially resisted the idea of a virtual graduation because it made the emotional event seem so impersonal.
Back in early April, Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Phil Ertl said he hoped to just keep pushing back the date of an in-person ceremony for as long as it took to do it safely. But by early May, his district had gone the route of many others, with a planned video celebration set for June 7.
“We are also still hanging on to July 26 in hopes that we can do something in person,” Ertl said this week. “So much is changing. To cancel that date right now doesn’t make sense to me.”
Pleas for the show to go on
People in at least nine school districts across Arizona have started Change.org petitions to hold in-person graduation ceremonies.
After Arizona Gov. DougDucey announced that businesses could start to reopen, a group of Arizona seniors made a video pleading for an in-person ceremony.
“There are ways we can make this happen,” one of the students in the video said. “We deserve a graduation.”
The video was posted on Twitter and received nearly 100 retweets. But some who responded to the tweet scoffed at the idea.
“You’re asking to put your friends’ parents at risk of dying so you can feel accomplished for a completely normal and baseline accomplishment,” one Twitter user responded.
Others have tried to come up with alternatives to graduation.
Beth Obermeyer, who works with high school students at New Foundation church in Goodyear, held driveway graduations for seniors. Using a megaphone, church staff surprised students by showing up on their driveway and holding impromptu celebrations, six feet apart.
“We were trying to think of a way to make our high school seniors feel better because they’ve had such a rough spring,” Obermeyer said.
No prom, either: So, these families toasted a high school couple in their own backyard prom
In Great Falls, Montana, district officials said they did not want the coronavirus to end the tradition of graduating seniors’ ringing a school bell. Officials are leaving the bell in the school’s parking lot for students to ring.
If students choose to ring the bell, they are asked to maintain social distancing, wear the supplied disposable gloves and sanitize hands before and after ringing the bell. The school is setting up a hand-sanitizing station.
‘We’re not taking this lightly’: Small Montana school to be among first in US to reopen
Some have said schools are being too cautious.
A group of Mountain View High parents in Mesa, Arizona, are throwing a senior salute parade for grads. Seniors on May 16 will line up six feet apart on the sidewalk of a Mesa street for cars to drive by in celebration.
Destinee Mack, a parent and one of the event’s organizers, initially asked the district if parents could drop their student off in the high school’s parking lot so the students could safely line up.
Mesa Public Schools denied that request, Mack said. Mesa did not respond to a request for comment.
“I do think there’s a risk, but I do also think that if we follow the social distancing protocols . I think we can still do this in a socially responsible way,” Mack said.
Harvard epidemiologist: Beware COVID-19’s second wave this fall
Len Strazewski writer for the AMA questioned whether sunshine and warm weather bring an end to face masks, physical distancing and other pandemic mitigation tactics? Several states may be easing stay-at-home orders, but the joy of the release of COVID-19 restrictions may be short-lived. And that is what we saw last weekend here in Ocean City, Maryland. The crowds were amazing!
People believe the talk of the second wave, which I became more aware when one of my cosmetic surgery patients, scheduled for her surgery rescheduled for September just cancelled her surgery due to her belief that there would be a second wave of the COVID-19 disease.
Featured updates: COVID-19
Track the evolving situation with the AMA’s library of the most up-to-date resources from JAMA, CDC and WHO.
Summer may slow the spread of the coronavirus a bit, but it will back by fall with a second wave that looks a lot like the first wave, said a leading epidemiology researcher. And the immunity that will bring a real end to the pandemic may be a long time coming.
Marc Lipsitch, DPhil, is professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. He discussed the prospects for mitigating a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential approaches to faster development of a vaccine, with JAMA Editor-in-Chief Howard Bauchner, MD, on Dr. Bauchner’s podcast, “Conversations with Dr. Bauchner.”
“Almost every government is talking about lifting control measures. Not every government, but many, because of the economic burdens. Given the fairly high caseloads that we have in the United States, that’s a really risky thing to do right now,” Lipsitch said.
“I hope that the summer weather will help,” he added, but his research indicates that the warmer weather will only reduce transmission rates by about 20%. “That’s only enough to slow it down, but not enough to stop it.”
Jurisdictions may learn more about which tactics work best in mitigating transmission during this period and may learn whether some mitigation tactics such as school closings are valuable.
“But the downside,” Lipsitch warned, “is that many jurisdictions will have a plan to open up but not a plan to reclose, leading to more situations like New York, New Orleans and Detroit where there’s extreme strains on the heath care.”
Learn more with the AMA about the four signposts to safely reopen America. Also consult the AMA’s new physician practice guide to reopening.
Stay up to speed on the fast-moving pandemic with the AMA’s COVID-19 resource center, which offers a library of the most up-to-date resources from JAMA Network™, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. Also check out the JAMA Network COVID-19 resource center.
Testing will be important, Lipsitch said, and medical researchers need to learn more about infection rates. Preliminary research indicates that rates may vary widely around the country and a real understanding may have to wait until comprehensive serological testing, he explained.
Local leaders will need to understand more about who gets infected before they can make good decisions about openings and staying open. Sociological factors such as poverty and transportation maybe important determinants in understanding infection and serological surveys may help in understanding who gets infected and which intervention and mitigation tactics are most valuable.
Fall will be difficult
Lipsitch said that despite hopes that summer will bring continued relief from the spread of the virus, “fall will be very much like the spring,” and the usual pattern of coronaviruses is likely continue with new transmission peaking in November and cases peaking in December.
“We will have a harder time controlling coronavirus in the fall … and we will all be very tired of social distancing and other tactics. The hard thing will be to keep enough of it to protect our ICUs and keep the number of cases from flaring up,” he said.
Controlling the virus may call for a return to the tactics that have worked in spring and a continued focus on maintaining resources such as personal protective equipment and increasing viral testing.
Illinois mandated ‘Stay-at-home’ orders, nearby Iowa didn’t: here’s what happened
Healthday reporter, Dennis Thompson noted that Statewide stay-at-home orders appear to help slow the spread of COVID-19 above and beyond other steps like banning large gatherings and closing non-essential businesses.
That’s the suggestion from a new cross-border study.
Certain counties in Iowa—one of five states that didn’t issue a stay-at-home order for its citizens—experienced a 30% greater increase in COVID-19 cases compared to counties right across the border in Illinois, which did issue such an order, the researchers reported.
“It does line up with a lot of other evidence that’s coming up from other national studies,” said senior researcher George Wehby, a professor of health management and policy with the University of Iowa College of Public Health. “Overall, there’s evidence the more restrictive measures were associated with greater declines in COVID case growth.”
For this study, Wehby and a colleague compared COVID-19 rates for counties on either side of the Iowa/Illinois border. “Border counties serve as nice controls because they tend to be somewhat similar,” Wehby said.
As the pandemic unfolded, Iowa issued a series of social distancing orders. The state banned gatherings and closed bars and restaurants, then closed non-essential businesses, and then closed all primary and secondary schools.
But Iowa did not issue a broad shelter-in-place order directing residents to stay home unless absolutely necessary, a step taken by Illinois on March 21.
The researchers found that the addition of a stay-at-home order was associated with a slower growth of cases in seven Illinois counties compared with eight neighboring counties in Iowa.
Within a month of the Illinois stay-at-home order, that state had nearly five fewer COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents in border counties, compared with their neighbors across the line in Iowa, according to the report published online May 15 in JAMA Network Open.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said, “It is not surprising that when a stay-at-home order is issued that you see a decrement in cases. The virus requires social interaction to transmit and a stay-at-home order delimits social interaction.” Adalja was not involved with the new study.
“However,” he continued, “the key metric is not necessarily the number of cases but the hospital stress load induced by the cases. Stay-at-home orders ideally should be issued with the primary aim of preserving hospital capacity.”
It’s important to know which social distancing measures work best as the world refines its response to COVID-19, Wehby said.
“Understanding what might be working more or less is a key question,” Wehby said. “This study only adds a little more information into the bucket of evidence that needs to be accumulated.”
For some unknown reason, stay-at-home orders appear to be associated with less transmission of the coronavirus, according to these results.
“These shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, there is something about them that seems to add above and beyond just closing restaurants,” Wehby said.
“Do people behave differently even when they go out under a stay-at-home order?” Wehby pondered. “Are you more cautious? Do you keep a larger distance? Are you more likely to wear a mask or avoid being close to people? People with more health risks, are they more likely to stay home following these orders?”
A COVID-19 survivor’s warning: Don’t rush back to normal. It doesn’t exist
The problem with recovery from COVID is that it may never be normal. Cortlynn Stark of the Kansas City Star reported that Stacy Jackson given birth five times. She’s not being dramatic. She could barely breathe.
“My body felt like someone had beat me and drugged me and then hung me up and beat and drugged me again,” Jackson said.
She had COVID-19.
Two of her uncles also later tested positive and were hospitalized. One of them, Marvin Jackson, died.
After nearly being placed on a ventilator, her kidneys beginning to fail, and spending five days unconscious, Jackson survived. Now she has a warning for Kansas City: Don’t rush to go back to normal. It doesn’t exist.
A positive test
Stacy Jackson started to feel sick on March 23. By the 26th, she tried to see her primary care physician. Staff asked Jackson, who also has Type 2 diabetes, over the phone if she was running a temperature. Jackson didn’t know, so staff came out with a thermometer to take her temperature. It was 104 degrees. Her doctor couldn’t see her.
From there, she went to the emergency room at Truman Medical Center. She was given a cocktail of drugs to help, what she called the “COVID super pack,” and a test for the coronavirus. Her test results would be ready in two days.
March 27 was her 21st wedding anniversary. Jackson and her husband had already taken the day off. She spent the day in bed, sick. She lost her senses of taste and smell. Her appetite was gone. Jackson spent the next day in bed as well.
Two days after her anniversary, she received her positive test result. Her condition continued to deteriorate and she went back to the hospital for a couple hours.
“I was scared to death,” Jackson said.
It was still in the early days of the virus in Kansas City. Fewer than 300 people had tested positive in the metro and no one in the city had died of it, according to statistics tracked by The Star.
By March 31, Jackson was struggling to breathe. Nearly 500 people across the metro had tested positive. “I just told myself, ‘you’re not gonna die,'” Jackson said. She told her husband he had to take her back to the hospital. He dropped her off outside. He couldn’t go in, of course. Health care facilities had already begun limiting visitors.
Jackson said she thinks the lack of oxygen took a toll on her brain as the disease took its toll on her mentally and physically. She was placed in the ICU and was in and out of consciousness from March 31 to April 4. Sometime during those five days, she became aware of two doctors in her room talking to each other: She may have to be put on a ventilator.
“I remember shaking my head no,” Jackson said. In a phone call a month later, she said she worried that if she was put on a ventilator, she wouldn’t survive. A study of patients in a New York placed on ventilators found that just 3% left the hospital alive. A quarter of them died. About 72% were still in the hospital.
On April 5, her fever broke and she started becoming more responsive. But every time she got up, “it was like running around Kansas City seven times,” Jackson said. By this time, more than 700 people tested positive in the metro.
For the first time since March 31st, she was able to call her husband. But talking was still painful. “He said ‘babe don’t talk, I’m just so glad I’m able to hear you,'” Jackson said. She left the hospital three days later.
A solitary battle
Jackson is used to being surrounded by family. But she hadn’t seen her mother since before Kansas City’s stay-at-home order went into effect on March 24. The month before, her mother, who lives at an assisted living facility in Overland Park, was in the hospital battling the flu and pneumonia. Jackson was by her side.
“We are a face to face family,” Jackson said. “When people are stricken with disease in our family, we pray together.” But no one could be by her side. Or the sides of her two sick uncles.
COVID-19 is isolating. Instead of family members by her hospital bed, she was surrounded by nurses and doctors—genuine and caring, she said—covered in personal protective equipment. One nurse, Jackson said, told her that if she left the hospital, she would be one of the first to leave the COVID-19 dedicated floor alive.
Her uncle Marvin Jackson died on April 23—one of three to die that day and one of 106 people to die across the metro since the outbreak began.
Never the same
When Jackson left the hospital on April 8, staff played the “Rocky” theme song for her. At home, four of her six children and her husband were waiting for her.
Her oldest two children have their own apartments in Kansas City. The middle two were home from college. Her youngest, twin boys, are seniors in high school. She was on oxygen support for two weeks. But she’s worried about reopening.
Beginning May 15, Kansas City businesses can reopen under a “10/10/10” rule. In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly’s phased reopening plan last week includes rules that businesses opening must maintain 6 feet of separation between customers and limit gatherings to less than 10. On the Missouri side, Gov. Mike Parson ordered businesses to maintain social distancing, but did not limit social gatherings.
“We’re risking millions of lives for comfortability,” Jackson said. “We need to stop the madness. I would rather have a light bill that I can’t pay than lose my life.”
She wants people to take the virus seriously and respect the severity. With most of her immediate and large family in the Kansas City area, they often have large gatherings of up to 45 people at her home.
Jackson said her family would often rent out four tables at a Japanese steakhouse on the County Club Plaza.
And even though she has cable, and a number of streaming services, she would still go to movie theaters.
“We can’t go back to the way it was,” Jackson said. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to a restaurant and feel safe.”
She couldn’t throw the usual Mother’s Day brunch for her aunts, cousins and sister-in-law either. By May 9, the day before Mother’s Day, 2,900 people tested positive and 146 people in the metro died of COVID-19. More than 1.3 million people across the country tested positive and more than 78,000 people have died.
“I value life a little bit more and how precious life is,” Jackson said. “We could be gone in the blink of an eye. We need to do everything in our power not to make it worse.”
Jackson is thankful to be alive.
74% of people are worried social distancing will not be followed as lockdown is eased
A University College London reported on a study that nearly eight in 10 people are worried about COVID-19 infections rising and people not adhering to social distancing as lockdown is eased, according to UCL’s COVID-19 study.
The study, launched in the week before the lockdown, is the UK’s largest on adult wellbeing and mental health during the coronavirus epidemic and has over 90,000 participants who report their feelings about the lockdown, government advice, along with wellbeing and mental health.
It is funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Findings are broken down by age, gender, income, those living with children, those who are keyworkers and those living in rural areas and whether people live alone or not.
This week’s findings, which focus on how people have been feeling between 4-10 May, find that economic concerns about recession and unemployment levels rising also rank highly. Additionally, around one in three people express concern about pollution increasing, social cohesion decreasing, and crime levels rising.
Lead author, Dr. Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “Our findings show that concern about increasing cases of COVID-19 are consistent across all ages, but concern about hospitals becoming overwhelmed is higher in younger adults, while concern about people not adhering to social distancing is higher in older adults.
“Concerns about unemployment and recession are consistent across ages, but concern about crime rising is higher in older adults, while concern about pollution increasing and social cohesion decreasing is slightly higher in adults under the age of 30.”
This week’s report also finds that half of people do not feel in control of their future plans with 23% of people and 39% of people feeling the same about their mental health and employment respectively.
Dr. Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) added: “This week we also found 50 % of our participants do not currently feel in control of their future plans, and many feel unable to manage their mental health and are worried about their future employment.
“However, in terms of physical health, eight out of ten people feel in control and the same can be said for their marriage or relationship. When we compare ‘sense of control’ across age groups, younger adults report feeling less in control across all domains. “The study team has also received support from Wellcome to launch an international network of longitudinal studies called the COVID-MINDS Network. Through the network, dozens of scientists and clinicians are coming together internationally to collate results from mental health studies running in countries around the world and compare findings. The initiative will support the launching of new mental health studies in other countries and show whether actions taken in specific countries are helping to protect mental health.
Unfortunately, I have to agree with this study, that is, as the lockdowns are eased, people will not take responsibility for their actions and ignore social distancing. As I mentioned from the beginning, people are stupid and are only concerned about what they want rather what is best for the general public and this disease. I do understand that many want to get back to work so that they can save their businesses and support themselves, their family and their employees.
And lastly, Happy Memorial Day Weekend and remember why we celebrate this day and those who gave their lives to protect us, our country and our freedoms!