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measles

Ten Cases of Measles Confirmed in Florida Elementary School Outbreak

On Tuesday, the Broward County schools superintendent announced that seven children at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, Florida, have tested positive for measles. According to the Florida Department of Health, ten cases have been reported statewide.

Lawmakers and health officials are urging parents and state officials nationwide to take extra precautions to safeguard their children.

In a letter last week, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said the health department is “deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.” The letter also stated that “up to 90% of individuals without immunity will contract measles if exposed.” However, “Individuals with a history of prior infection or vaccination who have received the full series of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) immunization are 98% protected and are unlikely to contract measles.”

“Because your child may have already been exposed, you should watch your child for signs and symptoms of the disease, including a rash that often develops on the face and neck before spreading to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include high fever, which can reach 105°F, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. All children presenting with symptoms of illness should not attend school until symptoms have fully subsided without medication.”

According to the most recent data from the Florida Department of Health, nine out of the state’s measles cases have been reported in Broward County, and all of those cases have involved children. Two of the children are younger than four years old.

The Florida Department of Health released a memo to healthcare workers, reminding them to report any suspected cases.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) lists measles as one of the world’s most contagious diseases, which spreads through respiratory droplets. The virus remains active and infectious in the air and surfaces for up to two hours.

“Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. It can cause severe disease, complications, and even death. Measles can affect anyone but is most common in children. Measles infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and a rash all over the body.”

Its complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection causing brain swelling), severe diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. “Measles itself also weakens the immune system and can make the body ‘forget’ how to protect itself against infections, leaving children extremely vulnerable.”

The organization also recommends that all children get the measles, mumps, and rubella MMR vaccine. Due to widespread vaccination efforts, the United States had eliminated measles in 2000. It is unclear what the vaccination status was for the children under four.

US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, who represents the city of Weston, urged Florida Surgeon General Ladapo to declare a public health emergency and make it a requirement that unvaccinated children stay home during the outbreak.

In contrast to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, Ladapo’s advisory suggests that parents of unvaccinated children make their own decisions about whether or not to send them to school. The CDC advises unvaccinated individuals to remain home for at least 21 days after exposure, around the time it takes for symptoms to manifest.

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In addition to demanding that DeSantis do more to protect Floridians, Wasserman Schultz demanded that Ladapo resign or be fired.

“I would have thought he would have stepped in here or made sure there was some communication to ensure that irresponsible guidance isn’t issued by his surgeon general. And the fact that he hasn’t taken action to roll that back is representative of Ron DeSantis’s disinterest in keeping the public’s health safe.”

On Monday, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Chief Medical Officer Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, issued a statement responding to the outbreaks.

“Measles can be particularly serious for children and potentially deadly. At least 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the United States who contract measles is hospitalized. Nearly 1 out of 20 children develop pneumonia, the most frequent cause of measles-related death in young children. Approximately 1 child out of every 1,000 with measles will suffer brain injury, potentially causing convulsions, deafness, or intellectual disability. For unvaccinated babies who contract measles, 1 in 600 can develop a fatal neurological complication.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but is still the most easily transmitted human virus presently in circulation. Thankfully, by following established public health principles, Americans can make informed decisions, prevent outbreaks, and protect our communities.

Vaccination is the best and safest way to protect children. Two doses of measles vaccine are more than 97% effective in preventing the disease entirely, and vaccinated people may continue to engage in routine activities even if they are exposed to someone with the disease.”

A total of 58 cases were reported last year, and 35 measles cases have already been reported in several states this year. With just 91.7% of Florida’s kindergartners vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella, the state is falling short of the national 95% vaccination rate target.

books

Texas County Considers Closing Its Libraries after Federal Judge Orders Banned Books Returned to Shelves

A federal judge ordered a rural Texas county to return 12 banned books back to library shelves, and now the county is considering closing its libraries altogether.

The list of banned books included “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings.

Seven local residents sued county officials for removing the books, citing their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Federal Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the Llano County Library System had to reinstate the books into circulation at its three library branches.

A meeting agenda for the Commissioners Court of Llano County shows plans for a discussion to “continue or cease operations of the current physical Llano County library system pending further guidance from the Federal Courts.” The meeting is set for Thursday.

The agenda also lists discussions “regarding the continued employment and/or status of the Llano County Library System employees and the feasibility of the use of the library premises by the public.”

Leila Green Little, one of the residents suing the county, emailed supporters to attend the meeting and voice their concerns.

“We may not get another opportunity to save our library system and, more importantly, the public servants who work there.”

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According to the lawsuit, in 2021, county officials allegedly removed library board members and replaced them with new members who would review the content of all library books. Several books were removed from libraries, and access to an e-book service was revoked shortly after.

In his decision, Judge Pitman stated, “The First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination” and gave the library system 24 hours to return the books to their shelves.

In a statement to CNN, Ellen Leonida, the attorney representing the seven residents, underscored the extreme measure the county was considering.

“It appears that the defendants would rather shut down the Library System entirely — depriving thousands of Llano County residents of access to books, learning resources, and meeting space — than make the banned books available to residents who want to read them.”

There is a growing movement for the censorship of books in grade schools, universities and public libraries. According to CNN, books that tell the stories of Black and LGBTQ people or by authors in those communities were among the ten most challenged titles in 2021. The trend continued the following year.

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The American Library Association reported that, in the two decades since it began tracking book censorship, the number of attempts to ban books had reached an all-time high in 2022 at 1,269 total demands.

“The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 challenges reported in 2021. A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color. Of the reported book challenges, 58% targeted books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries or school curricula; 41% of book challenges targeted materials in public libraries.”

In a press release, Deborah Caldwelll-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, stated, “Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media.”

“Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color. Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore. The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police.”

classroom

Los Angeles School District Hit by Ransomware Attack

A cyberattack targeting the Los Angeles Unified School District caused a significant system outage in the country’s second-largest school district over Labor Day weekend.

The attack disrupted technology used for lessons and attendance and barred students and staff from accessing their emails. Though the attackers used ransomware software for the breach, the school district has yet to receive any monetary demands.

The district confirmed in a statement Monday that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are assisting local law enforcement in investigating the incident.

“Los Angeles Unified detected unusual activity in its Information Technology systems over the weekend, which after initial review, can be confirmed as an external cyberattack on our Information Technology assets. Since the identification of the incident, which is likely criminal in nature, we continue to assess the situation with law enforcement agencies.”

Authorities believe the attack may have originated internationally and identified three possible countries they have not released to the public.

Ransomware attacks are on the rise in the educational sector. The Los Angeles breach was the 50th cyberattack on educational institutions this year. The migration of school systems to virtual classrooms during the pandemic led to increasingly vulnerable cyberinfrastructures.

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Many schools are underfunded and lack the resources to retain adequate IT staff. Attacks are often planned during holidays when IT security staff is likely to be even sparser. The ideal timeline is often at the beginning of the school year when students return to school, and schools are more likely to pay demands to avoid problems that a catastrophic shutdown could cause.

The hackers did not take any Social Security or medical information and instead targeted systems containing information about private-sector contractor payments. However, the widescale breach points to the continued penetrability of schools’ cyberinfrastructures.

In January, a ransomware extortion attack on the biggest school district in Albuquerque, New Mexico, caused schools to shut down for two days. In May, a data breach in the Chicago Public School system exposed four years’ worth of records of half a million students and 60,000 employees.

One attendance counselor told the LA Times how the shutdown impacted the school’s ability to check on students.

“We do have paper attendance we will be collecting, but I would usually call home or go on home visits to find out students’ whereabouts. Unfortunately, with not having access to their information, I will not be able to find out where those students are. As it is, after the pandemic, we have been working hard to find students.”

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The district implemented a response protocol to avoid immediate widescale impact and to prevent future attacks. The district plans to invest in new IT security technology, hire personnel skilled in technology management, and train employees in cybersecurity responsibility.

Because the attack was detected Saturday, Students could return to class Tuesday morning. Students and teachers had to reset their passwords but could resume their usual schedules.

 

online

School’s Find National Test Scores Take A Plunge As A Result Of The Pandemic

Due to the lack of in classroom learning and having to switch to online teaching, most elementary schools are finding that because of the pandemic that math and reading scores have plummeted to its lowest level in over a decade.

New Proposed Bill Would Require All California Schoolchildren To Be Vaccinated Against Covid-19 

California State Senator Richard Pan will be proposing a bill this week that would overturn a loophole in the state’s requirement over children receiving their Covid-19 vaccinations. 

The bill will add Covid-19 vaccines to California’s list of required vaccinations for children attending K-12 programs. This bill would also override Governor Gavin Newsom’s scaled back mandates from last year. 

We need to make sure schools are safe so that all parents are comfortable sending their children to school, and we want to keep schools open.”

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This legislation marks the second major vaccine bill announced this year from a work group of Democratic lawmakers who are focused on increasing vaccination rates, while combating the spread of misinformation. 

Last Thursday Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill that would permit children 12 and over to choose to be vaccinated without a parent’s consent or knowledge. Both bills are likely to be met with opposition from groups who are against vaccine mandates in general. 

California currently requires all students at public and private universities to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, however, this mandate won’t be enforced until the US Food and Drug Administration fully approves the shot for children ages 12 and older. 

Currently the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully FDA approved for individuals aged 16 and older. Once the vaccine is fully approved, however, parents could still opt their children out of being vaccinated due to personal beliefs. 

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“We should be having conversations about what’s best for our children and what’s best for the safety of schools,” Pan said.

Pan’s bill will require all students from kindergarten to 12th grade to be vaccinated against Covid-19. By adding the Covid-19 inoculations to the state’s list of required vaccines for students, parents would need a full medical exemption to skip those doses. 

The bill would also allow the California Department of Public Health to mandate vaccines without requiring the state to offer personal belief exemptions for individuals who still haven’t been vaccinated. 

“The evidence clearly shows that vaccines help reduce the spread of infection, which will reduce transmission in schools and protect those who are medically vulnerable. The vaccine will also help reduce COVID-related absences, and reduce the likelihood that schools will need to be closed for outbreaks,” wrote the superintendents at LA Unified, the state’s largest school district, in a letter to legislative leaders.

Covid-19 in Scotland

Scotland Enters Full Lockdown To Further Curb Spread Of Covid-19

Nicola Sturgeon recently announced that mainland Scotland would be placed in full lockdown for the duration of January.

Young Girl with Doll Wearing Mask

US Reports 90% Increase In Covid-19 Cases Among Children In The Last Four Weeks

One of the largest debates regarding the Covid-19 pandemic this month has been whether or not our country should be sending its kids back to school. For many, they don’t see the problem as long as proper health and safety measures are taken, but for others, they’re confused as to how back in March the country cancelled in-person learning over a couple thousand cases in the US, but is sending kids back to school after we’ve exceeded 5 million cases and 163,000 deaths. 

Even more staggering, within the last four weeks alone, there has been a 90% increase in the number of coronavirus cases among children in the US. This data comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Administration, which has been updating their stats weekly. 

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Dr. Sean O’Leary is the Vice President of AAP’s committee on infectious diseases, and recently spoke with the media about the lack of focus the country has when it comes to children being infected with Covid-19. He believes a major factor to this is because children are much less likely to have a terminal diagnosis for the virus, however, that doesn’t make it’s impact any less severe on the child; there have been about 90 children in the US that have died from the coronavirus. 

“We all have to take this virus seriously, including taking care of our children. To protect everyone in our communities we must follow all the public health measures that we know can contain the virus. This includes avoiding large gatherings.”

Between July 9th and August 6th there were 179,990 new Covid-19 cases among children in the US, bringing the total number of cases in kids up to 380,174. The data showed that children account for .5% – 5.3% of all coronavirus-related hospitalizations and also account for up to .4% of the deaths. While these numbers are extremely lower when compared to immunocompromised/older individuals who get infected, the fact that this virus has killed even one child who was otherwise completely healthy should be enough cause for concern for parents everywhere. 

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For children especially, one of the biggest concerns is how easily they’re able to spread the virus because they’re so much less likely to exhibit symptoms or be hospitalized. Many are worried about US school staff health and safety specifically, and William Haseltime, a former professor at Harvard’s Medical School, claims that administrations need to be thinking of that as top priority. 

“Children can be highly infectious to other people. It turns out they have a thousand times more virus in their nose than you need to infect, so they’re very, very contagious. There’s every reason to suspect that this virus  behaves pretty much like a cold virus in terms of transmission.”

New reports from the US’ Centers for Disease Control also show that when kids are hospitalized for Covid-19, they need to be administered to the Intensive Care Unit as often as adults do. The report specifically measured information taken from 14 states which found that 576 children were administered to the ICU between March and July. 

Children under the age of two hold the same level of risk as an elderly individual due to the fact that their immune systems are much less developed when compared to a toddler or older child. To slow down the spread and risk of infection, the CDC recommends you make your kids wash their hands as often as possible, ensure they understand the importance of social distancing, and of course, make sure they always wear their mask.

Kids in School with Face Mask

New Jersey Will Require Students To Wear Masks In School, New Guidelines State

New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, announced Monday that the state is still planning to reopen all of its schools come the fall. In-person classes will resume, and all students will be required to wear masks in school buildings at all times. 

The announcement came along with a new set of reopening guidelines that states all students are “required to wear face coverings at all times while inside a school building regardless of social distancing.” The only exception would be for students with any kind of medical conditions that would potentially prevent them from wearing a mask, however, those are more so going to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  

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Previously the guidelines stated that students would only be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks and they would only be required to do so in crowded hallways and any other spots on the campus where it’s difficult to avoid crowds. All teachers, staff and visitors of the school will also be required to wear a mask at all times. 

“We know that face coverings work and we will now ensure that everyone in a school building will wear one.”

Governor Murphy continued on to discuss how the updates are safer than the previous recommendations, however, he didn’t discuss ways in which these policies would be enforced to ensure everyone is following the rules. The changes did state that students and teachers would be able to take “face covering breaks” throughout the day in specified areas of campus where social distancing can be maintained; mainly outside or in large classrooms with open windows. 

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All school bus riders and drivers will also be required to wear a mask. The Department of Education in Jersey also claims that they understand “enforcing the use of face coverings may be impractical for young children or individuals with disabilities,” which has raised a lot of red flags for parents and teachers as well. Many believe that if we aren’t able to enforce these policies that are meant to protect all students/staff health and safety, then why are we reopening the schools at all?

School leaders and advocates in Jersey specifically criticized the 104-page set of guidelines for the lack of clarity but abundance of “emphasis on safety,” without any means of execution. The guidelines also were unclear as to who would be paying for facial coverings and other technologies to be implemented into the schools; hand sanitizer/hand washing stations, temperature checks, etc. The updates do, however, state that families will be responsible for supplying the kids masks, but the districts “should strive to provide” additional PPE. 

New Jersey reported 264 new cases of the coronavirus this past Monday, bringing the state total to 182,614, and according to healthcare workers in the state, the virus is now spreading faster than its being contained. The state’s largest teachers union responded to these statistics by calling upon the government to go remote-only in the fall, however, Murphy and his administration are adamant about opening the schools. 

Murphy claims that the state’s Department of Education will be sharing a Frequently Asked Questions document shortly, as well as a checklist of items that state and county offices of education will be using to guarantee their specific districts are adhering to the new set of guidelines.