ASU School of Magic

08-16-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

By my count, as of this writing we are in day 36 of a record breaking streak of 110+ temps. The previous record was 33 days. And up we go for days to come. But what is coming down is our COVID-19 positivity rate in Arizona and even more in Maricopa County. Good news. Maybe. Except. But.

Right now, 100,000+ students are moving into Tempe, South Scottsdale, Downtown Phoenix from all over the country and the world to start a new semester at ASU. But I have been assured that they will not, will not raise the COVID-19 positivity rate in Maricopa County. You might find that hard to believe. I did. It took some convincing. But it is true. Sort of. In an underhanded way only a state-run bureaucracy could come up with.

You see Arizona State University has its own COVID-19 testing and lab. Lots and lots of it. Actually, I find that irritating. Why is it that this tax-payer funded University didn't share their testing and lab with the community when we needed it most? So much for being a good community partner. I guess ASU does not play well with others.

And apparently being a good community partner is really off the table for ASU as according to the administration of its Headmaster Albus Dumbledore Crow it is a “self-contained entity” which means it will not be reporting its test results to the AZ Department of Health. Ergo, the positivity rate for ASU will be 0%. See, it really won’t increase the positivity rate in our local zip codes. Amazing. Viola! Magic. No virus at ASU. Brilliant! I was worried. How foolish of me. Just like that, ASU became Hogwarts School of Magic. Harry Potter is smiling.

With that being said, I dare, in fact I double dare any journalist to try to extract from ASU the numbers of positives from their COVID tests or to get the AZ Department of Health to explain why ASU doesn't have to participate in the Pandemic public health reporting requirements. ASU claims they have a failsafe plan and that in the unlikely event that an individual should become sick they will isolate the infected resident on their campus. Fine as far as that goes. But the problem is that not all students live on their campus. Thousands of students are interspersed throughout our neighborhoods not to mention staff. And was it kindergarteners that were flooding the bars and clubs of South Scottsdale in June that caused a surge in the virus? Yet, when we see the virus start to creep up again in the Tempe/South Scottsdale areas, it will be the local residents that will be scolded for their reckless behavior, and put under lockdown with greater restrictions, but it won’t be ASU’s fault because remember their positivity rate will be 0%. Shame on the Governor and the Dept. of Health for allowing this cheap parlor trick.

On a related note, deviously clever were Governor Voldemort, AZ Dept. of Health and AZ Dept of Public Education in issuing Safely Returning to In-Person Instruction aka “Benchmarks” for In-Person School Reopening. The “Benchmarks” are “expectations” not mandates. ASU however does not need to adhere to the non-mandatory expectation benchmarks because we already know they will have a 0% positivity rate. If you read the “Benchmarks” document, it begins with this statement:

“…Both largescale epidemiological surveys and smaller analyses of household clusters suggest that younger children are less likely to infect the adults in their household with COVID than vice versa. Based on contact-tracing studies performed early in the epidemic, little evidence has been found of efficient transmission in school settings. (my emphasis) While children, particularly those under 10, may not amplify transmission within the school setting, special attention should be given to prevent staff-to-staff transmission.”

Then it lists all the Benchmarks that need to be met by elementary and secondary schools but not 100,000+ student Universities for In-person Learning. It concludes with the absolute necessity of children and not ASU students wearing masks 8 hours a day for 5 days a week for an indefinite number of weeks. The last line reads thus:

The CDC guidelines do not claim that wearing cloth face-coverings may protect the wearer from contracting the virus. Additionally, the State of Arizona does not make any express or implied warranties regarding the cloth face-coverings.

That statement is all about protecting a body part and it’s not your face. So, the opening line and the closing line negate what is in between in this latest document. But what matter is schools have no control over the Benchmarks. This is the gobbledygook that schools have been wading through for months now. It almost seems like despite the evidence to the contrary, the Governor and the AZ Dept of Health really don't want In-Person Learning for our children to occur this year. ASU however gets a free pass despite the evidence of how it may affect the local residents of the East Valley. Governor Ducey to East Valley taxpayers: Keep those masks on, Suckers!

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the Governor and the Dept. of Health and Dept. of Education. Their motives are much purer, you say. Of course. I’m sure they are actually being very patriotic. They very much want the tens of thousands of ASU students to be together so they can robustly celebrate the results of the November Presidential election. That should be one big riotous party.

Love,

Fr. John B.

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