South Korea delayed planned reopenings and closed hundreds of newly reopened schools amid a spike in coronavirus cases
As the entire world grapples with the question of when and how to reopen schools safely, many countries have been looking to places like South Korea, which has been successful at containing the coronavirus, as an example of what to do. But while the country planned to widely reopen educational centers for kids, it just delayed many of those openings — and closed hundreds of schools just days after they had reopened — amid a new spike in COVID-19 cases.
The country began the process of reopening schools last week, putting in place social distancing and other safety measures to help prevent kids from spreading the coronavirus. But according to the Korea Times, spiking infection rates in a number of cities and communities caused officials to rethink their timeline. 838 of the country’s 20,902 nationwide schools that were scheduled to reopen on Wednesday ultimately did not, and in cities like Seoul and Bucheon, hundreds of schools that did open on Wednesday were then closed again on Thursday.
This is in South Korea, which, by all accounts, has been one of the most successful countries in the world at containing and controlling its coronavirus outbreaks. In late February, South Korea had more diagnosed cases than any country outside of China, but by quickly implementing tough rules about isolation and contact tracing, South Korea has so far reported fewer than 300 deaths in the course of the pandemic.
That’s in stark contrast to the United States, where states pushed back against shutdowns, masks have become a politicized part of a bizarre culture war, and Republican leaders across the country and in the White House pushed for reopening the economy far before cases here were under control. Millions of people in the U.S. have been infected, nearly 140,000 Americans have died, and both case counts and death counts are on the rise again in a majority of states. Regardless of those facts, officials are pushing for American schools to reopen for fall classes, which are just weeks away.
Even as some cities and states have independently decided to hold only online classes for the upcoming school year, lawmakers and other officials have been publicly sparring as the White House and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos push for reopening, even threatening to withhold federal education funding from schools that don’t reopen. But if South Korea doesn’t feel like it’s safe to have kids in schools, how on earth can we?