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US job revival is in doubt as Delta raises ‘back to school’ concerns

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US job revival is in doubt as Delta raises ‘back to school’ concerns

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WASHINGTON – In April, nearly a year after she was laid off from her hospitality business due to the pandemic, Sara Gard was barely on her feet with a new full-time job in financial services juggling managing the business. remote education of your daughter.

So when his six-year-old daughter’s school, just north of Atlanta, Georgia, that month gave parents the option of choosing in-person classes for their children as the new school year began in August, Gard signed up and he felt good about his decision.

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Until, that is, a recent increase in cases caused by the highly communicable Delta variant of COVID-19. Masks in your school district are highly recommended, but they are not applied and your daughter is too young to be vaccinated. Gard is now having sleepless nights as he reconsiders.

If you decide to return your child to the virtual school, which is still offered, something will have to compromise. Her husband’s job is at a hospital and Gard’s employer, with whom he started last November, wants him to spend more days in the office. “It’s not sustainable for me or my husband,” said Gard, 40. “The stress is killing me.”

Expectations for an accelerated economic recovery in the United States depend in large part on more workers being in jobs once face-to-face education resumes this fall. But the Delta variant could frustrate those expectations if parents, especially women, remain or are forced to retreat on the sidelines.

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“You can imagine school districts deciding to wait a month or two for the Delta wave to subside. I’m not saying it will happen, but it’s easy to imagine. It’s also easy to imagine that some people might say I’m going to wait a couple of months before going back to work, ”Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday. “If schools don’t open, caregivers have to stay home, and if people don’t go back into the workforce, job growth won’t be as strong.”

HERE WE GO AGAIN?

About 7 million fewer people are employed in the United States today than before the pandemic, Department of Labor surveys of businesses and households show, despite record job openings.

The recovery in employment has been notably uneven for women, who suffered a greater proportion of the job losses at the beginning of the pandemic. Many had returned to the workforce in the summer, but in August and September of last year more than 1 million women aged 20 and over left the workforce, as most schools reopened only to online instruction and the children parked at home.

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This year, women have re-entered the workforce in greater numbers than men, in line with the increase in face-to-face instruction as the school year progressed and the reopening of a number of industries in which they are overrepresented.

Now, renewed uncertainty around school attendance risks reducing that momentum. As school districts prepare to reopen, protections vary widely. California is among the eight states that require all or nearly all children to wear masks in schools, as are many large cities, including Boston and Chicago, according to data compiled by tracking website Burbio. In Texas and seven other states that account for 25% of school-age children, schools cannot require masks.

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About 40% of youth ages 16-17 and 28% of those ages 12-15 are vaccinated against COVID-19, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Children ages 5 to 11 are not expected to be eligible until late fall at the earliest and those under the age of five thereafter.

“That is absolutely a concern as we move into the next school year that we have this more contagious variant, and this is a group of people who will not yet be eligible for vaccination,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, Specialist in Pediatric Infectious Diseases from the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus and vice chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases.

While evidence from last year suggested that schools could safely reopen without an increase in cases, the Delta variant appears to spread more easily among children.

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“It’s going to be very disturbing,” said Daniel Domenech, who heads the American Association of School Administrators.

Take for example the San Bernardino City Unified School District, whose 47,000 students are among the 10% of America’s school-age population returning to classrooms this week. California requires masks and the district is taking extra precautions like new air filter systems.

If a student contracts COVID-19, that student will isolate himself at home; If three in the same classroom have it, the entire class will be sent home for 10 days; and if 5% of the school gets it, the campus will close, according to the school’s return to campus roadmap.

“I am very confident in what we have implemented,” said Rachel Monarrez, deputy superintendent for the district. Still, he says of Delta’s surge, “I’m watching it … and while I’m looking at the data, I’ll make recommendations to the superintendent if we need to take a more robust approach.”

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‘THE CLOCK IS TICKING’

The sudden increase in unpredictability in the coming months is probably already causing some women to rethink their work plans, according to Claudia Sahm, a senior fellow at the Jain Family Institute and a former Federal Reserve economist.

“People can’t always wait to see where this lands to make a decision. I have more and more friends who tell me ‘I’m going to wait, I’ll stay part-time’ because their children are under 12 years old, ”Sahm said.

“The clock is ticking here. We are too close to the start of the school year, we are too close to what is often a great job search season. It’s really unnerving to watch this turn of events, but it’s not surprising. If the virus is not under control, you are in control. “

Gabriela Villagomez-Morales, 37, is a single mother with four children, ages 18, 17, 10 and 8 in Tacoma, Washington. She lost her job at a daycare when it closed due to the pandemic and struggled to find a new job while helping her children with the remote school. You have recently found another job in a daycare home, but you are also concerned about the predictability that the school will remain open for months to come.

“If something happened, what would my solutions be? It’s really difficult for me, ”he said.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Ann Saphir; Edited by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci)

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