School's closed for flu. Now what do you do?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  May 20, 2009 12:06 PM

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Today, officials announced that a fourth Boston-area school would be closing temporarily because of suspected cases of the H1N1 Virus, formerly known as Swine Flu. The suspension of school-related activities at Fessenden School in Newton, the Dana Hall school in Wellesley, the Winsor School in Boston, and the city's largest public school, Boston Latin, have some far-reaching effects: delayed tests, canceled events, a postponed prom, among other things.

I'm concerned for the handful of sick kids, of course, but I can't help but put myself in the parents' shoes. What are all of those kids -- more than 2,500 of them, total -- going to do with their impromptu week-long vacation? And how are working parents going to juggle this?

The students are middle schoolers and high schoolers -- some are probably old enough to stay home alone for the day, but not all. Some are bound to have siblings who attend other schools, ones that aren't shuttering for a week because of a possible outbreak... what about them? Are they supposed to be in contact with a cloistered sibling at night, but then head out the door to sneeze on other people during the day? It can be difficult to decide whether to keep a sick child home from school; trying to figure out whether to stay home with one who seems perfectly fine is another issue entirely.

And what about the parents? A recent survey by Monster.com shows that 71 percent of employees show up for work when they're sick. The survey suggests that, in this economy, many people are choosing their jobs over their health (and I'll admit that I am usually among the guilty), but others simply don't have the sick days to use.

I do wonder if we're making too much of this. While easily transmitted and seemingly more contagious than other forms of influenza, The World Health Organization says that the H1N1 virus seems to cause only mild illness in otherwise healthy people; out of 9,830 cases reported thus far worldwide, there have been only 79 deaths. In comparison, last year 36,000 people died in the US from complications from influenza during the "regular" flu season, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Wondering how the illnesses have played out in Massachusetts? Boston.com has a great graphic about it.)

Interestingly enough, though the Winsor School decided to close from today until May 27 because of flu concerns, members of their Small Chorus performed last night at Fenway Park, singing the American and Canadian national anthems at the Red Sox/Blue Jays game. Maybe the outbreak isn't that big a deal, after all.

[edited to add: More schools have now announced temporary closings; see the article on Boston.com for details. -- LMA]

Has your family been affected by the H1N1 virus outbreak? Did your child's school close temporarily? How did you handle it?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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45 comments so far...
  1. I wonder if one of the "only" 79 people who have died from the H1N1 virus was someone you loved if you would have said ONLY 79 have died?

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I would have -- I wasn't referring to the severity of the impact of the disease, but to the frequency of illness and the mortality rate as compared to a "regular" flu season. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 36,000 people died from complications from influenza last year -- yes, that's thirty-six THOUSAND. And that's not considered a "pandemic." Compared to 36,000 US deaths, 79 seems quite small.

    Here's a link to the CDC's Q&A on influenza: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm -- LMA

    Posted by anonymous May 20, 09 02:45 PM
  1. "Only" is absolutely appropriate here. It's not being insensitive. It's being thankful that not more people have passed from this strain of the flu.

    Posted by anon needs to get a life May 20, 09 03:02 PM
  1. The crux of the matter is simple: school is not a babysitter and working parents should not consider it one. When your kid gets sick, or an entire school is closed for some other reason (health, in this case; but it could be weather, safety issue with the building, etc.) someone needs to make themselves available to care for the child. It may be inconvenient but that's life.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 03:08 PM
  1. It's not that simple. Some people are at risk of being fired if they don't go to work. Others don't have paid sick days to take, and need to make money to take care of their children. This highlights a larger issue with employment, benefits, and the ability to take a leave when you need to. Of course parents want to keep their children safe, want to make themselves available for their children. However, they need to be backed up by employers who will not fire them for doing so, and will compensate them for the days they are forced to take off. That is where the attention should be focused, not on the parents.

    Posted by Kelly May 20, 09 03:27 PM
  1. A single day for weather is one thing, but I can feel for the people who literally cannot afford to miss a whole week of work. At that point it is far more than inconvenient.

    Posted by Ed May 20, 09 03:34 PM
  1. Title should read SCHOOLS, not School's.

    Thanks, Amyone, but the 's in this case is not a possessive, it is a contraction of the word "is." Like "It's." -- LMA

    Posted by Amyone May 20, 09 03:37 PM
  1. this si nuts, people need to have a plan for un-expected closures...if you ahev kids, make arrangeements and stop winign about it. people are sick, would you prefer your kid being home sick?
    Get a grip people!

    Posted by fran May 20, 09 03:46 PM
  1. Kelly is right. 1.4 milion workers do not have job or wage protection and have a tough choice when their kid is sick. Almost 80% of low wage workers do not paid sick days and can't afford to lose even a days pay, much less their job. There is a solution; state legislation to provide paid sick days to workers who earn it over time. If this were law, maybe parents would have been able to stay home with a sick kid and the spread of this flu would not have progressed to the degree that school closings are necessary.

    Posted by Ellen Wallace May 20, 09 04:01 PM
  1. For sick and weather days, my husband and I split the days the best we can. Usually one will go in ridiculously early and come home at lunch and then the other one goes. That way we each get some of the work day in. We are lucky that we both have professional jobs that don't require you punch and clock and have some flexibility.

    I do feel bad for my kids because when they start feeling sick or the weather looks bad we look at each other and immediately try to convince the other to take the day off. Poor kids, they must feel like we see them as an inconvenience. It is definately the difficult part of 2 working parents.

    If, God forgid, the schools are closed for a week, I will look for some other families to share child care with as long as all the kids are symptom free.

    Posted by Nancy May 20, 09 04:01 PM
  1. I like the 3rd post school in not a baby sitter , you should like rocky balboa said "plan ahead" I'm sick and tired of people with kids crying you dont know how it is you dont have kids . Well I dont and I dont want kids and dont want to hear people's lie's when they have kids they use them for an excuse for everything ,man up. Also the kids that dont go to school should not be out at the mall infecting evrybody else but they will . I see parents today going without basics so their little angels can get an xbox again they need to learn to say no ,these kids today are way too priveledged ,stay at home if your a potenial carrier.

    Posted by red May 20, 09 04:07 PM
  1. Maybe it's more than inconvenient but it is A) not the schools' fault that employers are not better at providing family/emergency leave, and, B) still a fact that school does not equal childcare. What do you do with your kids over the summer? During vacation weeks? On teacher meeting days? Snow days? This swine flu thing is obviously an anomaly and a very untimely one at that, but the schools are in a no-win situation. Should they remain open and risk infecting more kids (whose parents will then whine/sue about that, surely) or err on the side of caution and do what they did? Backup child care is a parent's responsibility, end of story.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 04:25 PM
  1. And, interesting footnote: another headline on boston.com just below this story is that 71% of workers show up when sick with flu symptoms, despite the current warnings about swine flu. This is a sad reflection of what our work culture has become...people are not allowed or are afraid to use their given sick time.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 04:28 PM
  1. Red...How on earth could someone "plan ahead" for a virus? Call the babysitter and let her know that if an unforeseen medical event should occur at any time in the future, he/she must be available?

    Keep in mind that anyone that professes to have so many answers and criticisms for a position in which they have never been placed, is generally considered a blowhard. Please maintain your child-free status.

    Posted by CWhite May 20, 09 04:35 PM
  1. To: urkiddinme & fran
    Clearly, you don't have kids or a clue. My boss really doesn't care whether or not my kid is sick.....SHE expects me at work. If I can't be there for a whole week, I am considered a nuisance and I put my career at risk, even though I have paid sick days. It isn't just inconvenient; I could lose my job if my boss finds an excuse to push it, especially in this economy. Given the poll figures released by Monster, I bet I am not alone (so try don’t be glib and tell me to get a new job). Kids get sick all year long and parents need to stay home, which most parents plan for and most bosses tolerate. You can jeopardize your job if you add another week on top of that.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 04:37 PM
  1. I never understood why "swine flu" is getting so much attention from the media..

    Off the shelf medications like Tamiflu are effective against it. and if I calculate correctly, once contracted you have a 0.219 % chance of dying from it.. That's a 1/5 of 1% chance of dying.. you could probably eat a double cheeseburger w/fries and increase your chances of dying more.

    Posted by leemik May 20, 09 04:42 PM
  1. Again to urkiddinme:
    Yeah, parents do have to handle the tons of things, like school vacation weeks, teacher workshop days, snow days, etc, etc, etc. Which is hard enough as it is, since I can tell my boss resents the hell out of it. Parents already have to deal with finding back up childcare all year long, but adding another week can push your job into the red zone.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 04:49 PM
  1. Um... you shouldn't be comparing the number of people who die, you should be comparing the severeness of the illness/mortality rates. Another article on boston.com says
    "So far, only 8 percent of swine flu cases have required hospitalization."

    Only? That's almost 1 in 10 going to the hospital. Much more serious than teh the regular flue.

    Actually, it's not. According to the CDC (the link is above), about 9% of people who get the "regular" flu die from it. Less than 1% of those diagnosed with swine flu die from it. -- LMA

    Posted by mk May 20, 09 04:55 PM
  1. Actually, I do have kids, two of them, and were their schools to be closed for medical or other emergency reasons, I would not BLAME THE SCHOOL for trying to prevent the spread of disease, or expect it to find somewhere else for my kids to go for the day. In the end, the kids are MY responsibility to find care for (and it's almost always ME, btw)...school is there to educate my kids...not get them out of my hair for 6 hours a day so I can do what I want. The ultimate responsibility for them lies with ME and I would and will deal with it, should it ever happen. Sorry. School is not childcare and should not be relied upon as such.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 05:13 PM
  1. This isn't a regular human flu virus. This is born from a combination of swine and bird mixed with the human flu virus. It's the kind that inflicts the healthy no the old and weak and that can very easily and quickly mutate. The more people that get it, the more likely it mutates. The 1918 virus killed over 50 million people in two years. Some strains mutated to a 50% mortality rate. In one week 5000 people died in Philadelphia and I bet somehow the population of Philly is higher today. This isn't your seasonal flu. It can become extremely deadly very quickly and be completely unstoppable. Do your homework people.

    Posted by macnh1 May 20, 09 05:16 PM
  1. So do we suggest that we close schools for a week when people get the 'regular' flu? This shouldn't be a debate about the 'have kids' and 'don't have kids' camps - the debate should be "why are we closing schools?" - we don't require that businesses shut down when 20% of their workers are ill.....the over reaction to H1N1 is creating a problem for parents (and the employers of parents). Where is the cost benefit analysis or the consistency? The closing of schools in response to H1N1 while there has never been wide spread closing of schools due to the regular flu is baffling.

    Posted by Dave May 20, 09 05:21 PM
  1. To urkiddinme:
    Wow, for someone who has kids, you certainly do seem clueless about what a working parent would have to deal with or worry about keeping a job. Lucky you that you have a situation where you can stay out of work without losing your job to care for your kids. I am hard at work or for at least as long as the economy deals with it. If you think that working is a luxury, and I use school to keep my kids out of my hair for 6 hours then you are really out of touch. I guess that you are incapable of understanding or having any empathy for working parents who are in a terrible situation or might lose their jobs if they miss too much work, regardless of the cause. The entire topic of this blog was to ask working parents how they are dealing with extended school closings. Not to get your hear how judgmental you are. Working parents don’t want their kids to get sick at school and they know the primary purpose of school is learning, not babysitting. Your implications otherwise are offensive.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 05:25 PM
  1. In my experience, as a working mom of 3, most parents don't want to take time from work because eventually it will eat into their vacation time. I hear this over and over, when early release days, school holidays and vacation weeks come up, from parent at PTO meeting, playground, etc. No one wants to "waste their vacation time" to take care of their kids. Quite sad, actually.

    Posted by momof3 May 20, 09 05:25 PM
  1. Be offended all you want, #21. My point is this: SCHOOL IS NOT CHILDCARE. And, therefore, YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON IT AS CHILDCARE. It's an educational facility. Not a babysitter. You cannot expect the school system to find you an alternative place to put your kids for 6+ hours per day when it is not open, whatever the reason for its not being open. School isn't a babysitter. That's the only point I'm trying to make here. Not whether schools "should" or "should not" close for this swine flu or another health concern, not what various employers' policies for time off are. The crux of the matter is that parents cannot treat school as childcare. And that's all. Not trying to start an argument about ethics or workers rights...life's not fair or convenient, but school does not exist to make your life convenient. It's not a depository for kids; some place to corral them for the day...it's an educational institution that has to operate based on safety for the majority. And that's what I thnk they are doing in this case, erring on the side of caution. You are missing the point entirely.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 05:41 PM
  1. If parents kept their sick kids at home rather than sending them to school, then there would be no need to close schools.

    Posted by Otis May 20, 09 05:45 PM
  1. Team up with another family and split the days 4 ways - assuming 2 parents for each child, which I find is essential for best parenting. Don't whine because we all give up something.
    Giving up a career, $$ that went along with it and using creativivity to take on extra responsibilities to make up some of that $$, is a personal sacrifice. So far this week I spent many hours at the ped. and hospital with 1 broken bone and 1 case of pneumonia (testing for swine included). I'll be ready if school is closed but there may be another emergency first.

    Posted by nottoworry May 20, 09 06:02 PM
  1. my child was one of the students sent home because a child had the swine flu, a.k.a. h1n1 virus.
    However my question is this.. If they are having to clean everything before letting the kids back , what is happening to the buses? are they being cleaned?
    and the taxi's we use are they being cleaned? the train who transports the kids to school? are they being clean?
    what about the stores we shop? have any kids stopped at the stores to buy something on the way to or from school? are they being cleaned? i would guess no, so why the paranoia?

    Posted by Concerned May 20, 09 06:05 PM
  1. First, it is no longer 1918. We know a "little" more about disease and prevention, not to mention sanitation, healthier eating and living, clean water and even preventing the spread of disease, so we cannot compare or extrapolate the death toll of 1918 to today. Second, stop the insanity...closing schools? People get sick, kids get sick, some will die, the vast majority will recover, closing a school, mall or any other public place will have no impact whatsoever on the spread of this "flu". Closing any public place will not alter the course of this "hysteria". And please, if you feel ill, go to your PCP and stay out of the ER's...no one cares about you there, you're just another hypochondriac....you'll wait 4-6 hours as you should for nothing.

    Posted by Spock May 20, 09 06:58 PM
  1. Sorry but don't have kids if you can't be home with them. Don't blame others because you are a working parent. That makes it easy on everyone and we would have a lot less parents complaining about needing time off from work and missing out on vacation time because they have to use sick time.
    Good the schools are closing but will that stop the spread. No...the kids are running around out there before and will be running around doing errands ..shopping etc. while off for the week. Hopefully by the school shutting down the virus won't spread as much.

    Posted by little town May 20, 09 07:03 PM
  1. #26 (Concerned) - The scrubbing of schools really has no impact on stoping the spread of illness. Clean schools are always better than dirty schools, but doesn't do much good to stop person to person spread of germs. They'll clean the school and then kids will come back, some who will not wash their hands or cover their coughs, and that is how the virus will continue to spread. Cleaning beyond the routine cleaning won't do much. Better to put the money to stocking up on hand sanitizer.

    Posted by Billy Jack May 20, 09 07:03 PM
  1. To urkiddinme
    I don't treat school as my child care. Who do you think you are? How dare you suggest that I use school as a place to ‘dump’ or 'corral' my child? Who are you to question my parenting? Never in any of the points that I have suggested that school is daycare or questioned your parenting. My point has always been addressed to the actual topic of this blog, which is how do you cope with the extra time that you need to be out of work if school is closed an extended period of time. If none of the concerns that I have raised matter to or impact you, you clearly have it a lot easier that the rest of us. Good for you, but don’t impose your judgments on the rest of us.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 07:50 PM
  1. Actually Otis, this flu is contagious 1 day before the child shows symptoms. So obviously you should keep your child home when they have symptoms, but by that time it's too late - he or she will have already passed it on to classmates. That's why they are closing the schools. Though with siblings and parents still venturing out into other schools and workplaces, clearly it will continue to spread anyway.

    Posted by resigned May 20, 09 08:39 PM
  1. I am a pubic school teacher in Boston. Many are the days that parents send their children to school sick. But why not? There is a school nurse. Many times the emergency phone numbers are not working. And after all the schools are their day care providers.

    Posted by APoorlyPaidBabySitter May 20, 09 09:00 PM
  1. Please correct:
    "Actually, it's not. According to the CDC (the link is above), about 9% of people who get the "regular" flu die from it. Less than 1% of those diagnosed with swine flu die from it. -- LMA"

    From The CDC:
    Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.

    So using simple math:
    There are 300M residents of the US. If 5% get the flu only 1% are hospitalized. If 20% get the flu only .3% are hospitalized. 36,000 deaths is somewhere between .2% and .06% of those who get the flu.

    Back to the Globe article on why it is important for teachers to pass the math test portion of their exam. Please add in journalists who inform us and politicians who spend our $$.

    Thanks, nottoworry, but the 9 percent figure is specific to the 2007-2008 flu season, as per CDC data found here: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/weeklyarchives2007-2008/07-08summary.htm. I referenced it because I used 2007-2008 figures in the post itself, and it's based on the data collected in the reporting system used to determine baseline and epidemic thresholds. -- LMA

    Posted by nottoworry May 20, 09 09:25 PM
  1. I went to the Prudential mall today - lots of kids out and about. So which is better? Should we keep high schoolers in school, kind of confined to one place or let them out among office workers having lunch and riding on the T and wherever else they decide to go?

    Posted by fromwhereistand May 20, 09 09:48 PM
  1. "the 9 percent figure is specific to the 2007-2008 flu season, as per CDC data found here":

    The report says that during the peak of the 2007-2008 flu season, 9% of all deaths were caused by pneumonia and flu, not that 9% of people will flu died! If 9% of people with flu died, that would represent almost 100% of all deaths. Notice: this figure if for pneumonia and flu. Pneumonia is a much bigger killer than flu. Also this was only during the peak of the flu season (which is supposed to be passed now.) People now are dying out of season. Also, very importantly, usually most of the people who die are old. New flu is killing young and middle age people (almost exclusively, so far). Young people are not supposed to die of flu.

    But most important of all, this is just the beginning. The numbers are rising exponentially. "Only 79 deaths" may not seem important, but the rate of infection is doubling perhaps every week. And deaths will be doubling at the same rate (but follow after 1-2 weeks, because death takes time.)

    Timetoworry, thank you. I appreciate the clarification -- LMA

    Posted by timetoworry May 20, 09 10:59 PM
  1. Indeed we are "making too much of this." I'm the parent of a Winsor School student who was out Monday and Tuesday with a fever & sore throat--one of the "unusually high number of students exhibiting flu-like symptoms." By Tuesday evening she was fine--just in time for a week of expensive inactivity.

    Flu is flu. Occasionally and tragically it leads to complications that kill someone. But life and institutiions shouldn't shut down in a vain attempt to eliminate all risk from our daily lives. 2,500 children die EACH YEAR in the U.S. of injuries sustained in motor-vehicle accidents. Should we close schools permanently to protect kids from the dangers of school buses and carpools?

    Indeed, the idea that the Winsor School closing is about public health is laughable. It's about liability concerns.

    Posted by Winsor School Parent May 20, 09 11:08 PM
  1. The rate of absences at Boston Latin just the day that they closed was 10 percent of the entire student population. At peak flu season in February the school has an absence rate of less than 1/4 of that on any given day. And my child is a 9th grader, who like most BLS kids, is quite capable of being home alone responsibly if need be.
    I do think the concern about working parents will be an issue when this hits elementary schools, unless school gets out before then, as I hope that it will. But for most parents I know from BLS, it is hardly a crisis. Personally, I am glad that she has more time to study for exams.

    Posted by BLS Mom May 21, 09 07:26 AM
  1. The CDC, HHS, DHS & DOD have been planning for a pandemic since 2005. They have all been derelict in their duties alerting and preparing businesses and the public for this swine flu H1N1 Pandemic. The virus is a killer in young healthy adults similar to the 1918 virus. If parents had been told about the expected pandemic, they would have had plans in place with their employers. The GOvernment agencies tasked with Pandemic Plannig have failed miserably. 36,000 people DO NOT DIE OF FLU every year! That is a lie. This novel H1N1 virus is NOT MILD in many cases.

    We are being lied to so the economy will stay afloat. Call it for what it is. Money before people.

    Posted by Goju Tye May 21, 09 07:59 AM
  1. So if all the sick kids are staying home already, why close the schools for a week?

    Posted by Dontgetit May 21, 09 10:04 AM
  1. I have sick days, but can only use them for my own illness - not that of my kids. I already use what limited vacation time I have to cover school vacation weeks, teacher in-service days, days my children are ill, etc. (and I do treasure that time with my children). In the summer, I send my children to camps. If my children's school were to close for a week, I would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. If the whole point is to keep kids isolated from one another, it makes no sense for the afterschool care program to open up during the day as they do on snow days. It also makes no sense for me to send them to a friend's house, where they would spend the day in close proximity with other kids - exactly the scenario the schools were closed to avoid. If my kids' school is closed, I don't know what I will do. Hope like heck that my employer will allow me to use sick time, I guess.

    Posted by akmom May 21, 09 10:21 AM
  1. Hi, I have officialy joined the battle between kimberly and urrrallll something. I have to admid Kimbers... u r sooo offensive!

    Posted by swineflukillsallnotreally May 21, 09 04:23 PM
  1. "36,000 people die of seasonal flu every year" is not exactly a lie, but it's a distortion. The number is a mathematical construct based on how many excess deaths there are in a bad flu season compared with how many deaths would have been expected anyway. So, anyone whose death by heart attack, cancer, aids, etc. was partially caused or hastened by flu is supposed to be represented in this number. However, the number of deaths for which "flu" is listed on the death certificate as one of the known likely causes is in the hundreds. And again, both figures, the mathematically constructed 36,000 and the hundreds listed on the death certificate are overwhelmingly associated with the deaths of very old people. Not the young and middle aged people who are dying and going to die of swine flu.

    Posted by timetoworry May 21, 09 11:00 PM
  1. "Winsor School Parent"-- If the state or city BoH tells a school to close, they must close-- it's not the school's choice. So liability is not the issue.

    Posted by realitycheck May 23, 09 09:17 AM
  1. Employers need to fire undependable parents who can't show up for work. Many times I've been passed over for jobs because it's more important to hire a breeder with a famblee to support.

    Yet when I do get hired, I'm expected to work part-time to make sure the moo on maternity leave can come back to "her" job. The little brats have to stay home, have a soccer game or a meeting - breeders make the mandatory early exit, and the childfree are there to keep the ship afloat. I'll NEVER hire a parent.


    Well employers you made the decision so bed, made, lie

    Posted by chris clauer May 23, 09 07:50 PM
  1. The previous comment about the 's was correct. If it was meant to be used as a contraction, then the headline itself is incorrect as more than 1 school was closed. The writer should admit to the error , say thanks and not try to mask it with a lame excuse. This type of reaction on such a small matter is becoming typical at by many people. Everyone needs to take responsibility for mistakes and be able to learn and appreciate constructive criticism. It would do a world of good.

    Posted by i,mwrongtoo May 26, 09 01:12 PM
 
45 comments so far...
  1. I wonder if one of the "only" 79 people who have died from the H1N1 virus was someone you loved if you would have said ONLY 79 have died?

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I would have -- I wasn't referring to the severity of the impact of the disease, but to the frequency of illness and the mortality rate as compared to a "regular" flu season. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 36,000 people died from complications from influenza last year -- yes, that's thirty-six THOUSAND. And that's not considered a "pandemic." Compared to 36,000 US deaths, 79 seems quite small.

    Here's a link to the CDC's Q&A on influenza: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm -- LMA

    Posted by anonymous May 20, 09 02:45 PM
  1. "Only" is absolutely appropriate here. It's not being insensitive. It's being thankful that not more people have passed from this strain of the flu.

    Posted by anon needs to get a life May 20, 09 03:02 PM
  1. The crux of the matter is simple: school is not a babysitter and working parents should not consider it one. When your kid gets sick, or an entire school is closed for some other reason (health, in this case; but it could be weather, safety issue with the building, etc.) someone needs to make themselves available to care for the child. It may be inconvenient but that's life.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 03:08 PM
  1. It's not that simple. Some people are at risk of being fired if they don't go to work. Others don't have paid sick days to take, and need to make money to take care of their children. This highlights a larger issue with employment, benefits, and the ability to take a leave when you need to. Of course parents want to keep their children safe, want to make themselves available for their children. However, they need to be backed up by employers who will not fire them for doing so, and will compensate them for the days they are forced to take off. That is where the attention should be focused, not on the parents.

    Posted by Kelly May 20, 09 03:27 PM
  1. A single day for weather is one thing, but I can feel for the people who literally cannot afford to miss a whole week of work. At that point it is far more than inconvenient.

    Posted by Ed May 20, 09 03:34 PM
  1. Title should read SCHOOLS, not School's.

    Thanks, Amyone, but the 's in this case is not a possessive, it is a contraction of the word "is." Like "It's." -- LMA

    Posted by Amyone May 20, 09 03:37 PM
  1. this si nuts, people need to have a plan for un-expected closures...if you ahev kids, make arrangeements and stop winign about it. people are sick, would you prefer your kid being home sick?
    Get a grip people!

    Posted by fran May 20, 09 03:46 PM
  1. Kelly is right. 1.4 milion workers do not have job or wage protection and have a tough choice when their kid is sick. Almost 80% of low wage workers do not paid sick days and can't afford to lose even a days pay, much less their job. There is a solution; state legislation to provide paid sick days to workers who earn it over time. If this were law, maybe parents would have been able to stay home with a sick kid and the spread of this flu would not have progressed to the degree that school closings are necessary.

    Posted by Ellen Wallace May 20, 09 04:01 PM
  1. For sick and weather days, my husband and I split the days the best we can. Usually one will go in ridiculously early and come home at lunch and then the other one goes. That way we each get some of the work day in. We are lucky that we both have professional jobs that don't require you punch and clock and have some flexibility.

    I do feel bad for my kids because when they start feeling sick or the weather looks bad we look at each other and immediately try to convince the other to take the day off. Poor kids, they must feel like we see them as an inconvenience. It is definately the difficult part of 2 working parents.

    If, God forgid, the schools are closed for a week, I will look for some other families to share child care with as long as all the kids are symptom free.

    Posted by Nancy May 20, 09 04:01 PM
  1. I like the 3rd post school in not a baby sitter , you should like rocky balboa said "plan ahead" I'm sick and tired of people with kids crying you dont know how it is you dont have kids . Well I dont and I dont want kids and dont want to hear people's lie's when they have kids they use them for an excuse for everything ,man up. Also the kids that dont go to school should not be out at the mall infecting evrybody else but they will . I see parents today going without basics so their little angels can get an xbox again they need to learn to say no ,these kids today are way too priveledged ,stay at home if your a potenial carrier.

    Posted by red May 20, 09 04:07 PM
  1. Maybe it's more than inconvenient but it is A) not the schools' fault that employers are not better at providing family/emergency leave, and, B) still a fact that school does not equal childcare. What do you do with your kids over the summer? During vacation weeks? On teacher meeting days? Snow days? This swine flu thing is obviously an anomaly and a very untimely one at that, but the schools are in a no-win situation. Should they remain open and risk infecting more kids (whose parents will then whine/sue about that, surely) or err on the side of caution and do what they did? Backup child care is a parent's responsibility, end of story.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 04:25 PM
  1. And, interesting footnote: another headline on boston.com just below this story is that 71% of workers show up when sick with flu symptoms, despite the current warnings about swine flu. This is a sad reflection of what our work culture has become...people are not allowed or are afraid to use their given sick time.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 04:28 PM
  1. Red...How on earth could someone "plan ahead" for a virus? Call the babysitter and let her know that if an unforeseen medical event should occur at any time in the future, he/she must be available?

    Keep in mind that anyone that professes to have so many answers and criticisms for a position in which they have never been placed, is generally considered a blowhard. Please maintain your child-free status.

    Posted by CWhite May 20, 09 04:35 PM
  1. To: urkiddinme & fran
    Clearly, you don't have kids or a clue. My boss really doesn't care whether or not my kid is sick.....SHE expects me at work. If I can't be there for a whole week, I am considered a nuisance and I put my career at risk, even though I have paid sick days. It isn't just inconvenient; I could lose my job if my boss finds an excuse to push it, especially in this economy. Given the poll figures released by Monster, I bet I am not alone (so try don’t be glib and tell me to get a new job). Kids get sick all year long and parents need to stay home, which most parents plan for and most bosses tolerate. You can jeopardize your job if you add another week on top of that.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 04:37 PM
  1. I never understood why "swine flu" is getting so much attention from the media..

    Off the shelf medications like Tamiflu are effective against it. and if I calculate correctly, once contracted you have a 0.219 % chance of dying from it.. That's a 1/5 of 1% chance of dying.. you could probably eat a double cheeseburger w/fries and increase your chances of dying more.

    Posted by leemik May 20, 09 04:42 PM
  1. Again to urkiddinme:
    Yeah, parents do have to handle the tons of things, like school vacation weeks, teacher workshop days, snow days, etc, etc, etc. Which is hard enough as it is, since I can tell my boss resents the hell out of it. Parents already have to deal with finding back up childcare all year long, but adding another week can push your job into the red zone.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 04:49 PM
  1. Um... you shouldn't be comparing the number of people who die, you should be comparing the severeness of the illness/mortality rates. Another article on boston.com says
    "So far, only 8 percent of swine flu cases have required hospitalization."

    Only? That's almost 1 in 10 going to the hospital. Much more serious than teh the regular flue.

    Actually, it's not. According to the CDC (the link is above), about 9% of people who get the "regular" flu die from it. Less than 1% of those diagnosed with swine flu die from it. -- LMA

    Posted by mk May 20, 09 04:55 PM
  1. Actually, I do have kids, two of them, and were their schools to be closed for medical or other emergency reasons, I would not BLAME THE SCHOOL for trying to prevent the spread of disease, or expect it to find somewhere else for my kids to go for the day. In the end, the kids are MY responsibility to find care for (and it's almost always ME, btw)...school is there to educate my kids...not get them out of my hair for 6 hours a day so I can do what I want. The ultimate responsibility for them lies with ME and I would and will deal with it, should it ever happen. Sorry. School is not childcare and should not be relied upon as such.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 05:13 PM
  1. This isn't a regular human flu virus. This is born from a combination of swine and bird mixed with the human flu virus. It's the kind that inflicts the healthy no the old and weak and that can very easily and quickly mutate. The more people that get it, the more likely it mutates. The 1918 virus killed over 50 million people in two years. Some strains mutated to a 50% mortality rate. In one week 5000 people died in Philadelphia and I bet somehow the population of Philly is higher today. This isn't your seasonal flu. It can become extremely deadly very quickly and be completely unstoppable. Do your homework people.

    Posted by macnh1 May 20, 09 05:16 PM
  1. So do we suggest that we close schools for a week when people get the 'regular' flu? This shouldn't be a debate about the 'have kids' and 'don't have kids' camps - the debate should be "why are we closing schools?" - we don't require that businesses shut down when 20% of their workers are ill.....the over reaction to H1N1 is creating a problem for parents (and the employers of parents). Where is the cost benefit analysis or the consistency? The closing of schools in response to H1N1 while there has never been wide spread closing of schools due to the regular flu is baffling.

    Posted by Dave May 20, 09 05:21 PM
  1. To urkiddinme:
    Wow, for someone who has kids, you certainly do seem clueless about what a working parent would have to deal with or worry about keeping a job. Lucky you that you have a situation where you can stay out of work without losing your job to care for your kids. I am hard at work or for at least as long as the economy deals with it. If you think that working is a luxury, and I use school to keep my kids out of my hair for 6 hours then you are really out of touch. I guess that you are incapable of understanding or having any empathy for working parents who are in a terrible situation or might lose their jobs if they miss too much work, regardless of the cause. The entire topic of this blog was to ask working parents how they are dealing with extended school closings. Not to get your hear how judgmental you are. Working parents don’t want their kids to get sick at school and they know the primary purpose of school is learning, not babysitting. Your implications otherwise are offensive.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 05:25 PM
  1. In my experience, as a working mom of 3, most parents don't want to take time from work because eventually it will eat into their vacation time. I hear this over and over, when early release days, school holidays and vacation weeks come up, from parent at PTO meeting, playground, etc. No one wants to "waste their vacation time" to take care of their kids. Quite sad, actually.

    Posted by momof3 May 20, 09 05:25 PM
  1. Be offended all you want, #21. My point is this: SCHOOL IS NOT CHILDCARE. And, therefore, YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON IT AS CHILDCARE. It's an educational facility. Not a babysitter. You cannot expect the school system to find you an alternative place to put your kids for 6+ hours per day when it is not open, whatever the reason for its not being open. School isn't a babysitter. That's the only point I'm trying to make here. Not whether schools "should" or "should not" close for this swine flu or another health concern, not what various employers' policies for time off are. The crux of the matter is that parents cannot treat school as childcare. And that's all. Not trying to start an argument about ethics or workers rights...life's not fair or convenient, but school does not exist to make your life convenient. It's not a depository for kids; some place to corral them for the day...it's an educational institution that has to operate based on safety for the majority. And that's what I thnk they are doing in this case, erring on the side of caution. You are missing the point entirely.

    Posted by urkiddinme May 20, 09 05:41 PM
  1. If parents kept their sick kids at home rather than sending them to school, then there would be no need to close schools.

    Posted by Otis May 20, 09 05:45 PM
  1. Team up with another family and split the days 4 ways - assuming 2 parents for each child, which I find is essential for best parenting. Don't whine because we all give up something.
    Giving up a career, $$ that went along with it and using creativivity to take on extra responsibilities to make up some of that $$, is a personal sacrifice. So far this week I spent many hours at the ped. and hospital with 1 broken bone and 1 case of pneumonia (testing for swine included). I'll be ready if school is closed but there may be another emergency first.

    Posted by nottoworry May 20, 09 06:02 PM
  1. my child was one of the students sent home because a child had the swine flu, a.k.a. h1n1 virus.
    However my question is this.. If they are having to clean everything before letting the kids back , what is happening to the buses? are they being cleaned?
    and the taxi's we use are they being cleaned? the train who transports the kids to school? are they being clean?
    what about the stores we shop? have any kids stopped at the stores to buy something on the way to or from school? are they being cleaned? i would guess no, so why the paranoia?

    Posted by Concerned May 20, 09 06:05 PM
  1. First, it is no longer 1918. We know a "little" more about disease and prevention, not to mention sanitation, healthier eating and living, clean water and even preventing the spread of disease, so we cannot compare or extrapolate the death toll of 1918 to today. Second, stop the insanity...closing schools? People get sick, kids get sick, some will die, the vast majority will recover, closing a school, mall or any other public place will have no impact whatsoever on the spread of this "flu". Closing any public place will not alter the course of this "hysteria". And please, if you feel ill, go to your PCP and stay out of the ER's...no one cares about you there, you're just another hypochondriac....you'll wait 4-6 hours as you should for nothing.

    Posted by Spock May 20, 09 06:58 PM
  1. Sorry but don't have kids if you can't be home with them. Don't blame others because you are a working parent. That makes it easy on everyone and we would have a lot less parents complaining about needing time off from work and missing out on vacation time because they have to use sick time.
    Good the schools are closing but will that stop the spread. No...the kids are running around out there before and will be running around doing errands ..shopping etc. while off for the week. Hopefully by the school shutting down the virus won't spread as much.

    Posted by little town May 20, 09 07:03 PM
  1. #26 (Concerned) - The scrubbing of schools really has no impact on stoping the spread of illness. Clean schools are always better than dirty schools, but doesn't do much good to stop person to person spread of germs. They'll clean the school and then kids will come back, some who will not wash their hands or cover their coughs, and that is how the virus will continue to spread. Cleaning beyond the routine cleaning won't do much. Better to put the money to stocking up on hand sanitizer.

    Posted by Billy Jack May 20, 09 07:03 PM
  1. To urkiddinme
    I don't treat school as my child care. Who do you think you are? How dare you suggest that I use school as a place to ‘dump’ or 'corral' my child? Who are you to question my parenting? Never in any of the points that I have suggested that school is daycare or questioned your parenting. My point has always been addressed to the actual topic of this blog, which is how do you cope with the extra time that you need to be out of work if school is closed an extended period of time. If none of the concerns that I have raised matter to or impact you, you clearly have it a lot easier that the rest of us. Good for you, but don’t impose your judgments on the rest of us.

    Posted by Kimberly May 20, 09 07:50 PM
  1. Actually Otis, this flu is contagious 1 day before the child shows symptoms. So obviously you should keep your child home when they have symptoms, but by that time it's too late - he or she will have already passed it on to classmates. That's why they are closing the schools. Though with siblings and parents still venturing out into other schools and workplaces, clearly it will continue to spread anyway.

    Posted by resigned May 20, 09 08:39 PM
  1. I am a pubic school teacher in Boston. Many are the days that parents send their children to school sick. But why not? There is a school nurse. Many times the emergency phone numbers are not working. And after all the schools are their day care providers.

    Posted by APoorlyPaidBabySitter May 20, 09 09:00 PM
  1. Please correct:
    "Actually, it's not. According to the CDC (the link is above), about 9% of people who get the "regular" flu die from it. Less than 1% of those diagnosed with swine flu die from it. -- LMA"

    From The CDC:
    Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.

    So using simple math:
    There are 300M residents of the US. If 5% get the flu only 1% are hospitalized. If 20% get the flu only .3% are hospitalized. 36,000 deaths is somewhere between .2% and .06% of those who get the flu.

    Back to the Globe article on why it is important for teachers to pass the math test portion of their exam. Please add in journalists who inform us and politicians who spend our $$.

    Thanks, nottoworry, but the 9 percent figure is specific to the 2007-2008 flu season, as per CDC data found here: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/weeklyarchives2007-2008/07-08summary.htm. I referenced it because I used 2007-2008 figures in the post itself, and it's based on the data collected in the reporting system used to determine baseline and epidemic thresholds. -- LMA

    Posted by nottoworry May 20, 09 09:25 PM
  1. I went to the Prudential mall today - lots of kids out and about. So which is better? Should we keep high schoolers in school, kind of confined to one place or let them out among office workers having lunch and riding on the T and wherever else they decide to go?

    Posted by fromwhereistand May 20, 09 09:48 PM
  1. "the 9 percent figure is specific to the 2007-2008 flu season, as per CDC data found here":

    The report says that during the peak of the 2007-2008 flu season, 9% of all deaths were caused by pneumonia and flu, not that 9% of people will flu died! If 9% of people with flu died, that would represent almost 100% of all deaths. Notice: this figure if for pneumonia and flu. Pneumonia is a much bigger killer than flu. Also this was only during the peak of the flu season (which is supposed to be passed now.) People now are dying out of season. Also, very importantly, usually most of the people who die are old. New flu is killing young and middle age people (almost exclusively, so far). Young people are not supposed to die of flu.

    But most important of all, this is just the beginning. The numbers are rising exponentially. "Only 79 deaths" may not seem important, but the rate of infection is doubling perhaps every week. And deaths will be doubling at the same rate (but follow after 1-2 weeks, because death takes time.)

    Timetoworry, thank you. I appreciate the clarification -- LMA

    Posted by timetoworry May 20, 09 10:59 PM
  1. Indeed we are "making too much of this." I'm the parent of a Winsor School student who was out Monday and Tuesday with a fever & sore throat--one of the "unusually high number of students exhibiting flu-like symptoms." By Tuesday evening she was fine--just in time for a week of expensive inactivity.

    Flu is flu. Occasionally and tragically it leads to complications that kill someone. But life and institutiions shouldn't shut down in a vain attempt to eliminate all risk from our daily lives. 2,500 children die EACH YEAR in the U.S. of injuries sustained in motor-vehicle accidents. Should we close schools permanently to protect kids from the dangers of school buses and carpools?

    Indeed, the idea that the Winsor School closing is about public health is laughable. It's about liability concerns.

    Posted by Winsor School Parent May 20, 09 11:08 PM
  1. The rate of absences at Boston Latin just the day that they closed was 10 percent of the entire student population. At peak flu season in February the school has an absence rate of less than 1/4 of that on any given day. And my child is a 9th grader, who like most BLS kids, is quite capable of being home alone responsibly if need be.
    I do think the concern about working parents will be an issue when this hits elementary schools, unless school gets out before then, as I hope that it will. But for most parents I know from BLS, it is hardly a crisis. Personally, I am glad that she has more time to study for exams.

    Posted by BLS Mom May 21, 09 07:26 AM
  1. The CDC, HHS, DHS & DOD have been planning for a pandemic since 2005. They have all been derelict in their duties alerting and preparing businesses and the public for this swine flu H1N1 Pandemic. The virus is a killer in young healthy adults similar to the 1918 virus. If parents had been told about the expected pandemic, they would have had plans in place with their employers. The GOvernment agencies tasked with Pandemic Plannig have failed miserably. 36,000 people DO NOT DIE OF FLU every year! That is a lie. This novel H1N1 virus is NOT MILD in many cases.

    We are being lied to so the economy will stay afloat. Call it for what it is. Money before people.

    Posted by Goju Tye May 21, 09 07:59 AM
  1. So if all the sick kids are staying home already, why close the schools for a week?

    Posted by Dontgetit May 21, 09 10:04 AM
  1. I have sick days, but can only use them for my own illness - not that of my kids. I already use what limited vacation time I have to cover school vacation weeks, teacher in-service days, days my children are ill, etc. (and I do treasure that time with my children). In the summer, I send my children to camps. If my children's school were to close for a week, I would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. If the whole point is to keep kids isolated from one another, it makes no sense for the afterschool care program to open up during the day as they do on snow days. It also makes no sense for me to send them to a friend's house, where they would spend the day in close proximity with other kids - exactly the scenario the schools were closed to avoid. If my kids' school is closed, I don't know what I will do. Hope like heck that my employer will allow me to use sick time, I guess.

    Posted by akmom May 21, 09 10:21 AM
  1. Hi, I have officialy joined the battle between kimberly and urrrallll something. I have to admid Kimbers... u r sooo offensive!

    Posted by swineflukillsallnotreally May 21, 09 04:23 PM
  1. "36,000 people die of seasonal flu every year" is not exactly a lie, but it's a distortion. The number is a mathematical construct based on how many excess deaths there are in a bad flu season compared with how many deaths would have been expected anyway. So, anyone whose death by heart attack, cancer, aids, etc. was partially caused or hastened by flu is supposed to be represented in this number. However, the number of deaths for which "flu" is listed on the death certificate as one of the known likely causes is in the hundreds. And again, both figures, the mathematically constructed 36,000 and the hundreds listed on the death certificate are overwhelmingly associated with the deaths of very old people. Not the young and middle aged people who are dying and going to die of swine flu.

    Posted by timetoworry May 21, 09 11:00 PM
  1. "Winsor School Parent"-- If the state or city BoH tells a school to close, they must close-- it's not the school's choice. So liability is not the issue.

    Posted by realitycheck May 23, 09 09:17 AM
  1. Employers need to fire undependable parents who can't show up for work. Many times I've been passed over for jobs because it's more important to hire a breeder with a famblee to support.

    Yet when I do get hired, I'm expected to work part-time to make sure the moo on maternity leave can come back to "her" job. The little brats have to stay home, have a soccer game or a meeting - breeders make the mandatory early exit, and the childfree are there to keep the ship afloat. I'll NEVER hire a parent.


    Well employers you made the decision so bed, made, lie

    Posted by chris clauer May 23, 09 07:50 PM
  1. The previous comment about the 's was correct. If it was meant to be used as a contraction, then the headline itself is incorrect as more than 1 school was closed. The writer should admit to the error , say thanks and not try to mask it with a lame excuse. This type of reaction on such a small matter is becoming typical at by many people. Everyone needs to take responsibility for mistakes and be able to learn and appreciate constructive criticism. It would do a world of good.

    Posted by i,mwrongtoo May 26, 09 01:12 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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