May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We Must Continue to Work Together to Eradicate COVID

It has recently come to my attention that the administrations of some non-local yeshiva day schools have sent notices to the parent body asking them to clear all COVID-19 tests with the school before seeking testing. This is disturbing to me in many ways. Number one, it is an infringement on federal health privacy laws—the school has no legal right to interfere as to whether or not students seek healthcare. Number two, and more importantly, it will clearly sway some people from bringing their ill child to their physician for fear of retribution from the school. The global COVID pandemic continues unabated. While cases thankfully remain low in the northeast, the United States as a whole continues to report 40,000 new cases and 1,000 new deaths daily.

Israel thought they were done with COVID-19 and is now in lockdown again. Germany, France, Italy and Spain all thought they had the virus under control and now their caseloads are spiking again. The only way to combat this virus, for which we currently have no effective treatments, is to identify cases as quickly as possible and isolate them and their contacts to prevent the sparks of an infection from becoming an uncontrolled wildfire.

Lest you say that children are not affected by the pandemic, I would counter with the data that shows that 30% of all new infections are currently reported in young adults and children. Lest you say that children tend to only have mild cases, the data shows that six weeks after spikes in young adult infection rates, the infection rate spikes in the elderly. Lest you say that you already have herd immunity, the current positive test rate in Williamsburg, which was hit much harder than the northeast in general, has risen from 1% to 5%.

There is no denying that testing students will lead to positive cases; after all, that is what testing is designed to do. There is also no denying that a substantial number of positives will lead to a potential shutdown of in-person schooling and a potential decrease in Torah learning. The flipside is that stopping case transmission will undoubtedly save lives.

The Torah states in Vayikra 18:5, “You shall keep my laws and my rules by the pursuit of which man shall live.” Rabbi Akiva comments that this pasuk is to be interpreted as “You shall live by my commandments but not die due to them.” Additionally, the Torah states in Vayikra 19:34, “The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens … for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The Ramban states that this pasuk teaches us about the positive commandment to preserve life and that this commandment extends to both Jews and Gentiles.

In our current situation we are not even asked to violate halacha in order to save a life but simply taking the chance of having to switch to a remote learning platform. If we can drive an ambulance to a hospital on Shabbat to save a heart attack victim should we not be willing to test children for COVID-19 before they infect a grandparent or an immunocompromised loved one or neighbor? This disease has taken a terrible toll on everyone, but the only way in which we will eradicate the virus is to all work together and do our parts. Without 100% buy-in we will all continue to pay a heavy price in the months to come.

One last point to consider. To quote The New York Times from August 31, 2009, during a different pandemic: “In medieval Europe, Jews were blamed so often, and so viciously, that it is surprising it was not called the Jewish Death. During the pandemic’s peak in Europe, from 1348 to 1351, more than 200 Jewish communities were wiped out, their inhabitants accused of spreading contagion or poisoning wells.”

We well know that Jews were in no way responsible for the Black Death. Do we really want to be in part responsible for the continued COVID-19 pandemic??


Robert Jawetz, MD, FAAP, is a physician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles