News India Times – that’s all you need to know program was in place, was below 0.3%. A high positivity rate can be a sign that a city or state is testing too few people: only those who have presented at a doc- tor’s office or hospital with symptoms, for instance. But that does not appear to be the case in NewYork state, which has among the highest rates of testing in the country: 8.2 tests per 1,000 people, according to data from the Covid Track- ing Project. In NewYork City, virtually all Zip codes have adequate levels of testing. At reasonable levels of testing, a rising positivity rate does generally mean that community spread is rising, but schools had largely been spared. To be sure, remote learning can be effective in some instances, but not every student excels at it. Primary school stu- dents, students with learning disabilities, nonnative English speakers and low- income students without access to decent computers andWiFi at home suffer in particular. Many private schools, includ- ing religious schools, will remain open - another way the pandemic shutdowns will magnify the gap between children from lower-income and higher-income groups. If the pandemic response in this coun- try had not been handled so badly by the federal government and the states, we would not be arguing about schools at this point. But the bungled responses mean that politicians face tough decisions - and questions of prioritization. NewYork City appears to have prioritized keeping the wrong institutions open. As we combat the novel coronavirus, which can cause the disease covid-19, we need to think about both short-term and long-term ef- fects. Disruption in children’s learning - at a critical period in their cognitive develop- ment - will have dire long-term effects. In NewYork, the teacher unions have pushed back against opening the schools (and now, keeping them open) on safety grounds. As a product of a public high school who deeply values the interactions I had with so many teachers, I respect their concerns. To me, they are essential workers. Schools do need more money to keep student density down, provide masks to students who lack them, im- prove ventilation in some older buildings and protect at-risk teachers. But NewYork schools had in place rigorous plans for social distancing and staffing, and they seemed to be working. The city can work with teachers and their unions to alleviate their remaining concerns. NewYork City, once the nation’s epicenter for the coronavirus, quelled a ferocious outbreak and started to come to life again. It has since faced a setback. Yet while indoor dining and workouts continue, students once again can’t sit in classrooms and discuss literature, math and science with their teachers. Given the lack of evidence that schools were spreading the virus, some- thing is deeply wrong with that picture. Adalja, an infectious-disease physician, is a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. -Special To TheWashington Post Opinion News India Times November 27, 2020 4 The Dirty Little Secret Pollsters Need To Own Up To T here’s a dirty little secret that we pollsters need to own up to: People don’t talk to us anymore, and it’s making polling less reliable. When I first undertook telephone polling in the early 1980s, I could start with a cluster of five demographically similar voters - say, Republican moms in their 40s in a Midwestern suburb - and expect to com- plete at least one interview from that group of five. I’d build a sample of 500 different clusters of five voters per cluster, or 2,500 voters total. From that number, I could be reasonably assured that 500 people would talk to us. The 500 clusters were designed to represent a diverse cross-section of the electorate. As the years drifted by, it took more and more voters per cluster for us to get a single voter to agree to an inter- view. Between 1984 and 1989, when caller ID was rolled out, more voters began to ignore our calls. The advent of answering machines and then voice mail further reduced responses. Voters screen their calls more aggressively, so cooperation with pollsters has steadily declined year-by- year. Whereas once I could extract one complete inter- view from five voters, it can now take calls to as many as 100 voters to complete a single interview, even more in some segments of the electorate. And here’s the killer detail: That single cooperative soul who speaks with an interviewer cannot possibly hold the same opinions as the 99 other voters who refused. In short, we no longer have truly random samples that support claims that poll results accurately represent opinions of the electorate. Instead, we have samples of “the willing,” what re- searchers call a “convenience sample” of those consent- ing to give us their time and opinions. Despite knowledge of this, pollsters (including myself) have glossed over this reality by dressing up our results with claims of polls hav- ing a “margin of error” of three or four percentage points when we knew, or should have known, that the error factor is incalculable given the non-random sample. Most pollsters turned to weighting results to “fix” variations in cooperation, but this can inadvertently amplify sampling errors due to noncooperation. For a while, most polls conducted most of the time in most places seemed reasonably accurate, so we kept at it, claiming random sample surveys with low margins of error. Weighting became a Band-Aid for noncooperation. And polling still seemed better than hoisting a wet finger to the political winds. Then came the past two presiden- tial elections, exposing deeper wounds. I offer my own experience from Florida in the 2020 election to illustrate the problem. I conducted tracking polls in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. To complete 1,510 interviews over several weeks, we had to call 136,688 voters. In hard-to-interview Florida, only 1 in 90-odd voters would speak with our interviewers. Most calls to voters went unanswered or rolled over to answer- ing machines or voice mail, never to be interviewed despite multiple attempts. The final wave of polling, conducted Oct. 25-27 to complete 500 interviews, was the worst for cooperation. We could finish interviews with only four-tenths of one percent from our pool of potential respondents. As a result, this supposed “random sample survey” seemingly yielded, as did most all Florida polls, lower support for President Donald Trump than he earned on Election Day. After the election, I noted wide variations in comple- tion rates across different categories of voters, but nearly all were still too low for any actual randomness to be assumed or implied. Many voters who fit the “Likely Trump Supporter” profile were not willing to do an interview. It was espe- cially hard to interview older men. Similarly, we were less likely to complete interviews with Trump households in Miami’s media market. Whatever the motivation, this be- havior almost certainly introduced bias into poll results, dampening apparent support for Trump. Pollsters and poll readers can anticipate low and vari- able cooperation rates to persist, undermining random- ness. In anticipation of this, cooperation rates need to be published with all polls, to add a dash of real-world sobriety to our weighing of poll results. Presently, this is very rarely done for public or private political polling. If you don’t believe me, ask your pollster for his “disposition of sample” report and get ready for some cagey equivoca- tion. Some say online polling will help, and it may. But most online polling uses non-random samples from pre-re- cruited “panels” of voters who have signed up to be inter- viewed, typically for some incentive. And online surveys have serious data quality or integrity issues. Most voters rush through them too rapidly for real thought. And we cannot verify that online voters are indeed registered to vote or have the requisite vote history they may claim. One promising approach to making online samples more verifiable and random is by texting interview re- quests to a genuinely random sample of those on the voter rolls. But standing pat on the old ways, or denying the non- randomness of today’s polls, won’t make polls great again. Hill is director of Hill Research Consultants and a 2020 fellow at the University of Southern California’s Dornsife Center for the Political Future. -Special To TheWashington Post By David Hill - Continued From Page 3 REUTERS/Jeenah Moon An empty playground is seen at the Anderson School PS 334 during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 12, 2020. Photo:Twitter Photo:USC Dornsife Center forthe Political Futurewebsite The VirusWasn’t Spreading In NewYork City Schools. Why Close Them?