You Can Have Both: Excellent Public Health and Excellent Pizza

Frank Bruni in The New York Times writes about a business that practices excellent public health and provides excellent food at the same time.. Let’s spread the word so that more restaurants will do the same. Read Frank Bruni’s opinion piece here:


September 16, 2021
Ben Wiseman
I can rage about the number of Americans who refuse to get Covid vaccines and who, as a result, have prevented this country’s vaccination rate from rising to the level where people are as safe as possible and the economy less encumbered. And I’ve raged, believe me.
I can get depressed about the situation. I’ve done that, too.
Or I can get a pizza. That’s my strategy going forward.
Pizzeria Mercato, a much-loved Italian restaurant just five miles from my house in Chapel Hill, N.C., requires not only that all of its employees be vaccinated but also that any customer who wants to dine inside provide proof of vaccination. No jab, no grub (at least not at a table). That’s the deal, one that trumpets the importance of vaccines and provides a vaccination incentive to boot.
I love that. I want to support it. And I wonder: What if more restaurants did likewise? (Some do, including Danny Meyer’s, but not enough of them.) And more hotels and sportsfitness and entertainment venues? (Ditto.) And airlines? (Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, just announced such a policy.)
What if the willfully, proudly, stubbornly unvaccinated — people who have access to shots and no rational medical exemption but still won’t get them — were ever more frustrated as they sought their pleasures and ever more inconvenienced as they ran their errands? Would that wear down the resistance of at least a few of them? Isn’t it worth trying?
My impulse isn’t punitive. It’s practical. The new vaccination mandates that President Biden announced last week — a warranted measure, in my opinion, that he took in response to dire circumstances — won’t cover tens of millions of Americans, and it needs to be part of a broader, more coordinated campaign to lead, nudge and, yes, shove Americans toward sanity. That would help make the effort bigger than one man and one political party, for whatever that’s worth in these madly partisan times.
But even leaving that aside, requiring that customers be vaccinated is a way for businesses to better protect the workers who come in contact with those customers. It additionally allows business owners to communicate their values and take a stand.
It grants customers the same opportunity. Where to nosh: the eatery that barely enforces whatever local mask mandate may exist or the one that demands a jab? Disregard who has the tastier tostada. Choose the more principled citizen (and the safer place). Then pick the airline that requires that its employees be vaccinated.
Pizzeria Mercato was closed for all but curbside takeout for more than a year of the pandemic. In early August, shortly after its dining room reopened, its owner, Gabe Barker, announced that diners would have to provide proof of vaccination before being shown to their seats.
His decision was informed by data about the efficacy of vaccines and by conversations with his wife, a registered nurse who works at the University of North Carolina Medical Center, where, he told me, an overwhelming majority of people hospitalized for Covid-related reasons are unvaccinated.
“I’m not telling people how to make their own decisions about what to do with their bodies, and I’m not here to politicize a global health crisis,” he said. He’s just doing what “allows me to come to work every day and mitigate risk,” he added.
He also wants to try, however he can, to lessen the burden on health care workers. On top of being physically drained, they’re “mentally defeated,” he said. “They believe that this round of Covid was avoidable.”
After word of his policy got out, he and his restaurant confronted some vicious posts on social media and the restaurant’s phone lines were jammed with nasty calls. “There was a lot of inconsiderate commentary that my decision was relatable to policies in Nazi Germany,” he said. “My mother is Jewish.”
There was also, rightly, praise. Three weeks ago, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, held a news conference at Pizzeria Mercato to thank Barker and praise his example.
Barker said that his bottom line hasn’t been hurt: Some people are making it a point to patronize Mercato.
It’s where my food tomorrow night will come from. Some neighbors are having me over for dinner on their deck and they’re getting takeout from Mercato. That delights me not just gastronomically but also ethically. It’s good eating in more ways than one.

The End of the SAT

Educators have long known that what SAT scores most reliably tell us is the family income of the testtakers and that every hour spent on test prep for the SAT is an hour away from helping students to grow as learners and thinkers. So we celebrate the precipitous decline of the SAT.

In the late 1980’s, fewer than three dozen colleges and universities did not require SAT or ACT scores from their applicants. Today, 1700 colleges and universities are not requiring SAT or ACT scores from applicants. Alleluia!

Below is a press release from FAIR TEST, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing:

For immediate release Thursday, September 9, 2021


An updated list of ACT/SAT-optional and test-blind schools released today by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) shows that more than 1,700 colleges and universities will not require admissions exam scores from applicants seeking to enroll in fall 2022 applicants. That is more than 73% of all U.S. bachelor-degree granting institutions.

“Test-optional and test-blind policies are the new normal in higher education admissions,” FairTest Executive Director Bob Schaeffer explained. “The vast majority of four-year institutions, including nearly all of the nation’s most-selective schools, no longer rely on ACT/SAT scores to evaluate applicants.”

“A big question is whether the 2022 U.S. News “Best Colleges” guide will reflect this new reality,” Schaeffer continued. That publication will be released on Monday, September 13. Last year’s U.S. News guide was the first to include institutions with test-blind or score-free admissions policies. According to FairTest’s new tally, 84 schools are now in that category

In recent years, U.S. News has punished ACT/SAT-optional schools by reducing the scores used to calculate rankings. “Because of arbitrary policies like this, FairTest was an initial signer of a petition calling on U.S. News to eliminate any use of test scores in its rankings,” Schaeffer added.  “We are watching closely to see whether this upcoming U.S. News guide continues this unjustified, punitive policy.” The Fiske Guide to Colleges, the best-selling admissions handbook, recently announced that it will no longer include test scores in its annual school profiles.

FairTest has been the leader of the U.S. test-optional admissions movement since the late 1980s when the non-profit organization published a report titled “Beyond Standardized Tests: Admissions Alternatives that Work.”  At that time, fewer than three dozen colleges and universities did not mandate ACT or SAT score submission from applicants.

– – 3 0 – –

–  FairTest’s frequently updated directory of test-optional, 4-year schools is available free online at — sort geographically by clicking on “State”.

–   A chronology of schools dropping ACT/SAT requirements with details about the duration of those policies is at:

–  A sub-list of 84 campuses with test-blind, score-free or test-free policies (ACT/SAT results not considered if submitted):

Time To End Our National Obsession With Test Scores

By Diane Ravitch

Nancy Flanagan is a retired teacher with decades of experience. In this post, she remembers when she used to take standardized test scores seriously. Then she went to a state board meeting in Michigan, where the topic of discussion was setting cut scores. Cut scores are the lines that determine whether students scored “advanced,” “proficient,” “basic,” or “below basic.” 

What she learned was that the cut scores are arbitrary. There is no science involved in setting the cut scores. It’s guesswork. The cut scores can be moved up or down to produce good news or bad news. 

She writes: 

Here’s the (incendiary) headline: Test Scores Show Dramatic Declines!

Here’s the truth: this set of test scores tells us nothing for certain. The data are apples-to-oranges-to bowling balls muddled. If anything, if you still believe test scores give us valuable information, the data might be mildly encouraging, considering what students have encountered over the past 18 months…

The problem is this: You can’t talk about good schools or good teachers or even “lost learning”any more, without a mountain of numbers. Which can be inscrutable to nearly everyone, including those making policies impacting millions of children. When it comes to standardized test score analysis, we are collectively illiterate. And this year’s data? It’s meaningless.

Bridge Magazine (headline: Test Scores Slump) provides up/down testing data for every school district in Michigan. The accompanying article includes plenty of expert opinion on how suspect and incomplete the numbers are, but starts out with sky-is-falling paragraphs: In English, the share of third-graders considered “proficient” or higher dropped from 45.1 percent to 42.8 percent; in sixth-grade math, from 35.1 percent to 28.6 percent; in eighth-grade social studies, from 28 percent to 25.9 percent.

These are, of course, aggregated statewide numbers. Down a few percent, pretty much across the board. Unsurprising, given the conditions under which most elementary and middle school students were learning. Down the most for students of color and those in poverty—again, unsurprising. Still, there’s also immense score variance, school to school, even grade to grade. The aggregate numbers don’t tell the whole story–or even the right story.

The media seemed to prefer a bad-news advertising campaign for the alarming idea that our kids are falling further behind. Behind whom, is what I want to know? Aren’t we all in this together? Is a two-point-something score drop while a virus rages reason to clutch your academic pearls?

It’s time to end our national love affair with testing, to make all Americans understand that educational testing is a sham that’s harmed many children. Testing hasn’t ever worked to improve public education outcomes, and it’s especially wasteful and subject to misinterpretation right now

CNN: What the data reveals about children and Covid-19 in the US

By Daniel Wolfe and Priya Krishnakumar, CNN

Updated 10:57 AM ET, Wed September 1, 2021

(CNN)As students and staff return to school, the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 has caused cases, hospitalizations and death rates to soar across the country.

Children under 12 are particularly vulnerable to infection as they are not yet eligible for vaccination, including the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine.Contrary to research early in the pandemic, children are just as likely to become infected as adults. According to the CDC, Covid-19 infection rates for adolescents aged 5 to 17 were as high as in adults 18 to 49, and higher than rates in adults over 50.

There have been 4.8 million cases of Covid-19 in children since April 2020, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, making up about 15% of all documented cases in the United States. In the last month, the number of new weekly cases has surged to near-peak levels.

Areas across the country with lower than average vaccination rates are experiencing higher increases in Covid-19 cases among children. In Mississippi, where only 37.7% of residents are fully vaccinated, there has been a 29% increase in cumulative Covid-19 cases in children over the past two weeks

lTotal hospitalizations are also climbing to rates not seen since before vaccines were readily available. Average hospitalizations for children with Covid jumped in early 2021 and have remained high. This is to be expected, said Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of the American Association of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. “This is a reflection of both the infectiousness of the Delta variants and what happens to unvaccinated populations as infections continue,” he told CNN.As the pandemic continues, and vaccine eligibility remains on hold, children are increasingly experiencing the ramifications. Available data shows that child hospitalizations as a share of all hospitalizations are on the rise.

This can be attributed in part to vaccine availability in people 12 and older, but in cities like San Francisco, where vaccination rates are 19.6% points higher than the national average of 52.4%, children admitted to hospitals fit a consistent profile.”We are finding that our older pediatric patients have not been vaccinated. In the case of younger pediatric patients, their parents have not been vaccinated,” said Suzanne Leigh, a representative at UCSF Benioff’s Children Hospital.As total hospitalizations have surged across the country, health care facilities are overburdened and facing familiar shortages.

lMany pediatric units are at capacity as they see an influx of child Covid patients on top of an unseasonable epidemic of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).Hospitals often plan for extra staffing during the winter flu season, but a late-summer onslaught of Covid-19 cases has caused unexpected health care staff shortages in many areas of the country. “[Hospitals] have all kinds of plans to make sure they’re properly staffed. And so when there’s a curveball, like an RSV season in the summer, that by itself creates a problem,” said Dr. O’Leary.

Dr. Sarah Combs, an emergency physician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., is optimistic about the effectiveness of safety measures: “I think it’s understandable that there’s anxiety, but in some respects I think we should embrace the anxiety,” she said. “It’s very easy to get fatigued and get sick and tired of doing the same old, same old [precautions], but that’s when we let our guard down… We are going back to school with eyes wide open.”

As students return to school, proven mitigation measures are needed to protect children who remain vulnerable to the pandemic and are shouldering the impact of decisions out of their control.