COVID & School

Protocols for sending our children back to school during this pandemic have started to be announced nationwide. Here in Omaha, our four major school systems have developed plans specifically tailored for their students, and all four are different. Four school systems, operating in the same general geographic area, with the same exact recommendations from national and state authorities, have chosen back-to-school protocols that are markedly different. Why?

Because, even though we know a lot more about this virus today than we knew four months ago, there is still a great deal of debate among the best and the brightest in the field of epidemiology about the best way forward. On one side, a very credible group of researchers are saying, do everything we can to protect the vulnerable but open everything up to exposure. We’re only slowing the inevitable, and the restrictions are causing more harm than good. On the other side, which is the side of the Administration, even if Trump is giving mixed signals, they believe that the more restrictive and controlled behaviors are, the better.

Who is right? Both and neither… We don’t know, and we won’t know until this virus is well gone from our rear-view mirror. As I mentioned before, until we have had a chance to study this data in detail, long after this pandemic has passed, the answers are truly un-knowable. I understand that is very disconcerting for those of us who have loved ones in the high-risk category (ALL OF US) but it doesn’t change the reality that some things are simply out of our control. We don’t predict the weather very well either.

Here’s what we know for sure at this point: 1. The virus is dangerous and shows no sign of going away anytime soon. 2. It is life threatening to senior citizens with comorbidity problems. 3. The young, particularly the school age children we’re discussing, have very little health risk – less than the common flu. 4. The recent opening of social and political interactions have caused mass exposure, and the dramatic increase in testing nationwide has resulted in a spiking number of confirmed cases. 5. Even with all of this new exposure and confirmed cases, the death rate has declined rapidly from the early days and now remains relatively stable.

I suppose in these final months leading to our next civil war, it is far too much to expect our leaders to not use the COVID pandemic to further their political ends, but it certainly looks repugnant to the average non-partisan citizen. How does it make sense for any of us to question the good faith efforts of anyone trying to develop policy approaches to a problem when every single option is a guess? Bleeding was an accepted medical practice for thousands of years. The leading health experts then had all of the confidence that Dr. Fauci does today. You get my point.

We need grown-ups in these difficult times, not partisan automatons who are as predictable as those stainless-steel toys that bang against each other in immediate reaction. Very few answers to difficult problems are black and white. The world is a complicated place and criticizing anyone for doing the best job they can displays nothing but rude and self-righteousness behavior that is incongruous with good citizenship or good leadership. As a people, this is a time when thoughtful, supportive understanding is better in every regard than mindless combat.


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