Despite the ever-increasing number of cases, a lot of you have never known anyone personally who has or has had Covid. Now you do. I would be that person. I am telling you this here because I would much rather you hear it from me than through some convoluted grapevine.
In the 48hrs since I became a statistic, there are few answers to be found. Yes, I wear a face shield everywhere I go (I cannot wear a mask without having a complete anxiety attack meltdown and passing out).
In the past 3 weeks, I have gone into one grocery store (once), into Papa Murphy’s once (was there for less than 15 seconds to pick up a pre-ordered pizza), into Starbucks once (long enough to pick up a pre-ordered drink), and to the doctor’s office (once).
We didn’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving. Had my Covid test performed in a drive-thru situation. Other than that, my fat butt has been parked right here at home.
After spending 1hr and 8min on the phone with the county health “tracker,” the only thing we’ve been able to determine absolutely is that we absolutely do not know where I picked up Covid.
Unbeknownst to me, there are apparently several strains of this disease out there, ranking in different levels of severity. SO FAR, I seem to have the Trump strain and not the Charley Pride variety.
I understand that makes me very lucky. I don’t have a temperature, I’m not having a lot of difficulty breathing, and I have not lost either my sense of taste or smell.
YET. I have close friends who are experiencing all of those symptoms, and not only does my heart go out to them, but I am truly thankful I’m not forced to deal with those particular demons.
On the other hand, I do have a slight cough, I am suffering horrible headaches, I feel as though I’ve been run over by a truck, and I’m exhausted after doing something as simple as making scrambled eggs for breakfast.
The WORST symptom — for ME — is a degree of confused thinking which often makes it difficult to create a cohesive thought or sentence.
To their credit, the county health officials have me and my family covered. So do the prayer warriors from Bayside Chapel.
Mom and Ian will both be tested this week, but Ian is really mourning the fact he couldn’t go to church this morning. He has obtained permission (from the county) to go to the post office once a day (though he is required to do so after hours), so he won’t go into complete system shutdown.
We are lucky to have plenty of friends here in town, so we’ll surely have an abundance of folks who’ll be happy to pick up groceries for us when they go for their own.
Meantime, much like Thanksgiving, Chrismas at our house will be exactly that: Christmas at OUR. HOUSE. Unfortunately, in the past, I have made and delivered special Christmas breakfasts for a revolving number of friends each year (many times anonymously), and had made plans to do so again this year, too.
Those gift meals will now need to wait until 2021. Thankfully, I had not yet purchased the “makin’s” for these meals, so nothing is sitting around here getting “tainted.” But, I am sad that I cannot do this again this year, as it is something which has always brought me joy during the holidays.
I haven’t a doubt I’ll recover from this. Same with my folks, if they have it, though I hope and pray they both test negatively. The biggest trick for both me and Mom right now seems to be going to sleep, and staying that way. Especially since whenever we DO get to sleep, the phone rings, or someone rings the doorbell.
To that end, I would ask that those of you who wish to contact us please do so by texting me. Most all of you have my cellphone number.
If I do not speak with you before then, please know I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and I am very much looking forward to NEXT year. I HAS to be better than this one!
This is how we treat each other? This is who we are?
A county health director on the high cost of doing her job…
“I don’t really know if I should be talking about all of this. It makes me worried for my safety. I’ve had strange cars driving back and forth past my house.
I get threatening messages from people saying they’re watching me. They followed my family to the park and took pictures of my kids. How insane is that? I know it’s my job to be out front talking about the importance of public health — educating people, keeping them safe. Now it kind of scares me.
But people need to know what’s going on. It’s happening all over the country, and it’s not acceptable. I know we can do better. We have to do better.
I don’t base our whole response to this pandemic on my own opinion. That’s what makes the backlash so confusing. This job is nonpartisan. I’m not political in any way.
I go off of facts and evidence-based science, and right now, all the data in Missouri is scary bad. We only have about 70,000 people in St. Francois County, but we’ve had more than 900 new cases in the last few weeks.
Our positivity rate is 25 percent and rising. The hospital is already at capacity. They’ve basically run out of staff. We can’t keep up. It’s an uncontrolled spread. I have these moments when it feels like I’m a nurse at the bedside, and my patient is dying, and I’m trying every possible intervention to save them.
More social distancing. More masks. More contact tracing. Warnings and more warnings. What else can we try? But in the end, it doesn’t matter how much you do. Nothing will work, because it almost seems like the patient is resisting your help.
I get the same comments all the time over Facebook or email. “Oh, she’s blowing it out of proportion.” “She’s a communist.” “She’s a bitch.” “She’s pushing her agenda.”
Okay, fine. I do have an agenda. I want disease transmission to go down. I want to keep this community safe. I want fewer people to die. Why is that controversial? We weren’t set up well to deal with this virus in Missouri.
We have the worst funding in the country for public health, and a lot of the things we’ve needed to fight the spread of covid are things we should have had in place 10 years ago.
We don’t have an emergency manager. We don’t have anyone to handle HR, public information, or IT, so that’s all been me.
We didn’t get extra funding for covid until last month. I’m young and I’m motivated, and I took this job in January because public health is my absolute love. It doesn’t pay well, but would I rather be treating people who already have a disease or helping to prevent it. That’s what we do. We help take care of people.
At one point this summer, I worked 90 days straight trying to hold this virus at bay, and my whole staff was basically like that.
We hired 10 contact tracers to track the spread, starting in August, but the real problem we keep running into is community cooperation. We call everyone that’s had a positive test and say: “Hey, this is your local health department. We’re trying to interrupt disease transmission, and we’d love your help.” It’s nothing new. We do the same thing for measles, mumps, and tick-borne diseases, and I’d say 99 percent of the time before covid, people were receptive.
They wanted to stop an outbreak, but now it’s all politicized. Every time you get on the phone, you’re hoping you don’t get cussed at. Probably half of the people we call are skeptical or combative. They refuse to talk. They deny their own positive test results.
They hang up. They say they’re going to hire a lawyer. They give you fake people they’ve spent time with and fake numbers. They lie and tell you they’re quarantining alone at home, but then in the background you can hear the beeping of a scanner at Walmart.
I’ve stayed up a lot of nights trying to understand where this whole disconnect comes from. I love living in this county. I know in my heart these are good people, but it’s like we’re living on different planets.
I have people in my own family who believe covid is a conspiracy and our doctors are getting paid off. I’ve done press conferences and dozens of Facebook Live videos to talk about the real science.
Even with all the other failures happening, that’s the one thing we should be celebrating: better treatments, nurses and doctors on the front lines, promising news about vaccines. But the more I talk about the facts, the more it seems to put a target on my back.
“We’re tracking your movements.” “Don’t do something you’ll regret.” “We’ll protest at your house.”
The police here have been really great. The elementary school says they’re watching over my kids and they’re on high alert.
I have a security system now at my house. I locked down my email and took all my family photos off of Facebook, but you start wondering: Is this worth it? Could anything possibly be worth it?
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And then it got worse this fall around the whole masking issue. Our hospital was filling up, and they asked if we could do more in terms of prevention and masking.
We put out a press release. We went to businesses and did trainings. We kept encouraging people to mask up, but it wasn’t working.
Only about 40 percent were wearing masks, so the health board decided to push for a mask mandate. Of course I was for the idea. Of course it is the scientific, smart thing to do. But at the same time, I kept thinking: Is this going to blow up my life?
We held a public meeting in the auditorium. I knew it was going to be a circus. I gave my kids an extra hug that night and said the things you never want to have to think about.
I asked the city: “Are you requiring masks in this building? Because this is a public health meeting, and that’s important.” They said yes. But, of course, the first person that walks in the door says: “I go to church here in this same building, and they don’t make me wear a mask.” So that ended up being an ordeal, and they decided to allow him in. I asked him: “Can you please, please, please social distance?”
He told me no. It wasn’t: “I can’t.” It was: “Hell, no. I won’t.” It went downhill from there.
We had more than 100 people show up, and most of them spoke in opposition. We do get a lot of thank-you’s and support for our work, but those aren’t the loudest voices, so sometimes they get drowned out.
Our medical providers were at the meeting in their white coats, and three of them stood up to speak on behalf of masks. These are doctors and nurses who risk their lives to treat this virus.
They are shouldering the burden of this, but the crowd wouldn’t even let them talk. They booed. They yelled. Some of them had come in with guns. They were so disrespectful. I was trying to take notes for our board, and my hands started shaking. Why aren’t you listening? Why do you refuse to hear from the people who actually know about this disease and how it spreads?
The board decided to go ahead with the mandate anyway, but part of the community revolted. We did a survey a few weeks later, and mask-wearing had actually gone down by six percent. We required it, and people became more likely to do the opposite.
How do you even make sense of that? We like to believe we take good care of each other here. This is rural Missouri. We pride ourselves on being a down-home community that sticks together, and now this is how we treat each other? Is this who we are?
I don’t go out in public very much anymore. It’s work and then back home. I don’t want to be recognized. I don’t want my kids to see any of that hate.
The one place where I had to draw the line was that my son plays baseball, and honestly, his games are the most normal I’ve felt all year.
But then, a little while ago, somebody took a photo at a game of me with my daughter. We were outside and social-distanced, so we weren’t wearing masks.
The photo got posted all over social media, and it was the usual comments. “Bitch.” “Communist.” “Hypocrite.” My daughter has had some anxiety. My son said to me: “Mom, why does everybody hate you?”
I went in to work the next day, and one of my nurses came to see me. She’d just had one of those nasty interactions on the phone, and she said: “I’m struggling right now. I need one of your little pep talks.” I told her: “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have it. I’m tired of this. I’m so exhausted.”
I’ve been living with that steady hum of tension and fear for almost a year, and I just can’t do it anymore. I keep saying my family is my number-one priority, so at some point I have to keep my kids safe. I decided to put in my notice earlier this month. My last day is this Friday.
I’ve already accepted another nursing job. I’m not abandoning the community. I’m going to keep fighting this pandemic, but I’d rather not say anything much more specific. I don’t want that target on my back. I’m ready to be anonymous.”
“The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”
I can only imagine what it was like for the Sparks family in 1948 when their 2 year old child was struck with Polio. There was no vaccine in 1948! It was a pile on for the American people and the world right after WWII.
I only know from first hand accounts from my parents and big brother. I do know because there were severe physical damages to my upper left side and face that left me with muscle weakness in my left arm, and facial damage and jaw function from being paralized.
I can only imagine as a 2 year old having my jaw supported with a clamp of sorts to keep my mouth open to eat and drink. I can only imagine what 1000s of kids just like me were going through, and all their families too. I can only imagine how it felt not being home with my family for 6 weeks. I can only imagine what it was like for my family to help me recover.
My big brother always mentioned that the worst thing for him was 24/7 crying. Even though this is me as a toddler, I can’t even get close to imagining how much pain was going on in my little brain. I feel shivers up my back and a big hole in my heart.
My family was not prepared or equipped to deal with my recovery. I was lucky, indeed, to survive and thrive. It was trial and error for everyone at the time. I treasure life at age 74 and feel privileged to be alive.
Life with polio…
As I got older, my family joked about it. They made fun of my crooked smile and buck teeth. I pushed my buck teeth back with my thumb for years to build a smile I could be good with. The weakness in my left arm and muscle atrophy made me self conscious for most of my life. My left side of my chest was not developed as a kid.
So, I found ways to cover up my left chest with a towel or my right hand when exposed at the beach or pool. I learned to do push ups with one arm. I was able to get through Navy boot camp in 1963 this way. My right arm did all the work. I learned to swim and surf with a very strong right arm. I learned to defend myself too with a kick ass right arm. I felt ugly most of the time as a kid. The good news, I survived and thrived! I made it, still here at age 74. Hooray!
Polio was a thing that no one wanted to talk about. To my parents credit , they wanted me to think I was normal and healthy just like other kids. I was clearly not normal and suffered delays in my early development as a child. The chronic after effects of polio persist for a life time, especially in later years.
End of WWII
As an added tragedy for our family, my father just returned from 4 years of hard combat in WWII. He suffered from severe PTSD and depression without adequate treatment and recovery. Dad was in bad shape.
My mother would say to me that Dad cried for weeks. He carried me to the hospital where I stayed for 6 weeks before returning home. What my parents didn’t know then is how Polio affected mental health in children. The physical damage was horrific for so many at that time. In comparison, I was lucky.
Polio has given me great empathy and compassion for what families are going through with Covid19. Never in my long life have I experienced a public health crisis as a ‘political event.’ It is unconscionable to think that America is divided when it is a life and death matter. I’m shocked to see now that we as a people aren’t coming together to fight Covid 19 like we did Polio in the 40s and 50s, and through the 70s. Every child in America was given the Polio vaccine once it was safe in the 50s. It was a global emergency we fought as one people united just like WWII. America was mobilized!
National and global leadership…quote from the above website reference…
“Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio 12 years before he became president. Roosevelt concealed the extent to which he suffered from polio, but he acknowledged having it. His presidency put polio front and center on the national stage. In 1938, Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and spearheaded the March of Dimes for polio research. In 1946, President Harry Truman declared polio a threat to the United States and called on Americans to do everything possible to combat it.”
And quoting again…
“The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”
Covid19 fast forward…2020
Fighting unknown viral and bacterial disease as a threat to humanity is obviously not new. What is new is a divided America, misinformation and politics taking hold to fight a life/death public health crisis. Deaths of loved ones continue to soar and cases rise around the globe.
I ask why? Why is America’s behavior so outrageously and inhumanly this way now? How can politics even be in the conversation? Why? What happened to empathy and compassion? Where is humanity and humility as a people? What the hell are we doing, really?
Visit ‘Mindfulness Meditation Moments’ to ease stress… Newport News Times click here.
Visit my new Mindfulness Meditation Moments page. Escape for a moment to calm the soul… click here…
About a month ago, I was sitting with my wife and best buddy, Judy, enjoying the peace of mind that envelopes us in harmony with nature at this stunning beach called Little Whale Cove. I believe we are at the center of a vortex of nature and the spirit world. Native Americans lived in this corner of heaven many decades ago. We feel a closeness to God on this ancient coast of volcanic rock and rain forests.
Big Whale Cove, is a short walk to the south of us, click here. We can’t go there anymore after it was designated as a Marine Reserve several years ago. Learn more about Whale Cove, click here…
It was then, at that moment, I was inspired by a piece of driftwood bark half way buried. The shape of every piece of old bark is unique just like all the tiny shells, agates and rocks.
This little treasure from the sea made we wonder where the bark came from and how long it was drifting into beaches and coves along the coast from where the mother tree first fell into the ocean long ago. Maybe for many years if not decades. Bark, after all, is very rugged, water proof, with a tough thick skin. Huge coastal trees eventually fall into the ocean from places up and down the coast.
Like anything floating in the ocean, the separated moved with the tide and winds, floating on the surface like a lost boat at sea. “Where did it come from?” I asked Judy. We both became deeply curious and talked about it for awhile.
Then, I thought of a creative idea that could bring life to driftwood bark. On our unique Little Whale Cove Beach are billions of tiny shells and rocks that accumilate from winter storms that dump sea treasures on the beach while huge waves crash into the cove all winter long. The small rocks and shells represent our beach. There is no sand, just teenie tiny treasures from the sea.
Then it came to me! I could randomly place these beautiful little shells, agates and rocks on the bark as a platform. Each piece of selected bark looked in need of a little sanding and cleaning. Not something to use for my beach art until bringing out the sheer beauty underneath the sea worn surface.
This is what a sea carved piece of bark looks like before and after the finishing process. These are two separate pieces of bark that look very similar. The ocean seems to provide a template for my new beach art hobby.
As we get more experienced and creative, here is a couple of my latest master pieces. I found a very old piece of drift wood to serve as a platform. I speculated, with some imagination, that it must have come from a ship, or maybe from the Japanese tsunami some years ago. The one that took out a couple of docks in Depoe Bay. I then placed the finished bark sculpture on top of it along with another small piece of contrasting drift wood. This little gem has dark thin lines equally spaced. Think of how long these treasures have been in production at sea before they came to us, somehow spiritually connected to Little Whale Cove. Think of it…
Judy and I hope you all will stay with us while we explore our beaces on the Oregon coast. I also wish everyone a mindful, healthy and blessed life… Judy and I try everyday to live in the moment. It takes practice…
To our fellow FCPS families, this is it gang, 5 days until the 2 days in school vs. 100% virtual decision. Let’s talk it out, in my traditional mammoth TL/DR form.
Like all of you, I’ve seen my feed become a flood of anxiety and faux expertise. You’ll get no presumption of expertise here. This is how I am looking at and considering this issue and the positions people have taken in my feed and in the hundred or so FCPS discussion groups that have popped up. The lead comments in quotes are taken directly from my feed and those boards. Sometimes I try to rationalize them. Sometimes I’m just punching back at the void.
Full disclosure, we initially chose the 2 days option and are now having serious reservations. As I consider the positions and arguments I see in my feed, these are where my mind goes. Of note, when I started working on this piece at 12:19 PM today the COVID death tally in the United States stood at 133,420.
“My kids want to go back to school.”
I challenge that position. I believe what the kids desire is more abstract. I believe what they want is a return to normalcy. They want their idea of yesterday. And yesterday isn’t on the menu.
“I want my child in school so they can socialize.”
This was the principle reason for our 2 days decision. As I think more on it though, what do we think ‘social’ will look like? There aren’t going to be any lunch table groups, any lockers, any recess games, any study halls, any sitting next to friends, any talking to people in the hallway, any dances. All of that is off the menu. So, when we say that we want the kids to benefit from the social experience, what are we deluding ourselves into thinking in-building socialization will actually look like in the Fall?
“My kid is going to be left behind.”
Left behind who? The entire country is grappling with the same issue, leaving all children in the same quagmire. Who exactly would they be behind? I believe the rhetorical answer to that is “They’ll be behind where they should be,” to which I’ll counter that “where they should be” is a fictional goal post that we as a society have taken as gospel because it maps to standardized tests which are used to grade schools and counties as they chase funding.
“Classrooms are safe.”
At the current distancing guidelines from FCPS middle and high schools would have no more than 12 people (teachers + students) in a classroom (I acknowledge this number may change as FCPS considers the Commonwealth’s 3 ft with a mask vs. 6 ft position, noting that FCPS is all mask regardless of the distance). For the purpose of this discussion we’ll say classes run 45 minutes.
I posed the following question to 40 people today, representing professional and management roles in corporations, government agencies, and military commands: “Would your company or command have a 12 person, 45 minute meeting in a conference room?”
100% of them said no, they would not. These are some of their answers:
“No. Until further notice we are on Zoom.” “(Our company) doesn’t allow us in (company space).” “Oh hell no.” “No absolutely not.” “Is there a percentage lower than zero?” “Something of that size would be virtual.”
We do not even consider putting our office employees into the same situation we are contemplating putting our children into. And let’s drive this point home: there are instances here when commanding officers will not put soldiers, ACTUAL SOLDIERS, into the kind of indoor environment we’re contemplating for our children. For me this is as close to a ‘kill shot’ argument as there is in this entire debate. How do we work from home because buildings with recycled air are not safe, because we don’t trust other people to not spread the virus, and then with the same breath send our children into buildings?
“Children only die .0016 of the time.”
First, conceding we’re an increasingly morally bankrupt society, but when did we start talking about children’s lives, or anyone’s lives, like this? This how the villain in movies talks about mortality, usually 10-15 minutes before the good guy kills him.
If you’re in this camp, and I acknowledge that many, many people are, I’m asking you to consider that number from a slightly different angle.
FCPS has 189,000 children. .0016 of that is 302. 302 dead children are the Calvary Hill you’re erecting your argument on. So, let’s agree to do this: stop presenting this as a data point. If this is your argument, I challenge you to have courage equal to your conviction. Go ahead, plant a flag on the internet and say, “Only 302 children will die.” No one will. That’s the kind action on social media that gets you fired from your job. And I trust our social media enclave isn’t so careless and irresponsible with life that it would even, for even a millisecond, enter any of your minds to make such an argument.
Considered another way: You’re presented with a bag with 189,000 $1 bills. You’re told that in the bag are 302 random bills, they look and feel just like all the others, but each one of those bills will kill you. Do you take the money out of the bag?
Same argument, applied to the 12,487 teachers in FCPS (per Wikipedia), using the ‘children’s multiplier’ of .0016 (all of us understanding the adult mortality rate is higher). That’s 20 teachers. That’s the number you’re talking about. It’s very easy to sit behind a keyboard and diminish and dismiss the risk you’re advocating other people assume. Take a breath and think about that.
If you want to advocate for 2 days a week, look, I’m looking for someone to convince me. But please, for the love of God, drop things like this from your argument. Because the people I know who’ve said things like this, I know they’re better people than this. They’re good people under incredible stress who let things slip out as their frustration boils over. So, please do the right thing and move on from this, because one potential outcome is that one day, you’re going to have to stand in front of St. Peter and answer for this, and that’s not going to be conversation you enjoy.
“Hardly any kids get COVID.”
(Deep sigh) Yes, that is statistically true as of this writing. But it is a cherry-picked argument because you’re leaving out an important piece.
One can reasonably argue that, due to the school closures in March, children have had the least EXPOSURE to COVID. In other words, closing schools was the one pandemic mitigation action we took that worked. There can be no discussion of the rate of diagnosis within children without also acknowledging they were among our fastest and most quarantined people. Put another way, you cannot cite the effect without acknowledging the cause.
“The flu kills more people every year.”
(Deep sigh). First of all, no, it doesn’t. Per the CDC, United States flu deaths average 20,000 annually. COVID, when I start writing here today, has killed 133,420 in six months.
And when you mention the flu, do you mean the disease that, if you’re suspected of having it, everyone, literally everyone in the country tells you stay the f- away from other people? You mean the one where parents are pretty sure their kids have it but send them to school anyway because they have a meeting that day, the one that every year causes massive f-ing outbreaks in schools because schools are petri dishes and it causes kids to miss weeks of school and leaves them out of sports and band for a month? That one? Because you’re right – the flu kills people every year. It does, but you’re ignoring the why. It’s because there are people who are a–holes who don’t care about infecting other people. In that regard it’s a perfect comparison to COVID.
“Almost everyone recovers.”
You’re confusing “release from the hospital” and “no longer infected” with “recovered.” I’m fortunate to only know two people who have had COVID. One my age and one my dad’s age. The one my age described it as “absolute hell” and although no longer infected cannot breathe right. The one my dad’s age was in the hospital for 13 weeks, had to have a trach ring put in because she could no longer be on a ventilator, and upon finally getting home and being faced with incalculable time in rehab told my mother, “I wish I had died.”
While I’m making every effort to reach objectivity, on this particular point, you don’t know what the f- you’re talking about.
“If people get sick, they get sick.”
First, you mistyped. What you intended to say was “If OTHER people get sick, they get sick.” And shame on you.
“I’m not going to live my life in fear.”
You already live your life in fear. For your health, your family’s health, your job, your retirement, terrorists, extremists, one political party or the other being in power, the new neighbors, an unexpected home repair, the next sunrise. What you meant to say was, “I’m not prepared to add ANOTHER fear,” and I’ve got news for you: that ship has sailed. It’s too late. There are two kinds of people, and only two: those that admit they’re afraid, and those that are lying to themselves about it.
As to the fear argument, fear is the reason you wait up when your kids stay out late, it’s the reason you tell your kids not to dive in the shallow water, to look both ways before crossing the road. Fear is the respect for the wide world that we teach our children. Except in this instance, for reasons no one has been able to explain to me yet.
“FCPS leadership sucks.”
I will summarize my view of the School Board thusly: if the 12 of you aren’t getting into a room together because it represents a risk, don’t tell me it’s OK for our kids. I understand your arguments, that we need the 2 days option for parents who can’t work from home, kids who don’t have internet or computer access, kids who needs meals from the school system, kids who need extra support to learn, and most tragically for kids who are at greater risk of abuse by being home. All very serious, all very real issues, all heartbreaking. No argument.
But you must first lead by example. Because you’re failing when it comes to optics. All your meetings are online. What our children see is all of you on a Zoom telling them it’s OK for them to be exactly where you aren’t. I understand you’re not PR people, but you really should think about hiring some.
“I talked it over with my kids.”
Let’s put aside for a moment the concept of adults effectively deferring this decision to children, the same children who will continue to stuff things into a full trash can rather than change it out. Yes, those hygienic children.
Listen, my 15 year old daughter wants a sport car, which she’s not getting next year because it would be dangerous to her and to others. Those kinds of decisions are our job. We step in and decide as parents, we don’t let them expose themselves to risks because their still developing and screen addicted brains narrow their understanding of cause and effect.
We as parents and adults serve to make difficult decisions. Sometimes those are in the form of lessons, where we try to steer kids towards the right answer and are willing to let them make a mistake in the hopes of teaching better decision making the next time around. This is not one of those moments. The stakes are too high for that. This is a “the adults are talking” moment. Kids are not mature enough for this moment. That is not an attack on your child. It is a broad statement about all children. It is true of your children and it was true when we were children. We need to be doing that thinking here, and “Johnny wants to see Bobby at school” cannot be the prevailing element in the equation.
“The teachers need to do their job.”
How is it that the same society which abruptly shifted to virtual students only three months ago, and offered glowing endorsements of teachers stating, “we finally understand how difficult your job is,” has now shifted to “screw you, do your job.” There are myriad problems with that position but for the purposes of this piece let’s simply go with, “You’re not looking for a teacher, you’re looking for the babysitter you feel your property tax payment entitles you to.”
“Teachers have a greater chance to being killed by a car than they do of dying from COVID.”
(Eye roll) Per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the U.S. see approximately 36,000 auto fatalities a year. Again, there have been 133,420 COVID deaths in the United States through 12:09 July 10, 2020. So no, they do not have a great chance of being killed in a car accident.
And, if you want to take the actual environment into consideration, the odds of a teacher being killed in a car accident in their classroom, you know, the environment we’re actually talking about, that’s right around 0%.
“If the grocery store workers can be onsite what are the teachers afraid of?”
(Deep breath) A grocery store worker, who absolutely risks exposure, has either six feet of space or a plexiglass shield between them and individual adult customers who can grasp their own mortality whose transactions can be completed in moments, in a 40,000 SF space.
A teacher is with 11 ‘customers’ who have not an inkling what mortality is, for 45 minutes, in a 675 SF space, six times a day.
“Teachers are choosing remote because they don’t want to work.”
(Deep breaths) Many teachers are opting to be remote. That is not a vacation. They’re requesting to do their job at a safer site. Just like many, many people who work in buildings with recycled air have done. And likely the building you’re not going into has a newer and better serviced air system than our schools.
Of greater interest to me is the number of teachers choosing the 100% virtual option for their children. The people who spend the most time in the buildings are the same ones electing not to send their children into those buildings. That’s something I pay attention to.
“I wasn’t prepared to be a parent 24/7” and “I just need a break.”
I truly, deeply respect that honesty. Truth be told, both arguments have crossed my mind. Pre COVID, I routinely worked from home 1 – 2 days a week. The solace was nice. When I was in the office, I had an actual office, a room with a door I could close, where I could focus. During the quarantine that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been short, I’ve gone to just take a drive and get the hell away for a moment and been disgusted when one of the kids sees me and asks me to come for a ride, robbing me of those minutes of silence. You want to hear silence. I get it. I really, really do.
Here’s another version of that, admittedly extreme. What if one of our kids becomes one of the 302? What’s that silence going to sound like? What if you have one of those matted frames where you add the kid’s school picture every year? What if you don’t get to finish the pictures?
“What does your gut tell you to do?”
Shawn and I have talked ad infinitum about all of these and other points. Two days ago, at mid-discussion I said, “Stop, right now, gut answer, what is it,” and we both said, “virtual.”
A lot of the arguments I hear people making for the 2 days sound like we’re trying to talk ourselves into ignoring our instincts, they are almost exclusively, “We’re doing 2 days, but…”. There’s a fantastic book by Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear, which I’ll minimize for you thusly: your gut instinct is a hardwired part of your brain and you should listen to it. In the introduction he talks about elevators, and how, of all living things, humans are the only ones that would voluntarily get into a soundproof steel box with a potential predator just so they could skip a flight of stairs.
I keep thinking that the 2 days option is the soundproof steel box. I welcome, damn, beg, anyone to convince me otherwise.
At the time I started writing at 12:09 PM, 133,420 Americans had died from COVID. Upon completing this draft at 7:04 PM, that number rose to 133,940.
520 Americans died of COVID while I was working on this. In seven hours.
Several years ago while walking around our City Park in Depoe Bay, Oregon, I stopped to look closely at our town’s VFW Veterans Memorial. When I looked closer, the name Ronald Allen Slane, Sp5, US Army 1967-68 was engraved on the plaque as an example to honor veterans of all wars. Ron was a medic who died during an ambush in Vietnam while trying to save another soldier…he didn’t even have a weapon to defend himself. “Ron Slane, Lincoln City, Oregon, volunteered to go to war as an army medic. He was a conscientious objector, but believed he had a duty to serve in some way.”
For me, and millions of kids born before and after WWII, Memorial Day is very personal. Now, in retirement, I devote much of my spare time honoring veterans of all wars, and military families who serve too… I also honor my fellow veterans who served during the Vietnam War, and all the wars since then. We can never thank our veterans and their families enough for serving America while protecting the freedoms we enjoy each and every day of our lives. This is a debt that can never be paid back…
And during this terrible COVID19 pandemic, we remember and honor those who left us while serving on the front lines even though the risk of infection was was far greater than anything experienced before. These are the front line heroes of the COVID19 generation and the families who serve too…
So, on this Memorial Day when so many of us avoid crowds, check out the veterans memorials on-line and give thanks to all those who have served, who serve now, and will serve in the future, including first responders who keep us safe on the home front. Thank the families and loved ones who serve too, and who become the care givers to our heroes who return home with moral and physical injuries that often require a lifetime of healing.
Warm wishes and good health from the Central Oregon Coast near Depoe Bay, “The Smallest Harbor in The World” to be sure…
Judy and I have deep empathy and compassion for our dear friends and loved ones during this COVID19 pandemic. All of us have had to take a deep breath, reflect on our values, our dreams, and hopefully reset, finding more ways to live in the moment, and love each other more. Paying more attention to each other without the interruptions of ‘Before COVID’ (BC) has brought us closer, but not without more than a few moments of healthy combat as we settled into a much simpler life and more resourceful life style.
We are ’70 somethings’ healthy seniors in our mind, but not without the butt kicking challenges of aging. We think young but the aches and pains and mental health challenges remind us that we aren’t young anymore. We both feel grateful and priviledged to be alive and as citizens of the USA! I’m most proud of my service to America as a young man serving in the US Navy, as did my father during all of WWII and during the Korean War. Not to mention my brothers who served too.
Even after 36 years of marriage, Judy and I remain a team, partners in life, living life to the fullest even during the many uncertain times of the past, especially right now. But this time it is different fightling an enemy we can’t see. We have to fight this enemy together or lose. Fighting with each other doesn’t matter to the Covid19 virus.
We will all get throught this together. We believe that in our heart and soul…
Speaking of ‘mindfulness mediation’ Judy and I are happy to share the joy of our stunning coastal community by way of short 30 second YouTube clips. There are over 100 clips from Little Whale Cove on my YouTube channel. Start by clicking my YouTube channel above.
Escape for a moment to calm the soul… Please let me know what you think and how you are doing… Stay safe while we reopen our communities…in time for Memorial Day.