The following letter was submitted in response to yesterday’s Letter to the Editor expressing concern about COVID-19-related school re-entry plans. That letter, “Join Me in Telling CT’s Education Commissioner, Full-Opening of School Puts Us All At Risk,” was the second most-read GMW story on Thursday, behind only the article on the re-entry plans being developed by Wilton Schools.
I appreciate the wholeheartedness with which you are sharing your concerns about the school system moving forward with a full reopening approach.
I would like to take a moment to go back to March when it was explained that quarantine was being implemented so as to not overwhelm our healthcare system and compromise our ability to care for the sick. It’s now July. Our healthcare system is not overburdened and, according to news reports that I read, the worst incidents of overburdened hospitals occurred in select areas of NYC. The Javits Center wasn’t used to full capacity and the Navy Ship returned to sea.
Somehow, the dialogue and goals have been moved from the point of something specific (i.e. healthcare capacity) to something more ambiguous like “keeping ourselves and others safe.” The timing of an effective and safe vaccine is also a highly questionable goal.
Keeping ourselves and others safe (something we all strive for) is unfortunately mostly a delusion. We cannot guarantee that our loved ones will not get cancer, get into a car accident, or fall and hit their head. Yes, we can work to minimize such risks by not smoking, obeying traffic laws, and walking mindfully. Even still, people who never smoked get lung cancer, safe drivers have died and careful people stumble. The human condition has limits. We all, everyone one of us, face mortality.
Many believe the distance and online learning precautions being promoted are simply virtues of an educated citizen and not a fear-based reaction. But when the goals were moved to the ambiguous, those became fear-based measures.
Choosing to continue to live in fear, work in fear, commune in fear, and educate in fear will have long term negative effects for years to come.
What I fear more than a virus is the loss of connectedness, community, education, and income for millions and millions of people.
What I regret most is the passivity in which we accepted mandates from school and government officials. We should have pushed harder for the reconvening of work and school back in the Spring.
Emily, there will always be viruses. If we don’t “get back on the horse,” so to speak, when will it be “safe enough?” If COVID dissipates what if there is an emergence of a new strain of SARS, Bird Flu, or Swine Flu? Or perhaps some unknown new virus we haven’t been exposed to yet?
Living in fear and isolation is the worst kind of bondage and we are choosing to imprison ourselves.
What if we instead promote agency and the power of choice? What if we choose to deal constructively with potential illness with exercise, good nutrition, minimal stress, and adequate sleep? That is the message of empowerment I wish we would all embrace and encourage.
I don’t know you, Emily. I wish I did. Sitting here writing to you I can envision you shaking your head feeling misunderstood, possibly frustrated because you were asking for a middle of the road approach. Maybe you are envisioning alternate school schedules with half the population of students in the classroom, alternating days in school, and online.
I still say then they are only getting half an education. They deserve the whole.
They deserve to be whole. To live with uncertainty and fear their entire lives while practicing the courage to learn, to love, to be, and to grow to their fullest potential. That’s what it means to be human–to live with the polarities and go on. Each day putting one foot in front of the other.
And if you are truly a “numbers person,” here are the numbers: in CT the population is over 3.5 million and there have been 4,406 COVID fatalities. That’s 0.126%.*
Jennifer Ellis McNamara LCSW
*CORRECTION: the original letter misstated the percentage of the CT population that have died, it is .126%, not .00126%.