Schools need to be proactive against COVID-19

Published 12:15 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

School is off to a rough start this year. In some cases, it’s gotten rough before the first bell even rang.
It has nothing to do with what our school districts have or haven’t done. In fact, most schools continue to do everything within their power to move school back to a pre-pandemic state.
But reality is that the pandemic is not over. As much as we want COVID-19 to be a thing of the past, it simply isn’t. And while the number of cases is not as high as it was at the height of the pandemic, we are currently experiencing another sharp increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The Tennessee Department of Health reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 in Carter County Monday and 159 new cases over the past seven days. At the same time the vaccination rate in the county remains below 30 percent.
There is not a school system in the state that doesn’t want to return to “normal.” But, with less than 30 percent of the people in Carter County vaccinated against COVID, there is a great possibility that everywhere you go — including school — there are people who have not been vaccinated. There is also a possibility that some of the people could be carriers of COVID.
The CDC has recommended that children and teachers wear a mask when in class. We know that wearing masks is not a popular decision. Nobody wants to wear masks at school. Not students. Not teachers. Nobody. Teaching for a full day through a mask is a challenge. Teachers may struggle to speak through the fabric, and students may struggle to hear what they’re saying. It is a battle, particularly among younger students, to enforce. They are hot, even inside. They are uncomfortable. People forget them. They get dirty. It’s just an all around drag. Everyone gets that.
Of the things we must occasionally sacrifice to live in a free society, wearing a mask is an extremely minor request.
It has even become a political issue, as the Speaker of the Tennessee House has threatened a special session if masks are mandated. How political can you get?
Yes, we can debate the efficacy of masks all day long. The current accepted science is that cloth masks provide only limited protection against this or any other virus. It is also true, however, that there is ample data to suggest that masking indoors while in large crowds has shown to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
As we are facing a new spike that is starting to once again stress our health care system, slowing the virus is better than nothing.
In this way, school districts are doing their part to help soften the spike, especially since schools could potentially become super-spreader environments. That young people rarely show symptoms, much less require hospitalization or die, is not the concern. Students can get and spread the virus, which is the concern.
We need to do everything possible to keep the virus from spreading, to keep our children safe as well as other members of the community.
It may mean stepping up, rolling up your sleeve and getting a vaccine. It may mean wearing a mask. Whatever needs to be done to keep our children safe, we need to do it. We are much better off than a year ago, but we are still not where we need to be. Patience is required. Support, even more so.