Close the Pubs, Open the Schools, Part 2 (Plague, Day 125, July 9, 2020)

Yesterday, I wrote a quick, profanity-laden blog post about why I thought that schools should open, but other parts of the society should close. “Lisasg2” wrote two excellent comments about her fears for the health of her husband, a public school teacher, should schools reopen. I responded in the comment section, but I’m turning my comment into a post, because I’m curious what other people think.

Lisa, I hear you. Nobody wants anything to happen to your husband. At least, I don’t. If something did happen to him, I would join you in any boycott of society. But here’s where I’m at…

I go the local supermarket once a week now. It’s a standard suburban supermarket – medium sized, not the fancy type place. Everybody knows me, because I used to shop there everyday. I go in there once per week now, and chat with the workers, who are all middle aged men and women. I ask them, “what’s the story? Anybody here sick? Everybody well?” And they always say, “Knock on wood. Yes.” These workers, who work in a confined space and in contact with hundreds of people of dubious hygiene, are safe.

My area of New Jersey was in the hot spot for the bad Italian version of the virus, and we now have hardly any cases. I’m sure that closing the schools helped to stop the spread. I was very vocal, if not here than on twitter and Facebook, that schools had to shut down in the spring. Also, we are militant mask wearers in this area of the country. I still walk to the other side of the street to put lots of room between myself and other pedestrians. We also shut businesses, churches, and everything. 

Those measures clearly worked. The numbers prove it, even if people discount my anecdotal chats with supermarket employees. 

Now, people in all sorts of professions are preparing to go back. Steve’s home until January, only because the company is saving money by having his team work from home. Other workers at his company are already back in the office. My BIL who is the director of a major architecture firm, is preparing to open his offices this fall. My neighbors the doctors are back. Jonah’s dentist is back. The local bank is open. Every other profession, if they haven’t fired everyone, is preparing to reopen. 

Maybe that’s foolish. I’m not sure. But I do think that the lessons from this area of the country are super important. Masks and social distancing are highly, highly effective. Now, you might convince me that those measure are impossible in a classroom. You could also convince me that schools won’t be able to afford cleaning products and the safety procedures that are in effective in the private sphere. But we should think through options and take into consideration the incredible toll on children and families on school closures.

I also think the argument can be made that society clearly values teachers. After all, I have not read any accounts of mass furloughs or layoffs of teachers, which has happened in other professions. Other workers, like the people who work for my husband, are home schooling their kids, while putting in a full day on their computers. They are doing two jobs every single day. We need to honor those people and appreciate their sacrifices. 

Also, keep in mind that I am arguing for school openings, and I have a child with uncontrolled epilepsy. The medicine still isn’t working. He had a seizure during our vacation last week. The life expectancy for someone with autism and epilepsy is 39. If he gets a fever, it could trigger a massive, life-ending seizure.

Still, I want my son back in school, because I believe that safety precautions work, and I can’t bare to see him so isolated.