It’s the middle of July in the craziest unicorn-flying, killer wasp attacking, Lysol injecting, alien sighting, toilet paper hoarding, crazier than any sci-fi movie ever made, year of my life. And I haven’t even had a single drink this year!
I think if there’s one thing we can all agree on at this point, it’s that we’ve had enough of 2020!
However, for many of us parents (myself included), the hardest part of this year is just beginning. In SC, our children’s schools closed down in March when the average number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per week in the state was around 73. The goal was to slow the spread of the virus so that hospitals could prepare appropriately and we could save lives.
However, since then, the numbers have continued to increase as things have slowly opened up around the state again.
As of July 13, 2020, SC was averaging around 10,554 confirmed new cases per week per SC DHEC and was projected to continue growing by about 1900 additional per week. And this week, our Governor announced that all schools in our state MUST open for the fall school year and provide in-class education for students five days a week.
So, we took our kids out of school when we were averaging 73 cases per week and now that we are averaging approximately 10,554 cases per week, we are being faced with sending our children back into school.
Just to put this into perspective a little – in SC’s last flu season update (2019-2020), we are sitting at approximately 6,712 lab-confirmed flu tests. This is for the entire flu season – not just one week. The flu season started on 12/29/2019 and is ongoing until December of 2020.
In other words, in the past six and a half months, SC has seen approximately 6,712 confirmed flu cases. In the past four months (mid-March until now) SC has seen approximately 65,857 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. That is almost 10 times the number of flu cases!
For the data buffs here’s a little more info for you, for SC’s current flu season (12/29/2020 – present), we have seen 133 influenza-associated deaths. Since mid-March of this year, we have seen 1,078 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. COVID-19 currently accounts for approximately eight times the number of flu deaths in SC. Again, this is from reporting I’ve reviewed on SCDHEC.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of arguing about this across the state and the country. This virus has turned into a political debate instead of a health issue and as a parent and science major, that really frustrates me. This is a major health crisis, nothing more and nothing less. It needs to be treated as such and we need to be listening to health experts instead of politicians.
Yes, most SC schools will be providing options such as full virtual education, hybrid education, and now apparently five days a week face to face education. There may be some other options debated as well by the schools that I have not yet heard of, but for my district, this is where we stand.
I’ve seen many teachers who are eager to get back into a classroom and I’ve seen many who are now terrified they will be forced to go back into a classroom where their health and their family’s health will undoubtedly be put at risk.
I’ve seen parents who are eager to send their kids back into a classroom. Some can not work if they don’t, some feel like their kids are not getting the education and social skills they need at home, and some really just want their kids out of their hair (we’ve all been there!).
I’ve also seen parents who absolutely do not want their children stepping into a classroom until this virus is under control – I am one of them. I would love nothing more than for everything to be back to normal and to see my kids off to school like we’re supposed to be able to do.
That’s just not the case right now. These are not normal times.
My children did well with online learning last year. It wasn’t ideal of course and with my youngest having Autism spectrum disorder, he really needed that social interaction with other students. However, I have been working around it as much as I can with a few friends who I know have also been staying home and following CDC guidelines. He’s done great and luckily has not regressed. He is also the one child I have who is not going to wear a mask in a classroom due to his age and situation.
Like many other moms though, I am now faced with a dilemma. I do not want to send my children back into a school building yet. I am not comfortable with SC’s progress against this virus. I am not comfortable with the lack of planning and understanding of what will happen if an outbreak occurs in a classroom and I am not comfortable with putting anyone’s life or health at risk (including teachers).
I’ve been blessed to be able to work from home since the schools shut down in March. The career I chose is one that can be done remotely. Personally, I fully believe any job that can be done remotely should still be doing so at this point. However, I am uncertain if my employer is also going to work with us parents who choose the virtual option for our children now that the Governor is requiring there be an in-person option also.
Will the decision I want to make for my children, based on the options available to me by the school district, also be supported by my employer? If not, then what? Will I be forced to send my children into the classroom knowing I am putting them at risk just because I have to have my paycheck to support my family?
I know a lot of you are facing this type of situation also and I can feel your pain. My anxiety levels have been through the roof lately. Protecting my child’s health comes first and foremost for me at all times and for my family, that means keeping them out of those classrooms until SC has this virus under control.