As Our Students Return To School, Education & Distancing Essential For Their Protection
By Clete Campbell
“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay”
Opening Line to “Yesterday” By The Beatles
The invisible enemy is everywhere these days: On the breath of unsuspecting friends and neighbors, on door handles, on restaurant tables, on park playground equipment, and hanging dangerously in the air in countless places unseen.
As it newly infects Americans by the hundreds of thousands each day, trying to avoid COVID-19 these days can feel like trying to avoid Mondays: An all-but-impossible endeavor. Just as time waits for no one, COVID-19’s devastating impact on the world leaves no one immune from its impact. The world we knew in February 2020, as the Beatles would say, is a forever gone yesterday.
It can feel like there is no safe harbor from COVID-19, no matter how well we socially distance.
To keep ourselves and families safe in this strange new world we’re living in for the foreseeable future, we need to reexamine, reinforce and re-commit to our personal hygiene practices. The days of just covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available are gone. Today, we have to be more aware than ever of the presence of sickly germs and pathogens. We need to know where they lurk, where they are most transmitted and how to best avoid them.
We have to be on the lookout for the Americans who understand the Coronavirus’ complicated nature the least: Our kids. Parents, teachers, educators and healthcare professionals need to be the guardian angels for those who can’t yet understand the complicated, ever-changing rules of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Education Era
As the country apprehensively returns to school this month, America’s students are entering a new, ultra-scary age: the COVID-19 education era.
“We’re a bit in uncharted territory, because we haven’t had to reopen schools in the context of a pandemic,” Dr. Dan H. Barouch, director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, told ABC News.
They are the first class to attempt to learn in a COVID-19 environment and a world where Americans are testing positive for the virus at a rate of 23 per minute. Over the last two weeks of July, over 100,000 American children fell ill to coronavirus-related symptoms, according to a report compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. In 25 states, at least one in 10 new confirmed infections was a child.
“A communicable disease on this level – we just haven’t experienced that,” Barbara Robertson, a member of the National Association of School Nurses, told U.S. News & World Report.
Kids, especially toddlers and adolescents, have never been known to be the most hygienic people in the house. In the middle of a global pandemic, they are still going to touch things, put things in their mouths and not be careful when they cough or sneeze. They largely still don’t know better, because they are kids.
“COVID-19 has certainly compounded the challenges” of keeping all students, teachers and school employees safe, Robertson said. With COVID-19, the extended challenge is to teach kids “how to wash your hands, how to stay healthy, how to wear that mask properly.”
The Flu, But Much Worse
The best way to explain COVID-19 to kids is that it follows the transmission rules of cold or the flu.
We need to wash our hands regularly, cover our cough, and, most importantly now, where masks when playing indoors or in close proximity to protect our classmates and friends from getting it. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze. It is believed the virus can also spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection.
More than ever, personal prevention practices like handwashing, staying home when sick and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important principles to follow. To put them in kid terms, we’ve got to be clean in everything we do. Children should be encouraged to practice regular disinfection routines and learn social and physical distancing, like the 6-foot buddy rule. Parents should also emphasize small groups for after-school playdates.
“Keep kids in smaller groups, so that if there is infection, there is a more limited number of exposures,” Barouch stresses.
Parents must be more vigilant than ever about not sending a potentially sick child to school. Take your child’s temperature before sending them out the door and don’t send them out the door without a mask.
We also need to teach our kids that wearing masks are important for protecting other people from the coronavirus. Caring for our friends and buddies is wearing a mask.
These Are All Our Kids
And we need to work together as communities – administrators, teachers, parents, community members and kids – to give our kids the best chance of succeeding in the classroom and staying healthy during the most challenging learning environment of modern American history.
“Unfortunately, if we don’t set (students) up for success by first controlling the virus in the community, I don’t think there are going to be enough layers that are going to keep this virus out of schools,” Edith Brancho-Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, told ABC News.
We all need to remember that these are all our kids, these are all our students. We can start protecting our students and future by working to protect our neighborhoods and communities through practicing what we preach.