The adults have left the room. I don't think they're coming back.
When the FDA finally does approve the Covid-19 vaccine for children 12 and under, I'll be interested to see how many of these new potential recipients actually receive it. My guess is that the results will be disappointing, and it won't be the kids' fault.
Children are seldom called upon to make medical decisions. Parents don't often propose that their children visit the dentist, or advise that they wear a helmet when bicycling, or recommend that they use a seat belt in the car. It's unlikely, therefore, that parents are going to suggest anything to their children about the Covid-19 vaccination: kids will be told either they're getting it or they're not.
But if adult behavior over the past six months is any indication, parents might just as well use suggestions, then hope for the best; for there must be millions of elementary school children with a better grasp of the situation than American adults have. Half of Americans remain unvaccinated—more than half a million are dead.
Yes, there are those who oppose vaccinations on moral or religious grounds. And yes, civil libertarians searching for coercion under every pebble will not be "controlled" by the government—though they don't seem to mind wearing a seatbelt, having their luggage x-rayed, or signing software agreements they never read. But even if we cut them some slack, those two groups comprise a minimal number of vaccine deniers. It's the other 99% of Americans—conspiracy nuts who get their medical advice from Facebook or the Magic Eight Ball—who are to blame. Their deliberate choice not to accept a proven preventative measure has not only abetted the spread of this illness but has set a dismal example for their children—for all children.
Kids know. They know because they have suffered the most. I coached a tennis team last spring who spent the entire season playing in masks and avoiding the simplest social niceties like shaking hands with their opponent or having a pre-season get-together. I'm not sure if they ever smiled—the eyes may be the windows to the soul, but expressions involve the entire face. Yet, they underwent all that and waited for their turn to be vaccinated and free. In mid-June, when the team met outdoors on an awards night, there were no masks to be seen. There was an air of near-joy among us. Six weeks later, that feeling was gone, sabotaged by a population so deeply immersed in the politics of stupidity that they wouldn't deign to reach for a life preserver, even though it practically hit them in the head.
You can, if you'd like, blame the delta variant and lament breakthrough infections, but it's the absence of adult leadership and adult decision-making that lie at the root of the latest surge in Covid-19. And it's easy to blame a Trump bootlicker like Florida's Ron DeSantis for all this, but he's just one elected official in one state. If he's playing politics with human life, so are tens of millions of other adults whose political integrity supersede the health of their loved ones—who value human life so cheaply that they'd rather give their allegiance to a failed former president than improve the chances that their own families can escape the virus.
And the kids are watching.
Last week I met up with a teacher friend of mine and asked him how his classes had been—the so-called hybrid learning model. He'd gotten through it, of course, though it was not the best of all worlds. But when I asked him if he had had any outstanding students, he laughed. "You know?" he said, "they were either on a computer screen or wearing masks. I never saw their faces. I hardly remember them."
As cases spike and hospitals fill and death rates climb, we'll be fortunate as adults if these kids don't remember us.