That hurricane that spun up the East Coast earlier this week and flattened Connecticut (and many other states) was further proof that one disaster does not inoculate us against others. The coronavirus didn't create antibodies that shunted the hurricane away. To no one's surprise, nature doesn’t care that we’re stuck inside or wearing masks or avoiding groups or learning words like curbside and distancing. If it’s time for a hurricane, we’re getting it.
And maybe more. The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center recently updated its outlook. In short, it looked bad before; now it looks worse.
But this isn’t about hurricanes, but it is about piling disaster on top of disaster. The economic downturn atop the virus, the virus atop the premature opening, the mania for scientific ignorance atop the need for scientific guidance. And now, although 1000 deaths a day keep occurring (it is what it is, Trump says) I'm afraid another disaster looms—the opening of schools.
Like many others, I change my mind about this daily, but I suggest you read this. It's school openings from the students’ perspective. One young lady began school on a Thursday, watched it close on Friday, and then tested positive herself early the following week. Another young man mentioned a school where the wearing of masks is recommended but optional, and where the administration has come down hard on bullying the wearers and non-wearers. “Recommending” can create problems like that on top of those we're already anticipating
Most kids are hopeful—they want to return. But many are already disenchanted by the rules that prevent socialization and even impede classroom give and take. The school as community does not, cannot exist in the way kids remember it.
Worse, I know when I listen to the president that school kids are the test cases—that his belief that kids are immune and our belief that kids are resilient are merging into an amalgam of delusional fantasies. Neither belief is true. We know kids get sick and spread the disease, and if we observe human nature even a little, we know that generalizing about kids' resilience is like most other generalizations: false (except for the one I just made). If kids get over things it may be because they acquire more new positive experiences to supplant the negative ones, and of course they have more years to acquire them. But exposing them to an illness because "they'll get over it" is indefensible.
Health issues aside—and let's say that only for the sake of argument—the saddest reason for encouraging the reopening of schools is the one that claims many kids eat there or they don’t eat at all. Can't blame Trump alone for this, though he has exacerbated income inequality and economic misery with his tax bill. But what an awful and blatant indictment of this “richest country on earth” that we can't feed our children. If we really cared so much, that should be the priority. Then schools.
But we know Trump cares little about education or, for that matter, children. His Trump University debacle proves that, as does his willingness to separate immigrant families. Today he sees only a logical progression: kids go to school, parents can return to their jobs, the economy roars back. That would work if there were no pandemic, but currently it's raging, and feigning normality will serve only to jeopardize a huge segment of the population and extend the pandemic right through the end of the year.
Hurricane season ends November 30. It would be nice if the pandemic season ends on the same day. Unlike the former, we actually have something to say about the latter with masks and distancing and how we conduct our lives. What role schools will play remains to be seen.