After 28 years as a schoolteacher, she knew how the first week should go. The school would smell fresh and clean. The floors would be polished. The children would be hopeful, their enthusiasm not yet diminished by the fatigue of the year. The students all clean and bright, excited and nervous. The teacher said "We all just want to do our jobs, We want to be alive to do them."
She is 53, with a minor heart ailment and a more serious lung condition. Her father smoked in the home when she was a child, leaving her vulnerable to respiratory viruses. In 2014, a bad case of the flu became pneumonia and put her in the hospital. Now her in-laws live with her. Both are in their 70s. Her mother-in-law has diabetes and high blood pressure; her father-in-law has Parkinson's Disease and takes immunosuppressive drugs for his rheumatoid arthritis. All that said, she could not afford to bring home the coronavirus.
As her states infection rate soared in July, many districts chose not to physically re-open schools in August. But her schools district parents wanted a choice so the county gave it to them. Students could learn digitally from home or in person at school. But teachers would have no such choice. Even if they were teaching virtual classes, they would have to do so from a school building. And students would not be required to wear masks.
For this school teacher, the risk was too great. She resigned and applied for early retirement. On the Friday before school started, she went to her empty classroom and prepared it for the teacher who would take her place.
Then she went home to worry and wait. She considered herself lucky. Although she would take a financial penalty for early retirement, she could stay home. Other teachers decided they could not. Some were single mothers. She couldn't stop thinking about them.
She woke up early on what was the first day of school. But she never left the house. Instead she drank her coffee alone and worried about the other teachers. And she cried and she cried.
The district's first letter came home Tuesday, the second day of school. A second-grader tested positive for Covid-19. The classroom would be temporarily closed. The teacher and 20 students would be quarantined for two weeks. On Wednesday two more positive tests were reported at two other schools. On Thursday, two more. By Friday, with a dozen positive tests across the district, more than 250 people were under quarantine. It was all happening even faster than she expected. By the second Tuesday night of the school year. nearly 60 positive tests in the system, more than 900 people would be under quarantine. Her School would be forced to close.
Other schools would remain open. People would do what they wanted. These choices would have consequences, for themselves and for others, and some of those consequences would be shattering and irreversible. And this school teacher cried.
With all the tough choices, Core health industries mask are up to the task. Sorry they don't stop the crying.