Wear your mask, and hope for the best

My kids are grown — well, pretty much grown.

My oldest just earned his bachelor’s degree, and my youngest is preparing to start his senior year in high school.

Despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19, he’s made his choice and is adamant that he will return to in-person school this fall, hoping to go as long as school officials and the governor say that he may.

As you know, Gov. Mike DeWine last week issued a health order requiring masks for all children, K-12, returning to in-person classes this fall. DeWine believes the mask mandate “gives us the best shot to keep Ohio’s kids and educators safe and physically in school.”

That’s where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said kids really ought to be this fall. I agree with that and sincerely hope they are able to make it through the year without any further stay-at-home orders.

Still, health officials believe community spread in individual school districts will dictate outbreaks their schools will face.

The state plans to deliver 2 million masks given by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to regional education service centers, which will distribute to schools across the state, DeWine said.

This should be interesting.

My son will turn 18 next month. At his age, he’ll tolerate a mask. He’s already been doing that for most of the summer. He’ll drive to school in his own vehicle. He’s physically able to sit still — well, most of the time — and I’m pretty sure he understands the strange and demanding requirements he’s probably going to have to endure. Those might include sitting in one location all day, at a desk surrounded by duct-taped clear plastic walls. That might also be where he dines on lunch.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my newsroom with my office door closed. With no one around, I feel safe to remove my government-mandated face mask. I know that when I walk out of my office to speak to my staff members, to go to the photocopier, to visit the restroom or to refill my coffee cup, I must slip on the hot and uncomfortable mask.

So what about kindergarteners and other youngsters who will endure the uncomfortable scenario this fall?

Five- and 6-year-olds, many in their first experience at school, will face very difficult requirements. Little children cannot sit still. They won’t stay 6 feet away from their new friends. They’ll want to hold the hand of their new teacher. They may cry and need a hug.

It’s heart wrenching, really.

And when they get past all these difficult logistics and it’s time to get down to the business of learning, how does a teacher go about teaching a kindergartener to spell and pronounce the letter B, for instance, while she is wearing a mask over her lips?

As DeWine said, “We all are trying to bring certainty to something we quite candidly cannot bring certainty to,” DeWine said. “We cannot know what the next three weeks will bring let alone for the next three months or six months or nine months of school.”

I get it.

Just as I think about these difficult challenges for young children, I also recall the horrible way seniors last spring ended their high school careers.

I pray we are able to get this virus under control so my son and all the seniors of 2021 are able to enjoy things like athletics, prom and even a real graduation ceremony followed by a real graduation party that they deserve.

So, for everyone’s sake, let’s keep following the guidance that health experts give us. Let’s wear our masks, and stay home when we can. Let’s stay socially distanced while we are out and wash our hands constantly.

And let’s hope this all works so we, once again, can flatten the curve and return to a better sense of normalcy than the one we are experiencing today.



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