Leaders in the two local school systems made the right call recently to keep schools closed and conduct classes online when the academic year starts this month. With the COVID-19 virus spreading rapidly through Greene County, they really had no choice.
There are challenges. Some students don’t have access to reliable internet service. Some count on meals served at school. It won’t be easy. Then again, nothing about his pandemic has been. Hopefully, the lessons learned when schools were forced to shut their doors and continue classes online in the spring will provide a roadmap.
What’s changed since the spring is the rate of new infections, not just here but across the state and in many places around the country. In Greene County, as Eugenia Estes reported in the Saturday edition, the case count exploded in July, from 85 at the beginning of the month to 344 on its final day, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
The first three days of August provided no reprieve, with 27 new cases reported over the weekend and Monday.
Classes were scheduled to start this week in Greene County. Doing that in person while these conditions persist would have been a dangerous mistake, and not just for the students.
Of the more than 110,600 Tennessee cases counted at the time of this writing, nearly 18,000 — 16 percent — were in patients 20 and younger. More than 5,000 of those cases were in children 10 and younger. While four (we’ll not say “only four” when it comes to children dying) of those cases had resulted in death, it only stands to reason that if a child has the virus, he or she can pass it along to someone at far greater risk of potentially deadly outcomes. That can include a teacher with an underlying medical condition or a grandparent with a weaker immune system, such as those in the 61-and-older range who currently account for 14 percent of Tennessee’s cases and 80 percent of its virus-related deaths.
And as much as we’d like it to be true, no magic pill has been proven to ward off COVID-19. Of hydroxychloroquine — the most widely touted “miracle cure” for the coronavirus — President Donald Trump’s testing czar, Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health and human services, said on the NBC Sunday program “Meet the Press” that the nation needs to “move on” from the debate over the drug and that there is “no evidence” to show it is an effective treatment (viral online videos starring doctors who also believe dream sex with demons causes some ailments and alien DNA is used in medical treatments notwithstanding).
While there may yet be an effective therapy to lessen the effects of the virus — a Reuters story Sunday sounded an optimistic note about one that has been used in emergency cases — our best hope for a return to normalcy is an effective vaccine. Our best bet for curbing the spread of COVID-19 right now is everyone taking responsibility for doing their part, including mask-wearing and social distancing. Our best option for protecting our children, and those they love, is not forcing them back into classrooms while that’s not safe.