In the last 18 months, much has been said about the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, amid the bucolic greenery of Bucks County, this frontline has extended to school board meetings, where districts’ health and safety plans are in heated contention.
After a year of lives lost, knowledge hard-won, and sacrifices unparalleled, I look around and ask, how are we here?
How are we here, asking if COVID-19 affects children?
Already, it is reported that 20 children are testing positive for COVID daily at Doylestown Hospital, even before schools were in session.
How are we here, arguing to throw away all the lessons of prevention and mitigation?
The Delta variant is 200% more contagious than the original Alpha strain and is more transmissible than common cold or the flu. In fact, it is more contagious than smallpox or Ebola. Already, it is reported that 20 children are testing positive for COVID daily at Doylestown Hospital, even before schools were in session.
Public health measures like appropriate mask-wearing, case reporting, and contact tracing give our children a chance to safely return to school in-person and remain there. Beleaguered school districts in the South are learning that waiting for case numbers to peak before implementing public health measures results in needless school closures, preventable illness and death.
The artificial borders of Bucks County do not keep COVID-19 at bay, our investment in prevention does, especially for our unvaccinated children. Anything less does a grave disservice to our schools and our community.
How are we here, lending credence to the preposterous idea that mask wearing is child abuse?
The pandemic has rightfully raised questions regarding the mental health of children, in the context of societal stress and social isolation. But, the act of mask-wearing helps children safely return to school, thus alleviating the mental health impact related to school closures and illness. Expert consensus also states that mask-wearing alone does not lead to developmental delays, and is in fact easily adopted by most children, more so than adults.
Masks are not the problem, they are part of the solution. It’s the Golden Rule in action.
How are we here? Recoiling at the astonishing irony of people shouting “child-abuse!” at a masked child speaking at a school board meeting? Reeling at the astounding hypocrisy of calling for civility while denigrating medical professionals of color as “illegal aliens?” Watching with alarm as a militia group blithely calls for their members to camp out for hours in front of the school board administrative building, before cancelling this “family fun,” after public outcry.
SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus that has leapt into the human species, and we have been issued a call to action – learn, adapt, and move in real-time, with real-world impact on an impossibly large scale. And although this strikes a chord of uncertainty in all of us, our response cannot be based in histrionic conspiracy theories and anti-science hostility.
This virus does not consider race, party affiliation, religion – it does not consider how my son only falls asleep with my hands rubbing his back. It does not consider how my daughter’s hair feels like silk nestled under my chin. It does not consider our humanity – only we are left to consider it.
In this weary battle against these viruses we inhale – coronavirus, misinformation and virulent rhetoric --we are all in the frontline.
Anusha Viswanathan is a physician who lives in Doylestown.