Note: This is the letter I sent to our local school board, and in response, I received a CTL C+V response that indicated that the recipient did not read it. The response, in part, reads, “Please note that this response plan provides minimal guidelines for our schools in how they should respond to the virus.” The issue, though, is that not even “minimal guidelines” are being followed to hopefully address the surge. As well, the response states that the situation will “improve”: “While we are going through a period where the number of cases is higher, the local data continues to show that the virus poses minimal risk to healthy students.” Within the past few weeks, a 13 year old student in Georgia passed away from COVID. I’ve spoken with someone who knows a two and a three year old with COVID, and in July a 5 year old boy died on COVID in Georgia.
Email I sent to school board.
Recently, I read the article on Now Habersham about the district’s position on COVID-19. First and foremost, I am a firm believer that my son, who attends ____________, should be face to face, for a myriad of reasons. Primarily, he needs interaction with his teachers and fellow classmates. As well, as is the case with most parents, it is difficult to shift to have him at home, especially when his sister is not available to assist. Last year was good. He was in person and my daughter was virtual. We felt comfortable with the mitigation efforts that Dr. Yearwood put in place. We did not feel comfortable with those at the Ninth Grade Academy.
With that said, however, I am disappointed and frustrated in your continued response to the threat of COVID-19, especially with the rise of the Delta Variant. While my wife, my daughter, and I all have our vaccination, my son, who is not eligible due to his age, does not. As a result, he is at a higher risk of catching COVID. On August 21, there was a 60% rise in COVID cases in Georgia in children under 17, as the state reported 8,000 cases in this age range. Only six days later, that number rose to 13,000.
Granted we are far removed from populace centers such as Atlanta, but that does not make us immune to this disease. People travel. People enter. People leave. People return. The medical system in NE Georgia is taxed.On august 27, Habersham Medical Center listed its emergency department overcrowding as “severe.” White County approved the construction of two mass care facilities to help with the influx. The governor has even deployed National Guard medical personnel across the state to assist. Tallulah Falls has gone virtual through Labor Day.
I am not asking that you shift to virtual learning, unless it is absolutely necessary. If we can avoid that scenario, we need to, and I agree with you on that. However, if there are no mitigation efforts, and I mean mitigation that requires masks, requires social distancing, requires pods, and other mitigating measures, then the shift may occur, whether you or I like it or not.
This isn’t politics, and it shouldn’t be. But we know in the minds of many it is. This is looking out for your neighbor. This is looking out for your community. This is listening to Chris Akridge talk about his bout with COVID. This is listening to parents who worry about their children contracting COVID and possibly spreading it to others. This is about, as Jesus said, “Loving your neighbor as yourself,” the second greatest commandment after loving God.
Two weeks ago, I thought I contracted COVID. I started out the day ok, and gradually, my nose started running more, I had a slight headache, and felt tired. During that day, I interacted with people, all older in their 70s or 80s, walking around with them. We’d all been vaccinated, but as I got worse, my mind started to race and fear for what would happen if they caught COVID from me.
The next day, I worked from home, and after a Zoom call where someone suggested I get tested, I went and got a test. After I did that, I called everyone I was in contact with the day before to let them know. I worried about them just as much as myself. Thankfully, the test came back negative.
During this time, I kept thinking, over and over, where I could have gotten it. We were too far out from family visiting. One of the only things that popped in my head was my son, possibly catching it from school. This thought scared me for a few reasons. Notably because he could transmit it and not show anything, or he could get sick.
He doesn’t like wearing a mask, and truthfully neither do I. It’s become a habit though. No matter where we go, we get the mask. When we talk about it, I tell him that it’s not just about him. It’s about those that he comes in contact with. While the mask may not stop everything, it drastically inhibits the transmission of droplets.
I ask that you think about the community in this situation. Leadership requires strength to stand up for the best outcome for the community. Leadership requires that we think as Christ, that we live as Christ, that we love our neighbor as ourselves and do what we can to protect them as well as us.
I know that requiring vaccines will not happen, even though I think it should. But, you can, as countless other school districts have done in Georgia alone, require masks and other mitigation steps. You can provide transparency for students, faculty, staff, parents, and the community. I should not have had to read the numbers in my son’s school on the Now Habersham article or contact the school board. It should be available readily. The last update to the COVID page on the school board website appears to be from last year.
Over 600 years ago, during the Black Plague, Martin Luther wrote “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague.” In that sermon, he said, “If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must be aware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. . . . It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death.”
God is in control, yes, but God also provides us with the wisdom and knowledge to make the best decisions to protect our community and help it thrive. If we continue to ignore what works, then God is not to blame. Our decisions deserve the blame.