For months, government officials, school administrators, teachers and parents have debated the best and safest way to handle educating kids during the global coronavirus pandemic. While some other countries have been able to resume schooling relatively well with safety measures in place, outbreaks in the U.S. are too uncontrolled to safely get kids back in the classroom.
But that hasn't stopped some school districts from reopening schools in person anyway.
Photos have emerged from the first day of school at two districts in Georgia that have people scratching their heads and posing obvious questions like "Um, they know we're in a pandemic, right?"
One photo shows high school students crowded in a hallway in Paulding County, Georgia. Of the dozens of students pictured, the number wearing masks can be counted on one hand. It's like looking straight into a petri dish.
Another photo comes from Etowah High School in Cherokee County, Georgia. Dozens of senior class students, all huddled together for a photo in front of the school, with neither a mask nor distance between them.
Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, today Etowah High School in Cherokee County started their first day of s… https://t.co/wpcBnJV2Vr— Everything Georgia (@Everything Georgia)1596499201.0
According to 11 Alive News, Paulding County students were given the option to do online schooling, but there were only a limited number of spots available. Of the 30% of students who chose virtual schooling, it's not clear how many ended up on the waiting list and were forced to go to school in person.
In addition, masks are "encouraged" by the district, but not required, for both students and teachers. Clearly, that's not working out so well.
The photos are being shared widely on social media as examples of how outrageously badly parts of the U.S. are handling the pandemic. Pretending as if life can go on as normal in the middle of a pandemic is just silly. Acting as if young people are immune to the virus (they're not) or as if they don't spread it (they do) is uninformed behavior.
Every single one of those students presumably lives with a parent or other older person, and they're in classrooms with teachers who are in higher risk age groups as well. It's already risky enough to try to resume in-person school with strict social distancing measures and mandatory masking in place. But this? This is lunacy.
Americans have proven without a doubt that far too many people won't wear masks if they're just "encouraged" to or if masks are seen as a "personal choice." If schools can mandate dress codes and police girls' tank top straps and shorts length during normal school days, they can certainly mandate masks during an actual pandemic.
It's no wonder teachers have been expressing concerns about reopening schools without a solid safety plan in place. No one in their right mind would agree to go to work in a place where people are going to fill hallways without even being able to distance, especially without masks. There's a reason we're doing all of this social distancing and quarantining and mask-wearing, and it's not because the whole world is in on some kind of conspiracy involving American partisan politics. No, it's not because of some evil plan of Bill Gates either (enough with the conspiracy theories already).
There aren't enough words to describe how ridiculous these photos are in this current moment. Georgia has the third highest number of active coronavirus cases in the nation, and that number has risen steadily in the past month and a half. The World Health Organization recommends percent of positive cases to be less than 5% for 14 days before considering reopenings. Georgia's percent of positive cases is above 12%. Schools there shouldn't even be reopening in person to begin with, much less without very strict protocols in place.
This is foolishness. We're just making things harder and harder on ourselves. Come on, U.S. Get it together, for all our sakes.
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