Many moons ago I worked in the Pike County School System as a substitute teacher. For most of that time I mainly worked with elementary grade level students, which for reasons I’ll make clear, is noteworthy.
Although my job, even as a substitute, was to teach, I must confess there were instances when I, the teacher, learned.
There was one particular lesson I recall that I not only learned well I also learned very fast.
And that was this: All schools, but particularly elementary grade level schools, are a veritable breeding ground for sickness. Everything from the common cold to the flu to strep—illnesses that on any given day can and all too frequently do make the rounds from PK classrooms on up—are a constant threat and spread like wildfire.
So much so, many times these kids will no more get settled in on the very first day of the new school year than some kind of germ will begin flying around the building like a crazed bat. This often results in many students and school personnel being exposed and infected before their seats have even had a chance to get warm.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask any teacher, any principal, any cook, any custodian, any aide, or any bus driver, and they’ll express this exact sentiment or something very close to it.
Probably other than a doctor’s waiting room full of coughing, hacking, sneezing, and feverish people, you will not find more sickness congregated in one location at one time than in a school building full of kids—particularly one filled with young kids.
As we all know this pathogenic demon, COVID-19, began rearing its ugly head at the beginning of 2020. At the time, I really believed that health officials would target all schools as one of the very first battlegrounds to break out everything in the arsenal but nuclear weapons to combat it.
Of course most in-class instruction across the country was (and to some degree still is) suspended the moment all this began.
Early on students and teachers were provided with remote learning/teaching options, which at least subliminally acknowledged that schools really are good candidates for the quick spread of the disease and shouldn’t operate as usual.
But from the outset you just never got the feeling that health experts, particularly, considered schools as being a veritable breeding ground — a proverbial COVID-19 ground zero, if you will — that just about every other person on the planet not a “health expert” believed and still believe they really are.
Case in point. A week or so ago Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who is the director of the CDC, purportedly told reporters that it really is not necessary for teachers to be vaccinated for schools to safely reopen.
During a briefing held by lead health officials from the Biden administration, Walensky said, “I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.
“So while we are implementing the criteria of the advisory committee and of the state and local guidances to get vaccination across these eligible communities, I would also say that vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools.”
Walensky admitted this opinion was based on the CDC itself following the advice of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — that is, regarding what group of individuals should get vaccination priority and those who could wait.
A little online research revealed the ACIP is composed of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations for the safest use of vaccines, and, apparently, in what order of priority they should be doled out.
It’s not that the ACIP and the CDC don’t consider teachers as essential workers and, like everyone else, that they shouldn’t be vaccinated at some point. Not at all.
Most of our teachers here in the Mingo/Pike area have already received both vaccinations, and that’s certainly something for which at least West Virginia and Kentucky officials should be commended.
What it would appear Walensky is saying is there’s really no big hurry for other states to make sure the tens of thousands of remaining unvaccinated teachers within their boundaries be given the same hurry up courtesy.
I could be wrong, mainly because many times I am.
But something tells me if these so-called top health officials were suddenly required to sit in a confined classroom for just one day with 20 or more coughing, hacking, sneezing, and feverish kids, they would change their expert medical opinions faster than you can say, well, COVID-19.