Matt Pearl

It is entirely possible that the next few weeks or my column writing will take on the form of my reports ‘from the inside’ of the educational system. From my perspective, it is just such a unique moment in American education, I want to get my thoughts down so that years from now I can look back and remember everything.

Those of us who teach ate participating in this unfamiliar culture of distancing, masking, disinfecting and pushing other points of emphasis not directly associated with educating kids. But if we want to keep teaching face-to-face over the next few weeks and months, then we know we have to help keep coronavirus in check.

All of this is happening in public schools, yet all the while the national narrative has begun to feature reports that infection numbers are likely far higher than what have been reported thus far, and death rates thus become lower. And out of nowhere the CDC has begun to suggest that healthy people with COVID symptoms might just need to stay home, and that testing might not be necessary in such cases.

Wait, what? I smell politics, but I can’t decide which end of the beast I’m sniffing right now.

Is it the back end of a several-months-long overreaction? Or is it the front end of a CDC that has been pressured to change its tune? Or, the likeliest scenario (and the one I hope is the true one), is that as more information becomes available, we are finding the coronavirus pandemic to be a more manageable one that we had originally thought.

But when I hear the truth, will I know it?

If I have already heard it, did I miss it?

This is what happens when a pandemic happens in an American Election year. Folks are so busy taking credit for their appropriate response OR casting stones at the ineptitude of others that you and I– the folks who rely on news gathered by others to stay informed–find ourselves unable to separate the truth from the lies.

What do I do with this data I’m getting? Did CDC really just tell me that the conspiracy-theorist-driven notion that folks who died from something else are being counted as having died from COVID-19? Not really, but kind of: they told me that the vast majority of COVID deaths nationally occurred in folks who were affected by another major condition.

I for one am not ready to write off the lives of the elderly–I myself aspire to be an old person one day, you see–but our older citizens, many of whom seem to have been suffering from other health conditions, represent a large part of COVID deaths.

Hindsight being 20/20, we probably should have locked the higher-risk folks down with earlier and more radical restrictions. We opened up Missouri right as the virus was getting here into the rural areas, so we’re getting the worst of things right now.

And, in the thick of it all, it’s time for school.

So, since we know there will be infections and cases occurring in our schools, what happens next? It’s the million-dollar question right now. I’m not sure we have a good option left but to soldier on, hoping that things don’t get really out-of-hand.

What else can we do? Americans have become adept at identifying problems and finding the holes in other people’s logic: but who has a real solution here? Some folks would urge us not to have school. What then? Where do kids go? Daycares and sitters where they’re in contact with other kids anyway? What about mom’s job, or dad’s schedule?

And for everyone who wants to act like this thing is already over: what if it’s not? Which of your loved ones would you sacrifice for the economy’s sake?

More serious yet, when there is no good solution to a problem, how content can we convince ourselves to be when our country/state/county/community chooses its fate? Are we all going to be critics, or are we all going to dig in to make the best of a bad situation?

It’s our move, America. Who will we be?

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.