Although many of us would prefer to have our children return to in-person learning for a whole variety of reasons including but not limited to our children’s mental and social well being, a number of factors about how the virus is spreading make returning to school irresponsible at present.

A recent Marshfield Clinic study shows that if a member of a household is infected, the rest of the household has a 53% chance of becoming infected. Many households, like mine, include loved ones with risk factors such as being immunocompromised, diabetic, asthmatic, etc.

The South Central region which includes Dane County only has 15% of hospital beds available, and the Dane Country order states that businesses which can operate remotely should. Dane Country is faring better than other counties, and continuing to follow Public Health Madison and Dane County’s guidance is prudent.

The virus needs 15 minutes of exposure to spread, and we know the virus spreads easily indoors in group settings such as church and restaurants. The spread in the state is severe, and we are asked to avoid gathering with family for the holidays because sharing a meal, attending a wedding, funeral or party are known spreader events.

What will spread look like in a school at lunchtime? If we are questioning if it’s okay to visit with grandparents, it’s hard to imagine it would be okay to expand our social bubbles to a few hundred families and everyone else in their bubbles.

The question isn’t “Can we return to school?” Some districts like Oak Creek-Franklin and Sheboygan have tried and have then gone back to virtual, and the UW is considering a virtual return post-holidays. The question is “Should we return to school if are we able to make sacrifices presently to keep our families and neighbors safe?”

This is a time of struggle and sacrifice akin to my grandparents’ stories of the Depression or World War II. Some have said we will lose a generation, but my grandparents are in the greatest generation because they learned lessons about civic responsibly through struggle and sacrifice. It’s our turn to rise to the occasion, to recognize the gravity of the situation, and play our part in limiting social interactions.

Have we removed ourselves from the generation that rinsed and saved aluminum foil, planted Victory Gardens, and rationed gasoline, that we are unable to to sacrifice until a vaccine is available?

Nathaniel Covert


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