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Seattle
Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Coronavirus vs. Schools

Chris B. Bennett

UPDATE: On Weds. (Mar. 11) afternoon, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau announced the closure of all schools in the district for a minimum of 14 calendar days. The closures will begin this Thur., Mar. 20.

By Chris B. Bennett
The Seattle Medium

The coronavirus is here and the reaction to it is different depending on who you’re talking to. There are those who have fear and doubt, and others who are like, “Whatever.”

With the growing number of cases and deaths in the region climbing, officials are trying to calm fears and encourage people to follow best practices in order to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Many companies have instituted tele-commuting when possible, and Wa. St. Gov. Jay Inslee just announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Yes, these are trying times, and in some cases stressful, but how you deal with the coronavirus as an individual and as a family is up to you. Whether you believe that people are over-reacting or not, we all have a role to play in how the virus either spreads or is “contained,” and I use that term loosely because we have no idea of what containment really looks like.

As it relates to limiting the spread of COVID-19, one of the major topics of conversation throughout the community are schools. There are those who ask why the schools are still open because they believe that kids can spread a virus like COVID-19 through a community very rapidly. Then there are others who believe the schools should remain open because health officials say that there is a very low risk of kids being seriously affected by the virus.

Until yesterday (Tues., Mar. 10), there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Seattle Public Schools (SPS). However, Tuesday afternoon the district sent out a press release stating that “Public Health – Seattle & King County confirmed that an adult staff member at Aki Kurose Middle School has been diagnosed with COVID-19,” and that the school will be shut down until further notice.

The news sent shockwaves through social media. But the news shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. The reality is that it was not a matter of if, but when and where the first confirmed case of COVID-19 within Seattle Public Schools would rear its ugly head. The guidelines put in place by health officials, and followed by schools in the region, basically is to wait until there is a “confirmed case of COVID-19” before they take action to close a school or schools. With “confirmed” meaning that a person is not just showing symptoms, but has tested positive for COVID-19, that person could have exposed numerous people before showing symptoms, quarantining themselves or receiving their test results.

Even though there were no previously confirmed cases within SPS, the district has apparently been very busy in their attempt to handle the COVID-19 crisis and the effects it could have on the district. Prior to the news about Aki Kurose, 16 schools were “deep cleaned” by the district. According to district guidelines, provided to The Seattle Medium by SPS, with regards to school cleanings related to the coronavirus it states, “In the event a staff or student at a school comes into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms, supplemental custodial staff will be brought at night to complete a specialized process to disinfect the school. This cleaning includes the use of an electrostatic sprayer, which sprays a disinfectant, and all surfaces are wiped down with disinfectant.”

According to a district spokesperson, all of the deep cleanings did take place at night and were done because a student or staff had come in contact with someone who had COVID-19 symptoms or were “in contact with someone who has symptoms but does not have a lab-confirmed case of 19.”

In addition to the 16 previous schools that were cleaned, Franklin, Rainier Beach and Asa Mercer were scheduled for deep cleaning Tuesday night. A fourth school, Cleveland High School was closed for cleaning this Wednesday, and is scheduled to re-open on Thursday.

While there are some who applaud the district for their actions, which are seen by some as going above and beyond the guidelines put in place by health officials, there are others who believe that the district is being reactive instead of proactive. They believe that the district should close schools for two weeks and deep clean every school and bus in the district.

The real issue is whether or not these deep cleanings and school closing for a couple days are effective in protecting students and staff from contracting and spreading COVID-19 throughout the school and the area. There are many concerns, whether real or perceived, that have some in the community looking for more drastic measures to be taken by the district. These concerns include the potential lack of reporting/testing by families that may fear deportation, kids being kids and not stringently adhering to best practices like washing hands for 20 seconds and not touching their face, and staff/students who are sick and refuse to stay home until they are feeling better.

The bottom line is that people will have to do what is in their own best interest. You can’t rely on the Governor, the Mayor, the Superintendent of Public Schools, or the President to make decisions regarding the health of you and your family. No matter how much Kool-Aid you drink, you must remember that some of the decision-makers that we elect/select have a political obligation that far outweighs their moral obligation to us as individuals. Just like you don’t know them, more often than not, they don’t know you.

There is always going to be that person who comes to work, attends a sporting event for kids or even comes to your house coughing, sneezing and/or wheezing right next to you and everybody else and thinks nothing of it!

Right now, we are all waiting for the day when COVID-19 is a thing of the past. But until then, people need to take the threat of the virus very seriously. That does not mean to stop living, but it does mean that we have to respect the fact that no one is immune to the virus. And while you may be healthy enough to fend off the virus, you could expose the virus to those who cannot. So while it may be inconvenient to continuously wash your hands throughout the day for 20 seconds, stay away from large gatherings, and to possibly keep your kids home from school. It’s important to remember that you have the power to protect yourself, your family and our community as whole.

Through the eyes of an ink barrel, may peace be unto you!

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