Submitted by Dana Francks, Greenwich
I Lysol-wiped my groceries in March 2020. Didn’t we all? That was when the world turned upside down and we were all deathly afraid of the unknown. School stopped, then moved online, work moved home, we stopped seeing our friends and extended family for a long, long time. Thinking back to those times, it was scary and full of anxiety, darkness and stress. Somehow though, today feels worse. I am living in a town where people wear masks alone in their cars.
My 1st grade son’s public school suggested that I “isolate” my 4-year-old from his two brothers and parents for 5-10 days because he was the first one in our family of five to test positive for COVID this January. Isolate my 4-year-old? No, thank you. Now, how exactly would one propose I isolate a 4-year-old for a week? Let that sink in for a minute. Should I keep him in one room and bring him 3 meals a day while wearing a hazmat suit? Will he thank me and say, “Save yourself, Mommy!”?
I am not trying to take anything away from the fact that millions of people lost loved ones to this brand-new virus. My closest friends have lost their parents. It’s horrible. It’s not fair. I feel extremely lucky to still have my parents. My children are everything to me. It’s the love I have for my children though, that makes 2022 so hard to live with. The CDC states that the Omicron variant is milder. I’ve experienced exactly that myself, within my household. When my 4-year-old first tested positive, we didn’t isolate him. We hugged him and kissed him and let his brothers wrestle with him and share his snacks in quarantine. We all tested positive for COVID within a couple of days. Sure enough, all my children had extremely mild symptoms and went back to jumping off the couch a few hours later. My husband had zero symptoms. I had a headache, but wasn’t sure if it was from COVID, or from the stress of worrying how many days of school my kids would have to miss, and how many days of work I would subsequently have to make up.
I don’t seem to be in the minority when it comes to the mild symptoms of this latest strain. Many of my friends have had similar experiences. Even my friends who were the most worried about COVID before, have changed their tune. People are more annoyed about the disruption to school and work schedules, and ruined vacations, than they are worried about getting sick from COVID. The news outlets continue to try and scare everyone because fear equals ratings, while the reality is, that we should be celebrating this milder variant and looking forward for a way out of this pandemic. Instead, though, my son’s preschool has looked at sheer case numbers, and decided the community would be safer if the 3 and 4-year-olds come to school with N95 masks on. Masks that are made for hospital workers and require OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to do an individual fit test before each daily use. The unresearched and impossible guideline was casually added to one of the thousand emails from the school with updated COVID protocols, as if it was no big deal. What about speech delays? What about learning loss? Why doesn’t the Office of Early Childhood Development acknowledge these blaringly obvious and extremely detrimental problems for the toddlers they are hired to look out for? What about the older population of kids? Socialization is stunted. Depression. Anxiety. Long-term psychological damage is being done to our children after two years of isolation and feeling constant fear, and if you can’t see that for yourself, you need to open your eyes.
Do you ever stop to think about the inconsistencies in Connecticut for Covid guidelines and mitigation strategies? Do people honestly think that when they sit down at a restaurant with a plate of food in front of them, in a seated position, that the Covid aerosols magically stop dead in their tracks? Why are restaurants less dangerous for school children than their classrooms? The lack of common sense, and the rules that only apply in certain situations, are what make me question the authorities that are controlling our lives and our children.
What we should be doing, is giving people the ability to decide for themselves what risks they are willing to take in their everyday lives. Let the vulnerable population wear N95 masks to protect themselves. Let healthy people get sick and build their immune systems. Let kids love school again. Let teachers’ lessons be heard and not muffled. Let our children have exciting birthday parties with their friends and look forward to their prom. Let them breathe when they are playing indoor sports instead of running around with a sweat-soaked piece of cloth over their mouth while their noses hang out anyway. Stop blaming each other for the spread of the virus. All viruses are spread by normal human activities, and we need to stop pointing fingers at each other, and return to smiling when we see people in public. Stop looking at each other as vectors for disease. Let’s embrace the things that make us happy. The things that make us human.
Where do you want your kids to be this spring? Still isolated and hidden behind masks? Or free to be children again?