The long road back

March 1, 2021
The accelerated pace of vaccinations and classrooms reopening are a hopeful sign.

While carrying out my daily dog-walking duties one morning last week, I did a double take when I spotted something at once both familiar and out of place. Huddled at the street corner, a few high school students were waiting for a bus to pick them up and take them to school.

That sight had been a normal, everyday occurrence, but since the deadly coronavirus disrupted all our lives a year ago, the word normal has been erased from our vocabulary.

But those teenagers shivering outside on a frosty morning provided a glimmer of hope that some aspects of our lives may return to a semblance of what they were before Covid-19 forced us to don facemasks and keep our distance from friends and neighbors.

The yearning to see classrooms again occupied by students, even in reduced, socially distanced numbers, is not just about the educational needs of students. A return to in-person instruction may be viewed by some as a sign that the worst of Covid-19 is behind us.

Another reason for optimism: More vaccines have been approved, and more doses of those vaccines are finding their way into people’s arms. As of the beginning of March, more than 50 million people in the United States had received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Accelerating the pace of vaccine distribution also make it more likely that teachers will receive a vaccination. That will help ease the conflict that has arisen in many school systems over when and how to resume in-person instruction.

Many district administrators, concerned about students falling behind in their studies or struggling with the mental health, or feeling the pressure from parents eager to have their children back in school, have made it a priority to bring students back to classrooms.

Meanwhile, many teachers and other school employees, especially those with underling health conditions, were leery of returning to classrooms until they received a vaccination. As vaccines become more widely available, the contentious debates over who should be first in line for shots will become moot.

Amid the optimism, there is a danger that in our zeal to put Covid-19 behind us, we drop our guard and the number of cases surge again.

That’s what worries Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.

“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of Covid-19 in our communities,” Dr. Walensky says.

-Mike Kennedy (signature)

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