It's Time To Learn To Live With Viruses

If we don't focus on the science how will we raise the scientists of tomorrow?

I was sick in late January 2020. It was a weird and persistent set of symptoms from dry cough to night sweats, burning toes and brain fog. It went on until mid-to-late February. And it’s hard to believe how I muscled through it; covering my mouth when coughing, of course, but never thinking to have antibacterial gel at hand or (shocker) stay home and recover.

And as other parents from my kids’ school became critically ill in the weeks that followed, I realized how lucky I was to recover from whatever I had (because, of course, my doctor knew of Covid-19 but, at that point, only asked if I had travelled abroad).

A Grim Spring

New York City was at the forefront of this crisis and we experienced a dark, cold and isolated Spring last year. I took my kids out of school on March 11 — even before it was officially closed. And, at our school, parents would begin to flee as if a hurricane were imminent. It didn’t help that our public school was full of well-known parents with lush Instagram accounts showing them catching flights like their lives depended on it (I would have too…so no hate there).

And it’s crazy to consider that our mayor, Bill DeBlasio was (as usual) falling onto the sword of perceived inequality by suggesting there would be no way we could close schools. Quoted here on March 14, 2020:

"What are these kids going to do?" de Blasio asked. "Do we really believe these kids will hole up in their rooms for a month?"

In all likelihood, he said, they'll go out and play with their friends, which entirely defeats the purpose of closing schools in the first place. At least in school, the mayor said, students can be accounted for and practice proper hygiene.

"There are more than 400,000 teenagers in New York City public schools," he said. "Do you really want 400,000 teenagers at home alone?"

Funny how it’s been okay for said teenagers to be at home for months that turned into a year…

Women (Not) At Work

Since that fateful second week of March in 2020, women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs. And according to the Center for American Progress, in December of 2020, Black, Hispanic, and Asian women accounted for all of women’s job losses. In fact, 154,000 Black women have completely dropped out of the workforce. That is inequality.

We don't need to drill down here. Every woman I know understands this as an unforgivable truth. Our options always felt tenuous and limited as we navigated life's responsibilities. And, now, we’ve frankly been let down and set back decades. Having children out of school, in one way or another, for more than 365 days is everyone’s problem.

As a mother, I can't do it (and while that picture above is not me, it’s definitely my sentiment). And it's not just the disruption (the endless "can I have a snack") and the policing (My 10 & 11 year olds sneaking TV, popsicles, online games, and the like, no matter what I do). But it’s the guilt. And seeing our futures, and those of our children, slipping away because of our continued response to the virus.

Everything is Political

No sooner did the NYC Mayor fly the flag of inequality in the name of keeping schools open when the virus was spreading at a rapid rate, with just as much fervor he’s using the same messaging for the opposite outcome. Even as we are vaccinating, innovating and gaining a better understanding about how to protect ourselves, we are stuck in limbo.

The parent-on-parent vitriol must also stop. My family and neighbors have had to walk our children past freezer trucks full of someone’s loved ones for half of 2020. We’ve seen children in class on Zoom having just lost parents. But at the same time, as we gain control of Covid-19, an idealogical disease has begun to replace the real one. And parents are tired and fighting back.

The Virus Is Going Nowhere

Surely you’ve all had the same conversations with your kids. They ask ‘when will Covid be over” and you say “Well, maybe never.” And that is not something to be hysterical about, it’s something we need to consider as we begin living again.

As fast as we are vaccinating humans, the clever virus is mutating. But at the same time, the genius of science is ensuring the rapid development of anti-virals and vaccine boosters that will keep us alive. The great irony is that as science saves us, we are putting at risk the care and training of our future scientists.

Hard Lessons For The Future

Our children need to learn how to fight the virus. There is no hiding. They need to understand avoidance techniques (yes, including masks when needed, and as long as needed). They need to be armed with the weapons that will allow for all of our future survival. Because we were told that one of humanity’s biggest battles in the future would be against pandemics. And the next one we might not be able to hide from. So let’s get our kids back to school and learning to be the heroes we need them to be tomorrow.