As of Sunday, the United States hit five million confirmed coronavirus cases, as reported by the Johns Hopkins University data tracking system. Of course, as experts have warned for months, our actual number may be higher than what’s reported, given how many people still have not been able to access a test. Meanwhile, Donald Trump relentlessly pushes to reopen schools, much to the fear of many teachers, students, and communities.
Some counties have, in fact, already started in-person learning for the fall semester—and the results are exactly what experts and communities feared they would be. Earlier this week, Daily Kos covered two Georgia high schoolers reporting they’d been suspended for posting photos of crowded school hallways on social media; now, that same high school is reporting nine cases of the coronavirus, spread among both students and staff. And this school isn’t alone, either.
Also in Georgia, one county came up with more than 200 cases, or contact with a case, among district employees before students even returned to the classroom. In Indiana, one school was open for less than one day before a positive case turned up among students. In Mississippi, one week saw 116 students being told to self-quarantine after a peer tested positive for the virus.
So, it’s no surprise, then, that many teachers and school staff are terrified about returning to the classroom amid the pandemic. One teacher in Florida wrote her own “obituary” that quickly went viral; while she told Newsweek in an interview that she realizes she, personally, may not contract the coronavirus and die from it, it’s entirely possible that at least one teacher will especially given that students in Florida are returning to in-person classrooms at the end of August. Meanwhile, one 72-year-old cancer survivor in Oklahoma is returning to the classroom to teach—and his students aren’t even required to wear masks. That teacher is opting to wear both a face mask and a face shield, but when students aren’t required to wear face coverings as well, the concern is certainly understandable.
Kids are worried, too. One ten-year-old in California, for example, has gone viral for creating his own T-shirt and face mask combination, in an effort to make himself and his peers safer when schools eventually reopen. The logic in his invention is that parents and teachers are (understandably) skeptical about kids keeping track of face coverings on their own. Even some very young children report being anxious about returning to in-person school amid the pandemic.
In the bigger picture, we also know that the virus is affecting people of color at a disproportionate rate. For example, as Daily Kos recently covered, Black children are dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate than white American children. In terms of economy, Black-owned businesses are shuttering at over twice the rate of white-owned businesses. Black and Latino residents are dying of the virus at a disproportionate rate, and Indigenous communities have been slammed, which connects both to chronic underfunding of the Indian Health Service, as well as issues like clean water access.