In short order last week, we got yet another lesson in pandemic management. That is, you don’t so much manage the pandemic as it manages you.
Within the span of three days last week, we learned that a Riverside-Brookfield High School student who had attended an in-person orientation the week before had tested positive for COVID-19.
It resulted in that student and any other in close proximity that day to being quarantined for 14 days. Classes at RBHS are being held remotely after a late change of heart by school officials, so further student-to-student transmission has been mitigated.
Still, it demonstrates the risks of bringing people together in a school setting. A couple of days later, a teacher reported testing positive for COVID-19, leading to that faculty member’s quarantine along with one other.
Unlike students, teachers have been coming to school to provide instruction from their classrooms. While faculty can certainly maintain physical distance more successfully in a school building devoid of students, the risk of spread among staff is still there, with dozens of faculty and staff inside the building each day.
Also last week, on the eve of St. Mary School in Riverside opening for full-day, in-person instruction, word came down that a parish staff member had tested positive for COVID-19.
That not only resulted in that staff member’s quarantine, but a mass visit by faculty of the school to a COVID-19 testing site in Berwyn the next day. It also resulted in school having to start 100-percent remotely through at least Sept. 8 and necessitated the parish to close all of its buildings, including the church, to the public for that same period.
It’s unclear at this point whether that closure will be extended based on test results from other faculty at St. Mary School. But, this situation came about without classes even having been held and with the school undertaking detailed safety protocols for reopening.
Brookfield-LaGrange School District 95 opened its classrooms for the first time since March last week, and Riverside District 96 and LaGrange Brookfield District 102 are following suit this week.
These are extraordinary times and there’s no way to predict how the virus will manifest itself. But it is not going away, and with cold weather just around the corner we’re going to have to be even more vigilant.
Already, on a regional basis, we’re seeing positivity rates tick up and last week the state declared suburban Cook County one of 30 counties in the “warning” zone for potential new restrictions on public gatherings.
Yes, it’s sometimes exhausting to have to be hyper-vigilant about mask and distancing discipline. Everyone wants to go out, have a meal away from home, visit the zoo or the mall.
But we can’t lose sight of this simple fact. At this moment, we are not in control. The virus is. Any effort to downplay its danger is simple disinformation and a dangerous disservice to your family, friends and neighbors.
With kids, teachers and staff going back to school, and the physical interactions that represents, it’s vital that we double down on our efforts to keep our families and each other safe.