The once-again shifting landscape of COVID

I had another post that I was planning on for today, on Lisa Nunn’s book College Belonging: How First-Year and First-Generation Students Navigate Campus Life. But as I was putting the finishing touches on that post (which will now appear next week, hopefully), I got hit on all sides with COVID-related news and updates — and, understandably, that’s where my mind now is. So, this post instead will be a bit of a reflection / update / worryfest about how rapidly things are changing and how I am (or am not) handling the changes.

For reference, 3 of the 4 members of my household are fully vaccinated. (Fun fact: with 3 different vaccines! We’re like our own little science experiment!) The 4th member — the Resident 5th Grader — is a year too young to be vaccinated (and will likely be first in line for vaccination once it becomes available to his age group). We decided as a family to continue masking together in public, to protect the Resident 5th Grader and to show solidarity. While our county’s vaccination rate is over 70%, almost no one in my town wears masks indoors. Our school district plans to bring everyone back to full-time in-person learning with optional mask wearing and, if I understand correctly, no quarantining of classes or other close contacts if there’s an exposure.

Yikes.

I feel mostly ok about the precautions the vaccinated household members are taking. The Resident 9th Grader always masks indoors (and sometimes outdoors), is smart about choosing when to be indoors with people outside the household, and plays a lower-risk, non-contact fall sport. My partner works at home full time and is selective about his bubble, and mostly hangs out socially outdoors. I work with fully-vaccinated students and colleagues, and have decided to move to always masking indoors vs. mostly masking indoors.

But figuring out how to best protect the Resident 5th Grader is tough. He has an IEP and other accommodations and virtual / hybrid school was…a nightmare. He really wants to do 5th grade band, and when we had to make that call last spring everything looked ok enough. This is his last year (and our family’s last year!) at our elementary school. So there are many reasons why in-person school makes sense. Ideally, people would do the right thing and mask, but based on the district’s summer program and the band lessons … well, let’s just say my kiddo was the ONLY one masked up at “band camp” and one of very few in the summer program. This, in a population where none of the kids are vaccinated (and who knows among the adults, since I don’t think the district requires our teachers to be vaccinated).

Predictably (and maddeningly!), the 5th grader was exposed at band camp…11 days ago. The email we got stated that “quarantining is recommended but not required” [emphasis mine]. !!! Luckily, his COVID test came back negative. But this does not give me warm fuzzy feelings about how the school year will go down, unless we go back to requiring everyone to mask up. I’m not holding my breath about that.

Carleton’s plan to bring everyone back to campus, require vaccinations (plus a flu shot), but no testing and no masking, has been a significant source of stress for me and others lately. Particularly when I think about bringing 2000+ students back from literally all over the world, many of those places COVID hotspots. We just received an update indicating that we will have testing AND indoor masking this fall, which makes me feel a bit better about controlling my exposure. And I suspect after the first few weeks, assuming we don’t have an outbreak on campus, I’ll be able to relax a bit. But a part of me is also (still) squeamish about trusting my health to the decision making of 18-22 year olds once they are back on campus.

So I find myself back in a place of imperfect decision-making and second-guessing almost everything. I sometimes successfully remind myself that I can’t control what choices others make, but it’s so hard when others’ choices affect your family’s health and possibly survival. I’m trying to walk a very thin tightrope between taking precautions and doing what’s best for my kids’ emotional and mental health. I wish these decisions were easier. It’s a really sh*tty time to be a parent, that’s for sure.

What is your COVID mindset like lately?


What I’m reading: I’ve just started Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead, edited by Susan Blum.

What I’m listening to: Groove Salad on SomaFM. My go-to work / concentration music. (I’m a supporter, too!)