Friday, October 16, 2020

Covid in the Family? "Grandpa's Gone Camping" Is the Last Line of Defense

During the last six weeks, I've been camping for four weeks--two at the beginning, then two weeks at home, and now just finishing up the last two weeks. The reason for these stints of camping certainly is in part because fall camping is so exciting, with the colors and the weather variations. However, there's another aspect of my time in camp that is not just about fun, and it's related to COVID-19.

At some point in late summer as our two grandkids and their parents were gearing up for school to start, my wife and I asked ourselves the question, "What if the kids go back to school, catch covid, bring it home, and then their parents and us both get sick. Who takes care of the kids?"

We distanced ourselves from our grandkids (ages 7 and 5) and their parents, just to see how school went. Classes were based on a hybrid model of part time at school with a 50/50 blend of smaller classes and schooling at home. It went pretty well, and my wife and I felt that the situation was about as safe as realistically possible. Therefore we began seeing the kids again, with time outside at the park and by wearing masks when we were in closer quarters. 

The school circulated a survey of parents, and based on information gathered decided to go back to full-time in-class teaching, following the wishes of the majority of the parents. The school had been getting a great deal of pressure from parents to take the kids all day long so that parents could return to work. The economic pressure on parents was undeniable, and the chaos of politics infiltrating health policy on the state and federal levels with its resultant weakening of guidelines was also undeniable. 

Therefore, I went camping again for another two weeks, my wife coming up to camp with me on weekends, and while at home my wife once again not visiting the grandkids. After just under two weeks of school, the grandkids' mom was contacted and told that our seven-year-old grandson had been in contact in the lunchroom with another student who had been tested and verified to have COVID-19. The kids and grandkids were told to stay at home in quarantine. My, who had met the day of the phone call with her daughter, also needed to be in quarantine. 

My wife called that night while I was still at the state park, telling me the situation was exactly as we had logicked out earlier and feared would happen, based on how the state of Iowa had adulterated its health policies with political measures. Out of the four of us--parents and grandparents--I was the only one who was without a doubt not exposed. Fortunately, the next day our grandson was tested and found negative. He received a note that he could go back to school and the parents wouldn't have to quarantine.

My wife brought up the point that sometimes there is a false negative. What if that was true? We were back to our original question of what if all the adults get sick. Who will take care of the children?

My wife decided (and, of course, I agreed) that we two grandparents should extend our quarantine for a bit longer, my wife from her daughter and family, and me from my wife. That way just in case someone falls ill from this situation, perhaps my wife won't get ill and can mask up and assist if needed . . . and if my wife gets sick, then I can be the last grandpa standing, there to care for everyone as best I can. The irony, of course, is that Grandma and Grandpa are in the most vulnerable group, regarding the virus.

Desperate situations are possible in any medical crisis such as this, but when we see cut-offs for distance instruction set at levels above those suggested by health professionals, when we see modes of instruction determined by surveys rather than the best medical advice, when we see state infection rates used that may very well be inaccurate, then my wife and I and our children feel isolated in our danger, not supported and protected by our government. We need to end this arrogant disregard for science. We need to end this placing of political agenda over people. We need to end the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories. Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I sit now alone in my tiny trailer, writing these words. A cold wind is blowing outside off the lake, rocking the trailer. From where I sit, cooperation and unity seem pretty darn desirable. "Every man for himself," now that Grandpa is the last man standing, seems a bleak and tragic possibility that I hope myself, my family, and my nation can avoid. 

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