Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-18-2021: Back to school presents fresh challenges for working parents and employers

Today my kids go back to school. 10th grade for Norah and 7th grade for Donovan. I am so thankful that their school is requiring universal masking regardless of vaccination status. Not all students, however, are so lucky. Only 10 states currently require masks in schools, while eight states outright prohibit schools and school districts from mandating them. That means that 32 states leave this decision up to individuals school districts and parents.

This presents a major problem. Just look at these headlines from schools that are already back in session.

And that's just the tip of the Covid outbreak iceberg. This will be an absolute crisis in a matter of weeks unless all schools and school districts mandate universal masking regardless of vaccination status and get as many vaccinated as possible. 

For working parents and their employers, this creates a giant mess for which businesses are not prepared. Many too many are acting as if Covid is over and all is back to normal, when nothing could be further from the truth. 
"Last year, businesses were generally more understanding," he says. But as schools reopen, some employers are taking a less accommodating stance. His 15-year-old daughter is to start school Wednesday, provided she passes a Covid-19 test she has just been told to get, he says. [She tested negative; just a cold] When he called the doctor about her sore throat and runny nose that morning, the nurse told him they'd had dozens of vaccinated children test positive in the prior two weeks. "We'll see a lot of kids get sick. It's not if, but when," Mr. Hyman says.
(That's me talking to Betsy Morris with the Wall Street Journal; thank you, Betsy.)

Employers must be flexible with their working-parent employees as we head into the school year. They will need time off, and businesses' failure to accommodate will cause hardship and job vacancies. (If you've done any hiring lately, you know how difficult filling vacancies is right now.) To quote my friend Debra Isaacs Schafer, "This is work-life on steroids."

As for schools, I do not know how you can say that you care about children and their welfare if you are opening your buildings as mask optional this school year. Universal masking (along with vaccines) are the only way to keep everyone safe, and if you're not requiring it you are failing in your core mission and have no right to be in the business of educating children.

* Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay