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A sick kid in the time of COVID



Even a non-COVID virus can cause chaos

Even a non-COVID virus can cause chaos


As a teacher in the Hudson Valley, I have once again begun seeing students one-on-one, socially distanced with masks, ventilation, and at least six feet apart. This past week, one student came in with a runny nose. He was otherwise normal, just sniffling behind his mask. Prior to this year, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, just made a mental note to wash my hands a bit more, kept my distance, and carried on with the lesson without much concern. But I worried, and felt bad about it. For him, for me, for all of us.

He’s fine. I’m fine. But such stories of fear and anxiety around sick kids in cold and flu season are becoming more and more common.

Three weeks into the 2020-21 school year, journalist and editor Elizabeth Tenety’s trio of school age kids woke up with barking coughs and runny noses – no fever, no lethargy. In pre-pandemic times, she would have sent them to school, knowing, as most parents do, that coughs and runny noses are common in cold and flu season, and not cause for alarm. Moderately contagious, at best.

But times are different, of course. Especially for Tenety’s family, who, as she writes, “lost a beloved elderly relative over the summer from COVID-19 contracted from a caregiver, so we are very aware of the complexities at play.”

Her pediatrician would not see them, but, after assessing the kids via telemedicine, deemed them safe for school. He told Tenety they had a virus, but according to his calculations, they had only a 1% chance of having COVID-19. He did not even recommend testing the children, but signed off on them joining their peers.

Tenety and her husband both work from home, and had been quarantined with their kids for six months when school had begun. In her article for Motherly (which she co-founded) she details how they’d all been looking forward to returning to productivity without distraction. It was not to be, at least not as they’d hoped.

Eventually, after initially keeping the kids home and seeing they did, in fact, seem OK, she agonized, but eventually sent them into school without incident. Her guilt, worry, and resentment at a lack of a unified governmental response to the pandemic are emotions many parents share. As she writes, “the margin of error feels like life or death.” Luckily, it wasn’t, and it most often isn’t, but it sure feels like it.



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