This weekend before school starts in Virginia, my wife and I have to choose between my son’s education or our daughter’s health.
Millions of families across the country will make similar painful compromises.
Our 5-year-old daughter Nusayba is an immunocompromised, stage 4 cancer survivor who had a full liver transplant two years ago. Her brother, Ibrahim, is about to turn 7 and did virtual learning last year to protect his sister. In May, before the emergence of the Delta variant, Nusayba’s doctors told us it would be safe for her and her brother to both attend school in person in the fall. They were ecstatic, having spent the past two years between hospitals and doctor visits, staying at home with their little sister.
May was a glorious time. Americans were being vaccinated, COVID-19 infections were declining, and the CDC had prematurely announced new guidelines stating that vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks. We were hopeful, but we remained very cautious. I was alarmed to see people not wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces with young children. I feared America was slacking off as the pandemic raged around the world. On social media, I was routinely mocked by trolls for my comments encouraging masking, coinciding with the rise of anti-vaxx and anti-mask disinformation becoming mainstream by right-wing media and elected officials. I realized that we had lost a significant minority in this country who were radicalized and would actively choose death for their ‘liberties’. If the Grim Reaper hovering above you isn’t enough motivation to get you vaccinated, no incentive or cash prize will work.
For a third school year, my children are held hostages in their depraved culture war.
We are aware that we are in an unusual condition compared to most families, and we have exempted ourselves from numerous social gatherings and have taken important precautions to protect Nusayba. As you can imagine, it has been a very stressful couple of years that have required huge sacrifices and adjustments from all members of our family, especially the children. We’ve tried to alleviate this with Lego sets, trips to outdoor parks, art activities, and way too much screen time.
Fortunately, unlike GOP officials, my kids are responsible and pro-life. They always wear their masks in public, practice social distancing, sanitize their hands and are well aware of the existence and dangers of COVID-19. However, families are planning and COVID-19 is smiling.
The pandemic, which Trump says would magically disappear by the summer of 2020, has now evolved and mutated with the dangerous, contagious Delta variant, thanks in part to his unvaccinated base willing to make petri dishes to allow the virus to mutate. in many Greek letters.
In July, our doctors agreed with my wife and I that there is no way we can responsibly send our children to school.
Unfortunately, our county’s public school system arranged their fall semester based on May’s outdated data and terms. All children should attend school in person, except for a medical emergency. The county assured us that they are following “layered prevention strategies,” including following the CDC’s latest recommendation and guidance that all students and staff, including those who are fully vaccinated, wear masks. But a few teachers and staff at our local primary school, who are also concerned, confused and overwhelmed by the ever-changing landscape, told us that the classrooms would be packed, would not allow physical distancing, and that the children would not have to wear masks. while eating in the cafeteria or during gym class.
How can we send our immunocompromised daughter Nusayba or our son Ibrahim to school if there are still no vaccines for children and no vaccine mandates for teachers and school staff? Also, increasing data appears to indicate that Delta is responsible for a double increase in childhood infections from COVID and respiratory syncytial virus, a highly contagious seasonal disease. Doctors now say that children with COVID-19 can develop a multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
One option is to stop worrying, stop being afraid, say a big “Inshallah, everything will be fine” and send the kids to school in masks. But then we read stories from Mississippi about how 1,000 children and 300 school personnel tested positive for COVID in early August, how 800 students and staff had to be quarantined in an Arkansas district, and how 400 students had already been quarantined for two days. school year in a Florida Palm Beach school district.
Although we live in a high vaccinated county, we can’t afford to play with those odds given our daughter’s compromised health. Fortunately, we found out this week that the virtual classroom program of the province of Nusayba has accepted, despite not meeting the May deadline to apply. My wife and I breathed a sigh of relief.
However, they have not accepted Ibrahim and insist – at least so far – that he personally attend the local public school with all the children. Unfortunately, that school says they don’t have the resources or programs to enable virtual learning for him.
My wife and I have been scrambling all week, trying to talk to someone on the phone, email supervisors, convince them to make an exception for him. If he goes to school, gets sick, and comes home with the virus, Nusayba is in danger. My son, who is almost 7, is also traumatized by Nusayba’s cancer. He is always concerned about bringing home COVID that would affect her health but also disrupt our family again and send her and my wife to the hospital for an extended period of time. In the past year, his stress has contributed to the worsening of his GERD, a painful gastroesophageal reflux disease.
My son is even more empathetic than the Republican governors, all vaccinated, who stubbornly ban mask mandates and punish schools that go out of their way to protect their children. Arizona Governor Ducey will punish schools that require masks by denying them eligibility for a $163 million school grant. gov. Abbott of Texas, who contracted coronavirus despite his vaccination, will heal and recover with the best health care and medication, but will not support masks and vaccines in schools. Florida Gov. DeSantis would rather push Regeneron and culture wars over masks, even as his state records more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. It seems that child safety is a necessary cost to further his political ambitions and appearances on Fox News. Their hypocrisy and shamelessness knows no bounds. sen. Ted Cruz is calling for “zero mandates” as his children safely attend a private school that requires masks.
I’m close to Loudoun County, the epicenter for the right’s national coordinated attack on masks, critical race theory, and transgender rights at school. These anti-vax and anti-science extremists are now joined by the Proud Boys and GOP officials, and they are perfectly sacrificing the health of our children to further their regressive culture war to preserve white supremacy. Unfortunately, their crazy contagious and radicalizing parents are showing up at local school rallies and attacking mask mandates.
Amid the blitzkrieg of furious and hurtful headlines, we received a little piece of good news. Our county’s school district requires all employees to be vaccinated or submit routine negative COVID-19 tests by October. That’s something, although it still exposes the kids for the entire month of September. Government agencies and private actors must reflect the will of the majority and implement vaccine mandates. President Biden must use all his might to instruct the Department of Education to use its powers to overrule GOP state officials who prevent local jurisdictions from applying their masking rules. And we urgently need vaccines for children under 12 and must focus our energies on supporting this effort as soon as possible.
In the meantime, my wife and I, like millions of parents across America, will be in constant fear, transparent in our decisions as we try to protect our children. At the moment we are in limbo. If Ibrahim is not accepted into the province’s virtual learning program, we cannot send him to a public school. That means we have to spend money on a private tutor or hand in a semester of his education.
In the end, we will make the necessary compromises to save our daughter’s life. However, a year and a half after this pandemic, those are compromises that families in the world’s most powerful and wealthiest nation should not make. And neither would we if the party that insists it is pro-life and pro-children were not so willing to sacrifice our children as canaries in the Covid-19 coal mine.