A Farewell To COVID?

A Farewell To COVID?
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When I picked Donna Rose up from the birthday party, she was all smiles. But as the evening progressed, we couldn't help but notice that something was off. She was tense and emotional. Was it social overload? The previous night she had a sleepover, maybe the party was just too much. So we asked her; we poked and pried, really. It was fine she insisted, until finally her mother just asked her if anyone had made her feel bad about wearing a mask. Only one person had mentioned anything, though. The birthday girl. "Why are you wearing a mask?" she had asked Donna, who simply replied, "Coronavirus?" Telling us about it, Donna just looked confused. How could other people not understand something so simple?

Outside of our family, Donna is always the only person wearing a mask. She wears one at school. When we first sent her back, after she had been vaccinated, the teachers largely wore masks, and a few of the kids did too. Now it's just Donna. And it is clear that this is becoming a problem. It is clear that the time has come for Becca and me to talk about when the damages to our daughter's social development begin to outweigh the risks to her health from her COVID-riddled school.

How did we get here? How did it become this decision between physical health and mental health? It started, as so many bad things in this country do, with Republicans. Republicans in Montana, led by Governor Greg "The Bodyslammer" Gianforte, did every thing they could to ensure that nobody would wear a mask anywhere, but especially in schools. They lined up policies, they promised punishment, they threatened to withhold funds, and the schools went mask-optional. The state superintendent of schools marshaled a bunch of non-studies that showed no such thing and declared that masks were harming kids' psychological development. Now, because of the bullying (from grownups, mostly, honestly), they may actually be.

When the pandemic first took off, we kept Donna Rose in kindergarten. The school then had a sensible mask policy, and we live in a tiny town in a tiny state. We were almost entirely spared the first wave. But COVID did eventually come, and when there started to be multiple cases reported at her school, we pulled Donna out. The district offered remote learning as an option, and we took it. We decided quickly that when she was fully vaxxed, she could return to school. It seemed an obvious answer to a simple question.

She got her jabs in December, and we sent her back after the holiday break. Did I mention her school is riddled with the 'rona? Because it is. We've gotten multiple 'close contact' notifications, meaning someone identified as being in germ spewing range of our daughter tested positive. Her teacher had it. Hell, Donna may have had it. We aren't sure, the doctor said she had a respiratory "thing" and that it was probably either flu or COVID, but there was no point in testing, because it wouldn't change the treatment. What the actual fuck?

It's clear that we're living in a post-COVID America, even as we average more than 1,000 deaths a day in our march to a million COVID dead. It's not just our daughter's school. My last trip to Costco up in the big city, the employees were bare faced. Same thing happened at the local Safeway this week (corporate had brought masking back during Omicron; it was pretty laissez-fucking-faire until then). I took Donna to the local hospital for an appointment yesterday, and I saw unmasked doctors. When Rebecca and I got our boosters, the pharmacist was unmasked. Fucking Montana, I know, but it's not just fucking Montana. Even the CDC is getting on the Do What You Want bandwagon. Their new recommendation is essentially, You Do You. And it's fucked up. There's still people with medical conditions (no, not "I don't like masks"; actual medical conditions in people who need people around them to transmit less COVID); there's still under-fives, like our granddaughter who lives with us too. A third of all child COVID deaths have happened in the last two months.

So now the question is: "When do we put the masks away?" When does our family join the rest of the country in pretending that everything is fine? It is nice to think that our daughter is a strong willed woman with an independent spirit, the kind of girl who draws all over her pants and wears her creations proudly — she has a mother who never once told her not to draw on her clothes, because art is art. She's a rock star who is an excellent dancer because she believes herself to be. But this runs into the harsh reality that Donna is also the girl who never wore those art pants again after someone at school teased her. When it comes down to it, she is a little kid, one who painfully felt her separation from her schoolmates when she was out of school, and is hypersensitive to the things that separate her from them still. And you wouldn't need to be hypersensitive to feel othered when you're literally the only one.

It feels like giving up. It feels like losing. And that sucks, because I don't like losing, especially to these chucklefucks who look at us and see abusers when they'll ignore threats to their kids because Let's Go Brandon. Are you kidding me with this?

No, they are not kidding me with this. They're not kidding me with this at all.

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