COVID Back-To-School Season Isn't A Great Time To Be A Teacher Either!

coronavirus
Protest signs in Science Hill, Kentucky. Images: (L) Matt Jones on Twitter, (R) not sure, but sign visible at Commonwealth Journal

The American Mask Wars continue as the Delta variant of the coronavirus keeps sweeping through schools that are reopening around the country. As you'd expect in a nation where rightwing media and politicians have made a virtue of violent attempts to reject electoral outcomes, some people are taking their constitutional right to infect other Americans with a deadly virus very, very seriously, even to the point of violence.

California

In Amador County, California, in the Sierra Madre mountains east of the Bay Area, a parent became enraged when he saw his daughter leaving her elementary school wearing a mask, NBC News reports. The man got into a loud argument with the principal of Sutter Creek Elementary School, then got into a fistfight with a teacher who stepped in to break up the argument, sending the teacher to a local hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries and released.

Amador County Unified School District Superintendent Torie Gibson sent a letter home to parents that sounds a tad too chirpy for the subject matter, at least in the opening:

As the first day of school comes and goes, there are always hiccups along the way, especially during this trying time.

Unfortunately, a parent took it upon himself to verbally assault a principal that led to a serious physical altercation between him and a teacher as the teacher intended to protect the principal.

The school district is under a masking order from the California Department of Public Health, but apparently parents who disagree with the order feel entitled to take a swing at teachers, because isn't this just like the American Revolution? NBC News reports the parent has been banned from campus, but didn't say whether he's facing any charges for assaulting the teacher and the principal. Perhaps he's waiting for militia colleagues to join his sacred fight.


Florida

In some places, the virus itself has gotten to teachers before irate rightwing parents could. In Florida, the president of the Broward County Teachers Union, Anna Fusco, told local media that three teachers and one teaching assistant in the county died within 24 hours from COVID-19 this week, before the school year even started. Fusco said at least three of the four were unvaccinated.

In addition to the four teacher deaths in Broward County, Business Insider reports that

A school district in Marion County, which is located four hours from Broward, northwest of Orlando, reported Friday that four members of its teaching staff had also died from COVID-19 over the summer.

Florida's Department of Health last week issued an order allowing schools to "require" masks, but only if parents are also allowed to opt out, which kind of defeats the purpose. Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold the pay of school officials who order no-exceptions mask requirements. Broward County's school board voted eight to one earlier this week to require masks for teachers and students. Nora Rupert, a member of Broward's board, said of DeSantis's paycheck threat, "Bring it."

Tennessee

As Yr Wonkette covered earlier this week, several parents followed up a school board meeting in the wealthy Nashville suburb of Williamson County by physically threatening healthcare providers and scientists who had testified in favor of a mask mandate, which the school board voted to adopt.

Well now Joe Biden has heard about it, and he is pissed. During a news conference yesterday, Biden said that's no way to treat people who have been putting their own health on the line for the year and a half of the pandemic. But just look how political he's being, putting kids' and teachers' lives ahead of the very clear need of rightwing governors to rile up their political supporters:

I saw a video and reports from Tennessee of protesters threatening doctors and nurses who were before a school board making the case that to keep kids safe, there should be mandatory masks. And as they walked out, these doctors were threatened; these nurses were threatened. You know, our health care workers are heroes. They were the heroes when there was no vaccine. Many of them gave their lives trying to save others.

And they're heroes again with the vaccine. They're doing their best to care for the people refusing to get vaccinated. And unvaccinated folks are being hospitalized and dying as a result of not being vaccinated. To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders, who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protection for our kids, thank you. Thank you as well. Thank God that we have heroes like you. [Bold added]

The outbreak in Tennessee continues to rage, prompting this letter to the community from Dr. Geoff Lifferth, chief medical officer of Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, some 30 miles northeast of Nashville.

It's worth the space to read in full:

There are no beds.

In Middle Tennessee right now it is impossible to find an empty, staffed ICU, ER, or med/surg bed. As an ER doc and a healthcare administrator, this past week has been one of the most exhausting and disheartening of my career.

The delta variant has burned through us with a ferocity that's hard to describe. 6 weeks ago there were 200 Covid patients in hospitals in Tennessee. Today there are 2000. A 1000% increase. In 6 weeks. It has overwhelmed tired doctors, nurses and healthcare systems that were already stretched thin.

The vaccines? They're good. No, they're not perfect. And yes, we are seeing more breakthrough infections with the Delta variant. But there's a reason 96% of physicians got it - the risk/benefit analysis overwhelmingly favors the vaccines. Get one.

There's been a lot of talk about personal freedoms, and mandates, and government overreach, and such. And, someday when the sun is shining again, we can sit down and have some interesting conversations about all that. I might even agree with you on some of those points.

But I can't do that today. Not today.

Because there are no beds.

Also in Tennessee, on a less grim note, a mom in Chattanooga informed Hamilton County Schools administrators that if parents can let their kids opt out of something as important as protecting community health, then she's for damn sure opting her daughter out of the schools' ridiculous patriarchal dress code.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, where the hospital system is on the verge of "total failure," some schools aren't doing so great either. In Pearl River County, next to Louisiana, nearly 40 percent of the thousand students who attend Pearl River Central High School are in quarantine after just a week of school, the Mississippi Free Press reports. The school had no mask mandate, and because of the widespread infections, the school announced yesterday that all classes will switch to online learning, starting on Monday, through either August 27 or September 6, depending on the state of the pandemic in the area.

Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted yesterday that "there will be no lockdowns and there will be no statewide (mask) mandates," although he's generously allowing local officials to order masking.

The Free Press also notes that the Mississippi State Department of Health identified 294 COVID cases among teachers and staff, and 943 cases among students, in schools across the state that have started classes. Cases and resulting quarantines are far higher than they were last fall.

Kentucky

The school superintendent of Science Hill, Kentucky, which we swear is a real place, is not at all happy about the school mask mandate ordered by Gov. Andy Beshear. Superintendent Jimmy Dyehouse on Tuesday sent a minute-long audio message to parents informing them of the mask requirement, but adding that he's against it and calling Beshear a "liberal lunatic."

In the message, Dyehouse told parents whose kids attend Science Hill's sole K-8 school,

As you already know, and probably have already heard, this liberal lunatic that we have up in Frankfort has signed another executive order mandating masks for all students and adults in school. What this means is the professional opinion of your superintendent doesn't matter, the opinion of your school board doesn't matter, and you as parents, your opinion doesn't matter. Because I know exactly how you all feel about your children wearing masks, and believe me, I'm as frustrated as you are over this.

Hey, at least he passed on the requirement, adding that he looks forward to seeing it "fought in court this week and we'll get this overturned."

Angry parents demonstrated Wednesday against the mask mandate outside the Pulaski County Board of Education in nearby Somerset; that protest is where the signs up top apparently came from. One upset parent, Ryan Dale, told the Somerset Commerce Journal, "We're not going to stand for it. [...] My words are, my kids will not be controlled by a lesser man than me."

Other parents were just as insistent that the government has no right to do the very bad things they're certain it is doing:

"We've had enough of this," said Delvin Williams. "I think that if COVID is anything more than just the flu, it's probably government infused just so they can have control. Whenever you take a survey in the county, and the survey says 90% say 'no masks,' then one man, the governor, comes by and says, 'No, you're all wearing a mask,' then that's nothing but a dictatorship. And this country was not born as a dictatorship, it's supposed to be a democracy."

We can only assume that the parents then drove on the wrong side of the road, sold alcohol to minors, and gleefully sold pig carcasses tainted with a pronounced sexual odor, in defiance of various laws of regulations that try to tell them what to do.

US America

Gonna close with some good news, because you probably could use some now: Ben Wakana, comms director for the White House COVID-19 response, reports that yesterday saw the most vaccinations in a month, nearly a million in one day:

God, let's hope that continues

[NBC News / Business Insider / WKRN / Mississippi Free Press / Commerce Journal / Commerce Journal]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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