As residents who live within just a few miles of the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States, we get to experience firsthand all the chaos, confusion, fear, and panic as leaders of all different levels — from local churches all the way up to the Governor — try to decide how to respond to this crisis.

From where we sit, there’s not enough information and too much fearmongering. There are not enough calm facts and too much breathless (pun intended) rhetoric. Leaders are making decisions based on shaky foundations, as facts about the virus’ virulence, transmission, incubation period, and fatality rate all remain unknown.

Our school superintendent sends us near-nightly missives, virtual weighty tomes longer than some books of the Bible, so epic in scope my phone practically gets heavier when one arrives. Several times the missives have included the news of school cancellations, first at other schools in our district, then for all schools — to “train teachers to teach remotely,” an ominous proclamation if ever I heard one, and one that raises so many questions about how you teach first graders using online learning.

And then there was today. I work from home some Wednesdays, including today, so I walked Benji to school. We took his temperature before leaving, just in case (normal). I had hardly arrived home and settled down to work when a very unwelcome email plummeted into my inbox.

This missive, not a Superintendent Special but one clearly written in haste by our local elementary staff, announced that a parent volunteer who had gone to the hospital for another reason had tested positive for COVID-19. Our school was promptly canceled for the day.

Picking kids up half an hour after dropping them off.

I put my shoes back on and brought a scared and confused Benji back home again. We washed hands thoroughly. Then we staggered through the rest of the day with a mix of online learning, solo playing, and grandparental support in the afternoon. One day done.

Benji having “recess” alone with his Matchbox cars in the back yard.

This evening, the Superintendent Special arrived with fanfare: an accompanying phone call and text message, with all the numerous phone alerts that guarantee you can’t possibly miss it. And boy do we not want to miss this, because it announced that, to nobody’s great surprise… drumroll please…

All schools in [our] School District will be closed beginning Thursday, March 5 for up to 14 days while we continue to monitor the situation and health department recommendations. 

-Superintendent in the least enviable position imaginable right now

So that’s that. Starting tomorrow, we’re on the hook for at least two full weeks of homeschooling and avoiding other human beings, more or less.

Strangely, things like work and church haven’t yet been canceled, but an increasing number of people are opting to isolate themselves. I am debating what to opt out of, since I’ve gotten pneumonia following a cold or the flu three times in the last three years. My normal commute involves taking a bus, which requires sitting in alarmingly close proximity to about eighty other human beings; touching all sorts of railings, buttons, and handles that zillions of other people touch; breathing air people just coughed out… And then I get to work, where it’s the same story for another eight hours!

Working from home suddenly looks a lot more attractive. But, as the Superintendent keeps reminding us, “this is an evolving situation.” Tomorrow is a new day; let’s see what happens then.

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