“Just wait until a student dies . . . what will they do?”
We heard those words early Tuesday when talking about the surge of COVID sweeping our schools, our community, our friends and our families. It would be another hour before a colleague would share this note: “You guys hearing about a 13yo Coosa student died from covid?”
It was confirmed in minutes. And then again. And again. Ensuing phone calls, mixed with a few emails, were almost as brutal.
- We learned of another COVID loss, someone with ties to the school system; by Tuesday evening, he already was being remembered at his favorite restaurant.
- We listened as another friend told of a loved one arriving at the hospital the day before, only to quickly be put on a ventilator. Recent urgings to get the vaccination were shrugged off. Now all they can do is hope.
- Just as chilling was a trusted news source describing his own five-week battle with COVID, one that was “really touch-and-go there for a while.” He would know, having seen much of COVID’s carnage firsthand.
- And then there was the call with the colleague who , about a month ago, flashed warning signs about kids and COVID from this particular strain. The numbers he was seeing from another part of the state were kind of set aside here.
- That was followed by questions about some of the names in our article about the “anti-mandate” rally scheduled for Friday. The caller knew one of the sponsors — a healthcare worker in his former doctor’s office.
It was a news day that started around 5 a.m. watching the remnants of Ida and concerned about severe weather. Later in the morning, we heard the stunning story about a horrific truck-vs-car accident on U.S. 411. And then there was the normal daily duties.
All of it basically was shoved aside by the COVID stories: A beloved, talented teen now gone; a dying relative not ready to give up; a very close call for another person we all depend on; a concerned community leader who has been among the most aggressive in calling for proactive steps against the virus — with mixed success; and then the former patient knowing someone he trusted with his healthcare wasn’t protected herself.
All that in under 12 hours: More lengthy, heartfelt conversations in those hours than we usually have in some weeks. That’s part of the job.
But the toughest assignment of the day remains undone. The hardest question, the one about what if a student dies and what happens next. A 13-year-old Coosa High eighth grader is dead, from COVID, no matter what other health issues might be related. He’d be alive today if not for the Delta variant.
The “what will they do?” part needs an answer. But how do you define the “they” part? The school system? The healthcare community? The “leaders” who have, at best, be reactive rather than proactive throughout the pandemic?
Here’s the answer: “They” is us — as in all of us. We’re all hearing the COVID stories. We’re all baffled by the soaring hospital and case numbers.
Again the question: What are they — we — going to do about it?
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