“Teachers are scared and frustrated about starting school. Many aren’t coming back”

Most educators I’ve talked to recently are very nervous about re-opening schools.  Most have a lot more unanswered questions than they are comfortable with.  By and large they think the “plans” put forth by the state department of education are a joke.

Josh Moon writes for The Alabama Political Reporter.  He has also been talking to educators and hearing the same things I’ve heard.  Here is what he wrote on July 13:

“Terrified. Confused. Frustrated. Those are the terms teachers — both fulltime and substitute teachers — from across Alabama used to describe how they feel about schools reopening in about a month in this state. 

Over the course of the last week, I have spoken to dozens of teachers, principals, administrators and employees from school systems around the state. On Sunday, I used social media to solicit more comments, asking teachers and school employees if they have been provided specifics about the upcoming school year and how they’re expected to handle students and staff testing positive for COVID-19. 

Their answers were eye-opening and infuriating. 

Not even a little bit. 

Among the shocking pieces of information provided by teachers and employees, these stood out: 

  • There is no plan to screen students, teachers or staff prior to school starting. 
  • There is no statewide plan for quarantining students, teachers or staff should someone at a school test positive. 
  • There will be no requirement that students wear masks. 
  • There is no statewide plan to contact trace any positive student, teacher or staff member. 
  • Teachers don’t know if they’ll be required to quarantine if they come in contact with a coronavirus-positive student or employee, and they don’t know if a quarantine will eat into their leave days. 
  • No one knows if there will be mandatory testing of students if another student in class tests positive, or who will pay for such tests. 
  • There is currently no plan in place to address the very obvious teacher shortage that is about to strike Alabama schools. 

Among all of those problems — and all of the unknowns that will go into them — a teacher shortage is probably the most certain, and possibly even the most important. 

Because Alabama had a big problem with getting enough teachers to fill its classrooms prior to the current pandemic. Now, as we near a ridiculously-early start date, and teachers across the state begin to realize that there simply is no plan in place to protect them, hundreds are weighing their options. 

And the mass exodus could be staggering. 

Which, honestly, shouldn’t be surprising. Even if there were a great plan in place, most teachers over the age of 60 would be on the fence about working during this pandemic. In Alabama, that’s a decent percentage of the state’s total number of teachers and a big percentage of substitute teachers. 

Now, add to that list all of the teachers who are at-risk or have underlying conditions that put them at greater risk should they contract COVID-19. 

Then add all of the teachers who can afford to either not work or who have other employment options. 

Now, add in ALSDE’s complete and utter joke of a “roadmap” for reopening — which only served to scare the living hell out of most school employees — and you’ve got a serious mess. 

“I know for a fact that eight of my teachers are probably not coming back and it could be as high as 12,” a principal of a school in Montgomery told me. “There aren’t people to fill those spots and we’ll be fighting with every other school in this city and surrounding area for substitutes.”

That same story is playing out all over the state. 

Because teachers are scared to death. And the biggest reason they’re scared to death is because they haven’t seen any sort of real, aggressive plan from anyone. 

Instead, the instructions appear to be: Do all of the things you were doing before, and then add in socially distancing your students, monitoring them for COVID symptoms and trying not to become sick yourself. Oh, and also maybe help with checking kids’ temps and quarantining them, since 300 or so of our state’s schools don’t have nurses. 

Would you go back to work in that environment if you had any other choice? 

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. But only a glimmer. 

Gov. Kay Ivey has apparently taken a liking to the Safely Opening Schools (SOS) plan that I talked about a couple of weeks ago. That’s the plan from the school nurses association, which is backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, that would use CARES Act funds to put a nurse in every school and also build a stand-alone first aid/quarantine area for every school. It would also provide on-site testing and equipment to check the temps of students at a variety of different points. 

Ivey has invited several lawmakers to speak about the plan to the state Board of Education during Tuesday’s work session. 

APR has also learned that the SOS plan is one of several being considered by the White House to be part of its recommendations to schools across the country. 

That plan isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t address all of the problems that teachers, students and staff will face every day. But it does take some burdens off teachers, and could help prevent flare-ups and outright hot spots. 

And maybe, just maybe, it’ll ease some of the very real, very understandable fears.” 

Senator Marsh Says He Chose Words Poorly

Last week senate majority leader Del Marsh of Anniston stirred up a hornet’s nest when he told a reporter that it was OK with him if more people in Alabama got Covid-19.;

As might be expected when a politician says something this dumb, there was immediate reaction from both citizens and media.

Within hours, the good senator was saying that he made “a poor choice of words.”

In other words, his mouth went into gear before his brain did.

Not all who contract Covid-19 die, To date there have been 52,908 confirmed cases in Alabama and 1,093 deaths.  This is only two percent.  But guess what, not a single soul has died from the virus who did not have it.  Which to me means the fewer  people who get Covid-19, the fewer who die.

I got lots of emails from friends about my post on this topic, all of them wondering how Marsh could make a statement this stupid.

My response to all of them was simply, “How could voters in Calhoun County vote for someone this stupid?”

We should always remind ourselves when we rant and rave about elected officials, that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM is in office because they got the most votes.  In other words, the bigger shame is not the poor choice of words by a state senator, it is the poor choice of a state senator by his constituents..

Senator Del Marsh Says More Alabamians Should Get Covid-19

After decades of listening to politicians, it would seem that you had heard enough so that ANYTHING another one said would not catch you off guard.

Would seem.

But in the case of Senate majority leader Del Marsh, not so.

As you can read in this article, Marsh just told a reporter for a Birmingham TV station that he is not concerned much about how many cases of Covid-19 people in Alabama get.  His thought process (which can not be supported by research) is that the more people who get the virus and survive, the better the chances everyone in a population will be immune.

Sweden pretty much took this approach by not locking down businesses, keeping grade schools open and depending on citizens to voluntarily take necessary precautions.  It didn’t work.  The death rate from the virus in Sweden as been 10 to 20 times higher than its neighbors in Denmark, Finland and Norway.

I don’t want to get Covid-19.  Nor do I want any of my relatives or friends to get it in any form or fashion.  I have heard from too many survivors about their struggles long after they tested negative.  I have heard doctors talk about the lung damage survivors will live with the rest of their lives.

And for one of the most  powerful politicians in the state to publicly display such a lack of concern for citizens is beyond comprehension.

But I have a suggestion for Senator Marsh.  PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS.  If this virus is no big deal, then ask UAB if you can spend some time in an intensive care unit surrounded by Covid-19 infected patients.  Heck, you might even ask if you can hold a caucus of all Republican senators at the hospital and invite your buddies.

I’m guessing that you won’t have many joining you.

Lessons From 1918

As we all struggle to sort out information and misinformation about Covid-19, I came across the following article from Dr. David Hicks, Deputy Health Officer for Jefferson County that is worthy of your time:

“As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we would do well to heed the lessons of history. In the throes of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and World War I; Jefferson County residents were asked to alter their daily lives and make sacrifices much like we are today.

Just as we promote handwashing and use of hand sanitizers, several antiseptic solutions were used then to decrease the spread of disease. During that pandemic, Birmingham schools were used as emergency hospitals. During this pandemic, local hospital executives, our Health Officer, the Army Corp of Engineers and others made rigorous surge capacity plans in case our hospitals or nursing homes get overwhelmed.

Dr. Judson Dowling, the Jefferson County Health Officer in 1918, closed all schools, picture shows, churches, and public gatherings as the epidemic worsened. Social distancing was a significant public health strategy, as one local newspaper noted “that large numbers of citizens are isolating themselves so far as possible during the epidemic.” One columnists wrote, “The children are out of school and naturally restless, but parents would be doing the city a great service by forbidding their children from gathering in the streets with their playmates or visiting other homes until the epidemic has spent its force and has been subdued.”

Dr. Dowling wrote, “We are convinced that the wearing of a simple gauze face mask is the most practical and efficient general method at our command to limit the spread of influenza. The cooperation of every organization and every person in the city of Birmingham and the entire community is requested in our efforts to popularize this movement…. A person wearing one of these masks not only enjoys almost absolute protection, but the added satisfaction of knowing that he is not dangerous to his neighbor.” Store clerks were expected to wear face masks and the Pastors Union asked their congregants to do the same.

These measures indeed flattened the epidemic curve, but it wasn’t without economic harm. Coal production and retail sales were down. Despite that, citizens were asked to purchase Liberty Bonds to help finance the war effort. Nevertheless, the collective community made tremendous sacrifice on behalf of the greater good. In the local newspaper, it was noted that, “In response to the magnificent co-operation of the general public – many of whom have made considerable personal sacrifice to aid the cause – the first ray of light broke through the epidemic cloud….” The community understood that their individual choices would greatly impact their collective survival.

That generation bore the ‘Greatest Generation’ that, in turn, survived the Great Depression and won World War II. Even in these and other times of national tragedy and hardship, Americans have stood in solidarity against common foes. In early 1799, the U.S. Congress, during the President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson administration, passed the first public health laws and soon thereafter, health departments began to be formed. In fact, patriot Paul Revere was the first President of Boston’s Board of Health.

The Jefferson County Department of Health was formed in 1917 after the community demanded more concerted efforts to control several recent outbreaks of cholera and typhoid fever. Just as it was then, we are facing a formidable foe the likes of which most of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. COVID-19 is not as lethal as the Spanish flu but has certainly wielded widespread damage to society.

The practice of public health must strike a balance between what some view as unnecessary encroachments on civil liberties and our duty and obligation to protect against public health threats. As noted in a 2007 essay by virologist Reinhard Kurth, “individual rights should be a very high priority in any situation, but these rights should be trumped by the ‘right’ of the public to be protected. Each case has to be evaluated on its own terms and if—and only if—an individual refuses to comply with voluntary measures, then compulsory measures should be enforced.”

Public health laws and regulations such as mandatory vaccinations, tobacco control measures, motor vehicle safety and many others place limits on individuals’ liberties, but save millions of lives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot afford failing to act. We must ask ourselves who we are as Americans and Alabamians. Let us not be mistaken. When knocked down, we get right back up. We are resilient. We care for others. We support each other. Let us unite to defeat this foe just as our ancestors did. Let history show that we survived – together.”

No Mo Tea

One afternoon in March of 2019 I hopped in my car and headed to a local “doc in a box.”  I really don’t recall my symptoms, but I knew somethi9ng was wrong.  Shortly after I got there I was being loaded in an ambulance and shuttled to Baptist East ER.  I remember my blood sugar was over 400 and my blood pressure was out of whack.

Two days later I was told I had diabetes and sent home with several prescriptions.  I bgan to read all I could about how a diabetic should eat.  And I knew my lifelong infactuation with sweet tea was probably over.

Therfe is no telling how many gallons of sweet tea I have had.  Morning, noon and night when the waitress asked what I wanted to drink the answer was sweet tea.  There used to be two Country BBQ locations in Montgomery.  They served sweet tea in quart jars with lots of ice.  I would sometimes fanticize about getting my hands on one of these jars.  (Both of these stores are now closed.  It was a sad day when the second one shut down.)

So I began giving myself an insulin shot each night and taking medicine each morning.  And I cut back on the sweets.  Even the sweet tea.  I did not go cold turkey, but suddenly I said “water with lemon” much more than I ever had.

And when this past January rolled around, I re-doubled my effort.  Six months into 2020 I can report with certainty that I have had only five glasses of sweet tea this year.  And it ain’t what it used to be.  Maybe I just got over it.

I am also glad to report that my waist size ain’t what it used to be either.  Two days ago I weighed 19 pounds less than I did on New Year’s Day.  And the diabetics doctor told me to give up the insulin shots on my last visit.

I check my blood sugar about every other day.  It was 107 this morning.  It is often less than 100.

I’m sure my diet is not as “diabetic proof” as it should be.  But I’m trying.  And my pants tell me that water with lemon is better for my health than sweet tea.