COVID-19 is the scariest disease to hit man since the Black Plague back in the late 1340s. Fortunately, and despite the dire warnings from the media, the COVID virus is only minimally dangerous to healthy people. Most healthy people – more than 90 percent – survive the disease with little more than a head cold or a slight cough, which is what makes it so easy to transmit from one human being to another – sort of a bad cold that kills people.
The most deaths have been among older people with severe health issues, particularly those living their last months or years in nursing homes –about 38 percent of the worldwide deaths. In America, people in long-term care facilities make up only 8 percent of coronavirus cases, but 45 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. Children under age 18 account for 7.3 percent of the infected cases, but only 1 percent of the deaths. Obviously, COVID-19 is far more dangerous to senior citizens with existing, severe health problems than to healthy grade school children.
Critics of sending kids back to school rightfully claim the above statistics were taken during lockdowns while children were kept home from school. Any parent is quick to realize that keeping children out of school is no guarantee they will not be exposed to other children. Kids will be kids and even the strictest parents are loathe to lock themselves up at home with two or three bored offspring 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's not going to happen. People have tried, but suicides, domestic violence, etc., have all taken a jump, thanks to everyone self-isolating at home. Something has to give.
If kids go back to school now, before a real vaccine is ready, teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians, security guards, parents, grandparents, and school administrators are going to be exposed to COVID-19. If children do not go back to school, everyone on the planet will eventually be exposed to the virus, anyway.
The original idea was to shut down society for two weeks to flatten the curve and give hospitals time to prepare for the massive deaths that would be coming. Two weeks came and went, as did six months. People still got the virus. People still died. The Black Plague killed 25 million people, or about one out of every 14 people estimated to be alive before the plague hit. The plague wiped out entire villages and complete families. Clergymen, doctors, and Good Samaritans were the first to go. The plague was no respecter of wealth or ages. Rich and poor all died and were buried in mass graves or their bodies burned to stop the spread of the disease. Compared to the Black Plague, COVID-19 has been a first-class wimp.
COVID-19 has certainly killed people, and all deaths are tragic. Losing a loved one is one of the worst things that ever happens to anyone, but everyone dies eventually, and an epidemic that spares most of the children but concentrates more on sick, elderly adults is preferable to a disease that wipes out entire small towns. Eventually, science may discover a cure for all diseases and even death itself, but that time has not come. So Americans can either shutter their windows and hide in their basements waiting for the inevitable, or they can make the best of what life as given them.
School, work and play make life in America worth living, not cowering in the bedroom waiting for death to come calling.
Mark Stepp is a retired senior technical writer and former newspaper reporter/editor. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and a graduate of Northeastern State University with a BA in education and journalism.