Getting out of bed right now is hard.
Doing the bare minimum of what is required to keep work/house/kids functioning is hard.
I am really struggling.
I ran into a school parent who’s also an academic (not quite a solid friend but better than an acquaintance) while picking up take-home PCR tests before the winter break. She told me she was on stress leave for depression.
I am not proud of this but my first, gut, reaction was jealousy.
I wished I could be depressed and go on leave too.
I have another good friend who’s a high-school teacher who is on leave for burnout. The mother of E’s best friend is trying to find a locum to cover her practice so she can take a few months off (she’s a palliative care doctor).
The number of people falling apart around me – strong, focused, driven people with good support networks and masses of privilege – is staggering.
We’re all hitting our breaking points.
I went so far as to look up my collective agreement and I could get six weeks of medical leave with the right documentation but it would be incredibly challenging to find someone to cover my four classes (and the responsibility for finding said replacement would land on Q’s shoulders and he is also hanging on by a thread) and I feel a sense of obligation to my students, so I think I am just going to try to push through until April and then sleep for all of May.
I last posted in late November, right before my kids got their first vaccine. I thought that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
That was pre-Omicron, of course.
E. had one week out of self-isolation before another case in his class sent him home again. P. followed very shortly afterwards as an outbreak at the school emerged (caused by, according to the parental grapevine, an ill-advised birthday party). Neither of them caught COVID.
They were home doing online learning (with varying degrees of success) until the winter break. Then they were home for two weeks because of the break. Then they were home for another two weeks of online learning (with even less success) because Omicron had exploded and our hospitals were overloaded. And then they were home for another two weeks even though the schools resumed because we didn’t want them to go back into the school until they were two weeks past their second vaccine. They’ve been home now for almost two full months.
The NACI has recommended an eight-week spacing for 5-11s for their vaccine based on research showing this interval produces a longer lasting immune response. But parents can opt for an earlier interval if they provide informed consent. We moved their second appointment four times trying to keep up with what the province was doing. In the end, we gambled that there was no way they would send the kids back into the schools two weeks ago since the hospitals were still overloaded and they’d done basically nothing to make the schools safer.
Instead, our provincial government sent the kids back at the same time as they:
- removed schools and daycares from their list of high-risk settings
- restricted access to PCR testing to high-risk settings (making all kids and educators and their families ineligible for PCR testing)
- stopped tracking and reporting cases of COVID in the schools
- stopped dismissing cohorts if a case was reported in a class
They made the schools LESS SAFE and said they were empowering parents. (Counting the days until the provincial election in June.)
E. called the premier’s office to explain to them that stopping testing was ‘just like if you told everyone not to call the fire department. It wouldn’t keep any houses from being on fire, it would just mean that no one would know which ones were burning’. The (long-suffering) woman who took our call said he had made a very good point and that he had a been a bright spot in her day. (Many people are very angry.)
The thing that E. couldn’t get over was that we all made fun of Trump when he said he wanted to cut back on testing and now here we were doing the exact same stupid thing. (Yes my kid is more qualified to be premier than our premier.)
In the end the kids got to seven weeks from their first dose, so almost the full recommended spacing. They are now a full two weeks past their second appointment. We are sending them back tomorrow because we can’t keep them home any longer and continue to do our jobs. They have CA-N95 masks (not an affiliate link, I just love them – they are always sold out but you can sign up for email notifications when they’re back in stock and then drop everything when you get the email and rush to the site to order them). We are taking them home for lunch for at least the entire month of February. We are keeping P. out of her aftercare program.
The logistics surrounding FOUR separate trips to the school per day are horrific but as I said to Q., it can’t be worse than having them at home (especially P. who desperately needs the socialization and the French exposure. E. would be fine to keep home for longer).
In the fall, I felt they were safe.
I don’t feel like they’re safe anymore.
Our board has decided to continue to inform parents if there is a confirmed case in the class, but this requires:
- The parents to have access to RATs to know that their kid is positive (since no PCR eligibility)
- The parents to notify the school (since they are not required to do so; even if they, by some miracle, get a PCR test public health will not automatically tell the school)
- And even then the class won’t be dismissed so we’ll have to decide for ourselves whether we pull our kid for the rest of the week
- Oh, and did I mention that we’ve decided positive cases only need to isolate for five days and then can merrily rejoin society without needing to use a RAT to confirm that they’re no longer contagious? Fun times.
The public health guidelines are a joke. The only way they make sense is if you take the view that the government’s plan is for everyone to get Omicron so the wave can be over by the spring and it can look like they beat the pandemic in time for the election. And while I 100% believe this is their plan (and I do think it’s a plan and not just extreme incompetence), I’m still not sure how it’s all meant to work out if we’re crashing the hospitals. Or if a whole bunch more kids end up in hospital (because our vaccination rates for 5-11s are ridiculously low and 0-4s have no vaccine coverage at all).
The cognitive load of trying to decide what to do with the kids, of trying to manage my work with the kids at home, of trying to rationalize sending them back knowing that the government has made them less safe, has been really hard. I know that they are now extremely unlikely to need to be hospitalized. I also know that recent studies are suggesting that they are now very unlikely to get long COVID. But I refuse to take the view that ‘we’re all going to get it’ and we should just accept the inevitable. I don’t want them to get COVID. We have no idea what the long-term effects of infection are going to be.
So they are going back and I hope I can sleep at night and I hope the next time I post on here it isn’t to tell you that my kids caught COVID at school.
(Post title from Surface Pressure which I like to watch on days when I feel I haven’t done enough crying already.)