Los Angeles And San Diego School Districts Will Be Online-Only This Fall

Los Angeles and San Diego public schools have opted to resume classes remotely in the fall

Despite the fact that school supplies have started populating the aisles of stores, many school districts haven’t officially made a plan for the 2020-2021 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Health and education experts as well as politicians and parents are very divided when it comes to what is best for students in terms of their physical and mental well-being. However, two of the country’s largest school districts have officially made their decision, which could influence other districts to follow in their same direction.

On Monday, California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — announced that their instruction will be remote-only in the fall, due to the current surge of coronavirus cases. In total the districts enroll about 825,000 students.

“There’s a public health imperative to keep schools from becoming a petri dish,” Austin Beutner, the school superintendent in Los Angeles, explained to the New York Times.

A joint statement was released by Los Angeles and San Diego districts. In it, they explained that in addition to finding recommendations by various organizations vague and contradictory, they couldn’t overlook the disturbing increase of cases in the cities.

“Those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control,” they wrote.

However, the districts do plan on resuming in-person classes at some point in the year, “as soon as public health conditions allow,” the statement read.

“The right way to reopen schools is to make sure there’s a robust system of testing and contact tracing to mitigate the risk for all in the school community,” Beutner said in a video address Monday.

Over the weekend, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) slammed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ appearances on Fox News and CNN  championing kids returning to “learning full-time” in person by the fall. Pressley, a U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’s 7th congressional district, tweeted to DeVos, who has adamantly supported Trump’s plan to promptly resume in-class learning.

“@BetsyDeVosED you have no plan. Teachers, kids and parents are fearing for their lives. You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers. I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics is one of the groups who maintain the importance of in-class learning. “Evidence from spring 2020 school closures points to negative impacts on learning. Children and adolescents also have been placed at higher risk of morbidity and mortality from physical or sexual abuse, substance use, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation,” they explain in a press release accompanying their newly released guidelines. “The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

However, they later backpedaled on their statement, adding that “we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff.”

“Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it,” they added.

Many health experts as well as parents — and even officials from the CDC — are concerned about the potential spread of the virus in schools. In a recent internal report from the organization, published by the New York Times, the CDC dubs schools, the “highest risk” for the spread of coronavirus.

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I’m A Teacher — Why Hasn’t Anyone Asked Me About Reopening? I Have 5 Big Questions

Everyone has an opinion about how and if schools should reopen for this coming school year. We’ve heard from the governors, the pediatricians, the parents, the education secretary, and the president. Everyone has a “study” and “research” to back up their claims, but unfortunately (as always with decisions made in education) they do not have one very important thing — experience in a classroom.

In classrooms filled to max capacity with five-year-olds who don’t even know how to blow their own noses, where the teacher:student ratio is 1:28 or in some cases even higher. Classrooms where the teachers are already begging parents for tissues, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, even in a pre-COVID world. Classrooms and hallways and bathrooms filled with teenagers who think they are invincible. School buildings with no extra rooms, without central air, where there are four sinks for over 200 students to use.

As a teacher, I do have this experience, so I have many questions about how it will be possible and safe for schools to reopen. Nobody asked me — but since many other professions are giving their opinions about reopening, I thought maybe, just maybe, (it’s a little bonkers, but hear me out) we should hear from a teacher.

Let’s discuss hand washing. If an average class size of kindergartners is 25, then it would take 8.3 minutes for them each to wash their hands for 20 seconds — not too bad you might think. That’s doable — let’s reopen! Unfortunately. that does not account for transition time between students at the sink, the student who plays in the bubbles, or splashes another student, or cuts in line, or has to be provided moral support to flush the toilet, because they are scared. It doesn’t account for the fact that only a few students will be allowed in the bathroom at a time and the teacher must monitor whose turn it is to enter and exit the bathroom, and control the hallway behavior, and send the student who just coughed to the “quarantine room” that doesn’t exist BECAUSE THERE ARE NO EXTRA ROOMS.

Where are the students in hallway waiting? In line? All together? Six feet apart? No wait, three feet is okay now. Either way, 25 children standing three feet apart is a line over 75 feet long. Who is monitoring this line? Keeping them quiet, reminding them to keep their hands to themselves?

Another thing about social distancing: Even people who are not teachers have already figured out that there is not enough room in classrooms for all students to be six feet apart. No problem, we’ll just change the guideline to three feet. But what about all of the classrooms around the country that don’t even have room to put all of their student desks three feet apart? What about the classrooms that do not have desks and have tables where students sit in groups instead? Who is providing these classrooms with new socially distant furniture? Is there a budget for this or are schools getting increased funding? LOL NO, they are getting LESS funding.

Oh okay, well maybe teachers will just buy it themselves out of their own pockets, as they do so many other supplies. Well I have bought A LOT for my classroom and students over the years, but I can not personally afford to buy them all individual desks.

Even if the kids do have individual desk spaces, do they have to stay there all day? Do the kindergartners ever get to come to the carpet area for a story (spoiler alert — it is not big enough for 25 kids to sit three feet apart). Do they ever get to do centers? Sit next to a friend and read together? Can they even share books? I think before anyone gets to answer these questions, or more likely brush them aside, they should have to try to teach 25 five year olds how to sit in a chair on the first day of school … and then get them to stay there all day every day.

So after we return to school without the equipment and ability to stay healthy and safe, and a teacher or student gets symptoms, what then? The teacher or student should stay home to avoid infecting others, right? Well, a few things to consider:

1. Many times the kids are asymptomatic so they will be spreading germs unknowingly.

2. Many kids already come to school sick, sometimes dosed with medicine to mask fevers and symptoms, because parents have to get to work. How do we monitor this?

3. The symptoms of COVID are very similar to the symptoms that young children exhibit throughout the fall, winter, and spring due to common cold or allergies. And if teachers and students really stayed home every time they had a cough or symptom, they would probably be absent more than present. So do we have to ignore certain symptoms? Please clarify which symptoms are okay.

4. Staff are likely to have increased absences due to self-monitoring symptoms. Are they going to have substitutes for their classes? Substitutes can already be extremely hard to find. If we do find a sub, what germs are they bringing in? Where have they been? If they test positive do all schools they have been subbing at have to quarantine?

5. If a teacher or student tests positive for COVID, who quarantines? The entire class? The school building? Do we use sick days for this or is it unpaid? Do we switch to remote learning during the quarantine? Who is teaching the remote learning if the teacher is unable to work due to HAVING THE COVID THAT HE/SHE CAUGHT AT SCHOOL BECAUSE WE CHANGED ALL THE HEALTH AND SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS JUST TO ACCOMMODATE PUSHING SCHOOLS TO REOPEN WITHOUT THE EQUIPMENT, SPACE, OR ABILITY TO KEEP STAFF AND STUDENTS SAFE?

schoolgirl studying math during her online lesson at home
Maria Symchych-Navrotska/Getty

Yeah, but students need to be in school for socialization! You are 100% correct there. Students need to interact and have human connection and learn social skills. Helping students learn to make friends, share, be kind, love learning, and become good citizens is one of the most important parts of my job. However, it’s going to be hard to interact when students have to stay apart and impossible to learn to share if they can’t touch the same supplies. And guess what? That REALLY stinks.

Everyone can agree this whole COVID situation bites the big one. Teachers WANT to get back to school … WHEN IT IS SAFE. We want to get back to seeing “our kids” in person everyday … WHEN THE CASES STOP RISING. Teaching remotely is not easy or fun. We want to get back in our classrooms … WHEN WE NO LONGER HAVE TO FEEL LIKE WE ARE RISKING OUR LIVES AND OUR FAMILIES’ LIVES TO DO SO.

We hear you, parents: Kids like school. They miss school. They learn more at school. They are annoying you at home. Teachers miss school too. We miss the kids (even though, off the record, they annoy us sometimes too)! But our top concern right now is that everyone is healthy and safe. Remote learning isn’t most people’s first choice, but it is a safer solution in the meantime, while we figure out this global health crisis. It is also hard to imagine how much learning would be taking place in the classroom anyway after they wait in their 75 foot long lines to wash their hands for 20 seconds multiple times a day.

School days are already crammed full and now we will be adding in disinfecting constantly, monitoring for symptoms, sending kids to “quarantine,” trying to get in touch with parents, dealing with masks, giving “mask breaks,” etc. We were flying by the seat of our pants to make remote learning work last spring and I think teachers across the country did a pretty darn good job! But if we would decide now to make the safe decision for teachers and students and open with remote learning in the fall, teachers could be training and preparing and planning for online education, instead of trying to open schools and then flying by the seat of our pants AGAIN to go online when it doesn’t work.

We hear you, pediatricians: Kids don’t usually get severe symptoms. They are usually asymptomatic. That is all well and good, but kids can still spread the virus to each other. They might not get sick, but they can take those germs home to their families. They can give those germs to their teachers, who can take it home to their families. Yes, we, as teachers, are used to being the sacrificial lambs. Yes, we protect our students and would take a bullet for them if necessary. We would give our lives to keep them safe when they are in our care. But I am not willing to expose myself to COVID and take COVID home to my family for the sake of having school in-person when that is completely preventable.

We hear you, governors: wE aRe hAVinG a haRd tiMe mAkiNg dEcisiONs. Yes, this is an ever-changing situation and we have all been keeping our fingers crossed, but COVID is not going away, cases are on the rise, the school year is approaching, and we need answers.

We hear you, Secretary of Education (“the first secretary of education with zero experience in public schools”): Blah, blah, blah. Please sit down.

We hear you, President: These CDC guidelines are too safe. Make them less safe and easier and cheaper to follow. Open the schools or I will cut your funding. The health and safety of this country’s children and teachers is more important than the economy. That should be obvious and not a political issue to be debated.

But what do I know? I’m just a teacher.

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The Rock Donated More Than 700K Bottles Of Water To Frontline Workers

The Rock and VOSS Water began donating in May and have since exceeded their goal

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the gentle giant he is, continues to give back to frontline healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. He announced on his Instagram yesterday that he and his VOSS Water partners met and exceeded their goal of donating 700,000 bottles of water to healthcare workers across the nation.

“That is our small way of saying ‘thank you,’ and that is our small way of letting you know how grateful we are for all of your work as you guys continue to take care and care for our loved ones, our family, our friends,” the Rock said. “I thank you guys so much from the bottom of my heart.”

The Rock continued to tell healthcare workers that they not only inspire him, but that, in return, he and the rest of us Americans will “continue to be disciplined — wearing masks, being smart, social distancing.”

“As I said in my personal note to you guys with the delivery, you inspire me. You truly do,” he said.

“There are many hospitals in the United States now where we are creeping up into that 80 to 90 percent capacity. I’m saying to you guys, hang in there,” The Rock continued. “We, as non-healthcare workers, my fellow Americans and myself, we’re gonna do everything that we possibly can to be disciplined, to be diligent and responsible during this time — doing everything that we can do in support you. And that means wearing our masks, practicing social distancing, and again, doing everything that we can. Now is the time that we have to be as diligent as we possibly can, and as disciplined as we can.”

VOSS announced the COVID-19 donation effort back in May, starting with a donation of 480,000 bottles to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to be distributed to the medical first responders. Bottled water resources were also delivered to hospitals, healthcare facilities, and organizations providing relief efforts to those affected by the coronavirus throughout California and the New York Tri-State area. VOSS also expanded their efforts into the Chicago, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, and UK areas.

“Water is essential to life, but what’s become clear during this global pandemic is just how essential our frontline workers are to everyone’s survival,” said Glenn Hartman, Chief Executive Officer of the Americas at VOSS, in a prepared statement. “Since we began this initiative, we learned that bottled water is among the most requested resources from frontline workers. These courageous people are putting everything on the line for us, and we at VOSS are humbled by the positive response we have received from this program, and are honored to continue to contribute whatever we can to help as many people as possible during these trying times.”

The Rock then donated 5,000 bottles to the Salvation Army of Georgia Emergency Disaster Services last month, for those impacted by recent tornados in Georgia.

“During these uncertain times, there is already so much need and now hundreds of families are displaced due to recent tornadoes. As a Georgia resident myself, it’s an honor to be able to support the work you’re doing to help the many people affected by the devastation in our area,” he said.

The Salvation Army of Georgia Emergency Disaster Services

“We are very grateful to Mr. Johnson for partnering with The Salvation Army of Georgia in Doing the Most Good,” said Lt. Colonel William Mockabee, Divisional Commander for The Salvation Army of Georgia, in a statement. “His kindness will go a long way to provide help and hope for people in their time of need.”

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After 3.2M Confirmed COVID-19 Cases And 135K Deaths, Trump Finally Wears A Mask In Public

After months of refusing to mask up, the President of the United States has been photographed wearing a CDC-recommended face mask

Way back in April, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the county’s leading authority on all health-related matters — issued a recommendation that all Americans wear a cloth mask when out in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While much of the country obliged without a fuss, there were a number of people who refused to mask up for a variety of reasons, ranging from an overall denial of the severity of the virus to claims that it infringes upon their legal rights. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, is one of those who fall into this group. Since April, our country’s leader has stubbornly refused to wear a mask in public. However, after three months of mask-wearing by the rest of the country, POTUS has finally been photographed modeling a protective facial covering. Sadly, because this is 2020 and he is president, this is considered news.

On Saturday, Trump visited wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and finally saw the need to protect the health of others.

“I think when you’re in a hospital, especially in that particular setting, where you’re talking to a lot of soldiers and people that, in some cases, just got off the operating tables, I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask,” he told reporters during the visit. “I’ve never been against masks, but I do believe they have a time and a place.”

OK, so this might be the second time Trump has covered up. In May, he briefly put one on during a tour of a Ford Motor company plant. However, during the public portion of the tour, he took it off because he “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.” In doing so, he violated the factory’s policy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been endorsing mask wearing from the get-go, on Sunday applauded Trump for finally doing something that the rest of us have been for months — in her own snarky way, of course.

“I’m so glad that he obeyed the rules of the Walter Reed. You can’t go see our veterans who are there without wearing a mask. Now, he’s crossed a bridge,” Pelosi told CNN‘s Dana Bash on State of The Union. “That’s an admission that if you’re going to see our soldiers, you have to wear a mask. If you’re going to be with our children, you have to wear a mask. If we want to stop the spread of the coronavirus, you have to wear a mask.”

“So hopefully by his example, he will change his attitude, which will be helpful in stopping the spread of the coronavirus,” Pelosi continued.

Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, explained to CNN‘s Ana Cabrera during an interview on Newsroom Saturday the irony of it all.

“This should not be a lead story in the news,” he bluntly stated. “Back in February or March, it would have been the lead story, but not now. We are way past that. We have this terrible public health crisis right now. The fact that we are still discussing masks is ridiculous. We have to do so much more right now to help slow this terrible onslaught that we are facing from Covid-19. With a steep acceleration, we are going to hit 70,000 cases this week.”

Over on social media, Trump’s mask was a hot topic, with many pointing out that it was several months too late.

In case you still aren’t sold about the importance of masks, head over to the CDC’s website where they cite numerous studies supporting their effectiveness in reducing the spread of coronavirus, resulting in less people being killed by it.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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Internal CDC Report Warned Fully Reopening Schools Remained ‘Highest Risk’ For Spread

The report was shelved and a new, less stringent plan was released by the CDC

Internal documents from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned K-12 school and university reopenings would be the “highest risk” for the spread of coronavirus, according to a New York Times report. The report was issued the same week Trump and his administration pushed for schools to reopen.

The Times released the CDC’s 69-page document marked “For Internal Use Only” and found “noticeable gaps” in all of the K-12 reopening plans it reviewed.

“While many jurisdictions and districts mention symptom screening, very few include information as to the response or course of action they would take if student/faculty/staff are found to have symptoms, nor have they clearly identified which symptoms they will include in their screening,” the report stated in a “talking points” section. “In addition, few plans include information regarding school closure in the event of positive tests in the school community.”

The report, which has yet to be officially released by the CDC, was meant for federal public health officials that are being sent to hot spots around the country to help local public health officials make informed decisions about reopenings during the pandemic.

In recent weeks, Trump has downplayed CDC guidelines around reopening schools. “I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” he tweeted. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”

Trump also threatened to cut federal funding if schools do not have in-person classes. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families,” he wrote. “May cut off funding if not open!”

During a press briefing a few hours later, Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would be issuing new guidelines on school reopenings, presumably less stringent.

“What it tells us is left to its own devices, the CDC can do a pretty good job in compiling a comprehensive document that shows the complexity of what institutions are facing,” said Terry W. Hartle, a senior vice president of the American Council on Education. “The good news is, this is very thoughtful and complete. The bad news is, it’s never been released.”

It is unclear whether the President viewed the CDC document, according to the Times.

The number of daily infections in the U.S. surpassed 60,000 for a third consecutive day on Saturday, after reaching a new record of more than 66,000 cases the day before. The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, nearly 3.29 million, and 137,000 deaths.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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Florida Woman Takes Job As Dishwasher In Nursing Home To See Husband After 114 Days Apart

Mary and Steve spent over 100 days visiting each other through the window of his nursing home — but those days are over

“I’m going to give you a hug real soon,” Mary Daniel told her husband, Steve, through the window of the nursing home he’s staying at.

And Mary kept her promise.

After 114 days apart, the 57-year-old Jacksonville, Florida resident found a way to see her husband of 24 years in the nursing home that allowed no visitors: by snagging a job as a dishwasher there.

“I appreciate the opportunity,” Mary told ABC8/WFAA, adding that after reaching out to the nursing home, Rosecastle at Deerwood, to inquire about any volunteer or job opportunities they may have available, they told her to “wait to see what happens.”

After her stories aired on First Coast News, the corporate office eventually returned her call.

“Then, out of the blue two weeks ago, they called and said, ‘Do you want a job?’ When I found out it was as a dishwasher, I thought, ‘Well, okay! I guess I’m a dishwasher now,'” Mary told Today.

“[Steve] was teary-eyed,” she said of the reunion. “He touched my face, even with my mask on.”

Rosecastle banned visitors in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I went to see him every single night, got him ready for bed,” Mary recalled. “I went in on March 10 and on March 11 they called and said, ‘You can’t come back.'”

Since, Rosecastle has had zero cases of COVID-19. And according to Today, Mary has taken several COVID-19 tests, and they all came back negative. She also underwent strict training before starting work at the nursing home. Mary now works 90-minute shifts two days a week; and once she completes each shift, she spends her evenings with Steve, helping him get out of his clothes and get ready for bed.

“The last thing I want is to be reckless and bring it in there,” she said. “I’ve been tested three times. I’m not going places I don’t need to go. If I have to go to the grocery store, I’m social distancing.”

Rosecastle at Deerwood is a small nursing home with only 50 residents. Mary’s also been considered part of the Deerwood family, well before she started working there.

“Mary has been a part of our Deerwood family since her husband, Steve, moved into our community, but we are proud to welcome her onto our team,” Kelley Withrow, executive director for Rosecastle at Deerwood, said in a statement.

“Visitor restrictions have been put in place at communities across our state as a safety measure, aimed at protecting the vulnerable population we serve. But it has been hard on families and residents alike, so we felt creative solutions were necessary, especially in the case of Mary and Steve,” Withrow continued. “We are happy to report that Mary is off to a great start in her new role, and we are excited to see the positive changes in Steve’s demeanor as well.”

In response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new executive order adding another 60 days to the ban on visitors to nursing homes, Mary created a Facebook group called “Caregivers for Compromise because isolation kills too!” Her goal is persuade DeSantis that safe visits are possible and to educate him on the impact isolation from family members has on nursing home residents.

“Our No. 1 goal is to get communication with the governor,” Mary said. “We are asking for a contact. Just simple guidelines. What do we need to get there?”

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COVID-19 Anxiety Is Keeping Me Up At Night

Before COVID-19 rocked our world (and not in a fun way), I had a hard time sleeping. I’d twist and turn. My daughter would thrust her 70-pound four-year-old body over me every night, to sleep in between my wife and me. Then each night her knee would find its way to my stomach regularly at 2 am. By 5 am, my wife and I were awake with a book light shining in our faces with a brown little arm attached to it, one of our twin daughters fighting off another hour of sleep in exchange for having both of her parents awake with her at 5 am for no valid reason at all (not even to read). It’s been hard for all of us to get any rest, for very different reasons.

There is such uncertainty that looms ahead of us with our trusty companion COVID-19 leading us blindly ahead. How could the worries of such an unpredictable virus not keep us awake at night? There are obvious fears, like what happens if I am coughing, have a fever — or am asymptomatic and putting anyone I encounter at risk. Then there are the fears I will call “other,” like: is my face mask protecting me? Is that $5 bottle of hand sanitizer going to kill the virus better than the $3 bottle — what if it doesn’t? Or if I bring my groceries inside, can I believe the CDC who changed their story about how the virus transmits on the packaging?

These are the more obvious fears, the fears we’ve been awkwardly dancing around for months, the fears we just now (perhaps) may be coming to terms with. Next, we have school openings to look forward to (or dread), missed family vacations to mourn (as well as birthday parties and graduations), and what if distance learning is a thing in the fall too? How will we handle the logistics of that? The number of fears we carry seems to be never-ending.

One would hope that once we laid our head down on the pillow for the night, we could just let it all go. That perhaps for the 6, 7, 8 hours that our eyes are closed, our minds can shut off too, as it needs respite just as much as our bodies. But for me, my brain does not always turn off. Sometimes, I need a little help. Maybe by way of a glass of Shiraz (my only favorite red wine). Maybe it’s a nice long meditation before bed. Maybe it’s my beloved lavender-scented bubbles poured out into my hot bath and my jasmine and ylang ylang scented candle, all in hopes of relaxing me enough to fall asleep. Or maybe, after all of this: the glass of wine, the bubble bath, the meditation and I still cannot sleep, I watch a show (Workin’ Moms as of late, or dare I say, Selling Sunset) to get my eyes heavy enough to close and my mind clear enough to stop racing.

Once I turn off my phone, I roll over to see my soon-to-be kindergartener peacefully sleeping next to me (revving up her little engine to knee me in the stomach soon, I imagine). And as I look at her, my fears pick up again, even go into overdrive. Do I send her to school? What if I must stay home and teach her myself? I don’t think I can handle it again, can I? What if she catches COVID-19 because I decide to send her back to school? Can I work from home the entire year? What if I get laid off over all of this — over choosing not to send my kids back to school? What if trying to keep them safe means our family’s finances will hang in the balance?

I have no answers as of yet. No decisions can be made even as the anxiety clings to me. When I commit to going to sleep and completing my bedtime rituals (whatever they may be), I realize two things: my fears will be with me when I wake, and worrying about them before bed won’t help me decide at all. Nighttime may seem like an ideal time to slow down and think about things, but the things I’m thinking about are doing nothing but keeping me awake.

As time moves ahead and our national numbers begin to rise again in various parts of the United States, my fears remain. They aren’t leaving me anytime soon, I know. I also know they will change as new information comes in, and I must change how I respond to them. I can practice compartmentalizing them before bed. I can journal. I can refill my anti-anxiety toolbox with real tools (like taking a Xanax before bed). I can try all of the things I’ve tried before: putting my phone away a few hours before sleep, practice gentle exercises, or so many others.

COVID-19 and all its associated fears aren’t going anywhere, and if I’m going to get any rest, having a bedtime ritual might just be my saving grace in these times of worry. Because I’d rather be woken by my daughter’s knee than by the jolting fear of the unknown.

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Today I Wore A Mask To Target

Today I wore a mask to Target.

I was hot.

I was uncomfortable.

My glasses were foggy.

No one could see my really cute lipstick I had just applied before I put my mask on because I still have standards to uphold, people. (Also the lipstick thing is automatic and I keep forgetting about the mask.)

I smiled with my eyes at my fellow mask wearers to encourage us all in our mission of love.

Friends, masks are not a symbol of fear.

They are a symbol of love.

We know wearing a mask protects us some, but even more so, it protects those around us.

If we know there’s a chance we could be sick and not know it, even a small chance, we care for those around us by wearing this bit of fabric around our faces.

Today I Wore A Mask To Target: woman wearing face mask
Courtesy of Amy Betters-Midtvedt

We accept being uncomfortable and living differently and taking this extra step as a way of serving those around us.

As a way of acknowledging we are all connected and what we do might in fact affect others.

“You do you” is really no way to plow through a pandemic.

We need each other, like it or not.

So we wear a mask as a way of saying we are all in this together, and even if I am just fine, I still care about what happens to you.

As a way of trying to get back to living in community together outside the walls of our homes.

It’s such a simple thing to do really…this mask wearing.

It is not living in fear.

Close-Up Of Woman Wearing Mask Looking Away
Panuwat Dangsungnoen/EyeEm/Getty

It is siding with the science.

It has nothing to do with politics…I couldn’t care less about your politics as I keep my breath off you in public.

Today I wore my mask for you. And for your child with asthma. And for your daughter who is pregnant. And for your mom who just got done fighting cancer. And for your perfectly healthy coworker who could still get it. And for your husband who is working as a nurse taking care of those fighting the virus. And for your cousin who just really needs to open up their restaurant again. And even for your Uncle Bill who is in his 80’s and doesn’t believe the virus exists.

Mask-wearing is about living in love and in service to our fellow humans…all of them.

If there is a chance what I did today kept someone safe, I will sleep better.

And who doesn’t want to sleep better?

So for the time being, let’s all keep our breath to ourselves, tucked behind a jaunty piece of fabric (I’m eyeing up one with a Golden Girls pattern) as a way of saying, “Hey, I might not know you, or ever see you again, or even agree with you about anything — but yet I care.”

Mask wearing for the win.

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I’m Addicted To ‘Doomscrolling,’ But It Gives Me A Sense of Control

Since March, I’ve been consuming news in almost scary amounts. Then, the breaking news alerts were fast and furious and I hadn’t finished reading one article before the next flashed across my phone. That first Sunday, when Apple told me how many hours I’d spent on my phone, I cringed. Certainly it can’t be healthy to spend that much time staring at my phone, reading about how the world outside my home is falling apart, piece by piece. And yet, I persisted.

Because four months later, I’m still reading, and lately, the breaking news alerts aren’t fast enough for how fast I’m consuming the news. I’ve also added a morning numbers check. Every morning I wake up and press refresh on the websites that track the number of positive COVID-19 tests in my town and my state. I refresh to see how many new deaths were added to the already too high number from the day before. I look to see whether the hospitalizations have decreased or increased and whether more or less ICU beds have become available. Then I move to the news and read every word of every article that is no doubt pointing to the end of the world. (As an avid dystopian fiction reader, I believe I have a particular skill set when it comes to spotting end-of-the-world themes.)

In summary: I am doomsurfing. Or, more accurately, doomscrolling, because I prefer to read my end-of-the-world content on my mobile device.

And I have been doomscrolling every day for four months.

And woah, is it exhausting.

I first stumbled upon the word “doomscrolling” in an article in wired.com — yes, it popped up on my phone as a news alert and I read it instantly. The New York Times’ Kevin Roose described doomsurfing, or doomscrolling, as “falling into deep, morbid rabbit holes filled with coronavirus content, agitating myself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep.” Also, “an endless scroll through social media in a desperate search for clarity.”

I then learned doomscrolling is so common that Merriam-Webster included doomsurfing and doomscrolling in their “Words We’re Watching” and defined it as such: “Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.” Dictionary.com added doomscrolling to its list of New Words We Created Because of Coronavirus (along with other pandemic life defining words like covidiot and quarantini).

There is no question doomscrolling is bad for you in so many ways. All this scary news consumption is taking a toll on my anxiety levels, my sleep, my time management—too many things are falling by the wayside as I read article after article, and I’m losing so many precious hours to a tiny handheld device on my screen. I know the experts say to limit news consumption. I know the experts say to disconnect—I’ve even interviewed some of those experts who say it’s important to disconnect and during each interview, I’ve nodded along and vowed to try and I’ve broken each and every vow about three minutes after the interview ended.

But I have a few good reasons for doomscrolling.

One: because I’m wholly and completely addicted to my phone more than ever and probably need a technology intervention. My usage has gone down significantly since those first weeks in March, but the number of hours I’m staring at my phone screen is still significantly higher than it had been in February.

And two, and arguably more relevantly, doomscrolling makes me feel in control because it turns something vague and terrifying and invisible into something quantifiable, particularly my early morning state and local number study. Doomscrolling turns something intangible into something I can whittle down into numbers and statistics and facts.

I’ve dealt with scary, invisible diseases before. I’ve dealt with intangible, unseen monsters that infect the people you care the most about and turn your life upside down, and I learned then, that there’s value in information and channeling something that feels too big to even wrap your arms around into very digestible facts and statistics. I learned years ago that information, being armed with facts and statistics and every single word written about a particular subject, makes it easier to believe the world isn’t as unpredictable and terrifying as it sometimes seems.

The truth is: in a very ironic twist, doomscrolling, reading about all the ways the world is falling apart, makes me think I can somehow keep my world together. Because knowledge is power. Maybe because it means I’ll be prepared, or, at the very least, not completely caught off guard if the worst happens. Maybe because invisible monsters aren’t so scary when they’re reduced to charts and graphs and words on a screen.

Make no mistake. Doomscrolling is trouble. My anxiety is higher, my sleep is less quality, my productivity is often laughable. But I know that when it comes to uncertainty, I need to doomscroll. I need to quantify that invisible monster that’s too big, because I need the feeling of control, even if it’s nothing but the illusion of control.

There must be some happy medium, some way to get that space to breathe and extra mental bandwidth, while also finding a way to wrest some control from a world that constantly feels completely out of control. And hopefully, I’ll find it. Or the world will stop falling apart.

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Pandemic Walks Are Exactly What I Didn’t Know I Needed

I’m not sure exactly when it started, but at some point, my kids and I started our “pandemic walks.” I think it started with my younger son asking to go for a walk one day, and then again a couple days later, and before we knew it, we were taking mid-day walks on an almost daily basis.

Eventually my older son started joining us too, and before long we were walking on a fairly regular basis. Some days my husband will join us if he doesn’t have a Zoom meeting or a conference call, but for the most part, it’s my two sons and me. And it is magical.

Don’t get me wrong, most days, it takes a good amount of nagging to get going, and sometimes we spend more time getting ready to go for a walk than we do actually walking. There’s a fair amount of bickering that goes on, and at some point someone is usually whining that they are hot, thirsty, or tired.

But despite all of that, and even though I sometimes have hard time closing my computer or getting off the couch to go for our walk, our pandemic walks are a definite silver lining in the midst of the gloom that is 2020 for two big reasons.

First, I have two sons (no daughters) and while I have good relationships with both of them, there aren’t a lot of activities we all enjoy doing. Whereas my husband can spend hours playing basketball with them in the driveway or throwing baseballs in the backyard, and legitimately have fun doing those things, I struggle through these things. I’ve never been the “fun parent,” and we don’t enjoy the same sports (I’m an uncoordinated former swimmer who enjoys a long, solitary run, whereas they are all about the popular team sports). I prefer reading; they like video games. I like emotional dramas and biopics; they like action flicks and slapstick humor. I prefer the quiet; they prefer loud, loud, LOUD.

But our walks? Well, once we get going, we all settle in and – dare I say – enjoy it. Or rather, it’s something we enjoy doing together. A few weeks ago, we decided that we would set a goal for ourselves: walk a marathon (26.2 miles) over the course of two weeks. Suddenly there was something the three of us were working toward, we had a common goal, and we had a consistent activity we could do together each day.

But the second (and perhaps more significant) reason I love pandemic walks so much is because of what happens on them – we talk. We talk about anything and everything, from the silly to the serious. We’ve talked about things like systemic racism and body image, along with oddly specific things like how hard it would be to drive a Class A motorhome through the mountains. My kids have asked some really pointed and insightful questions, and we’ve had a lot of impactful conversations.

Given that most of the time when I try to have “serious” conversations with my kids – or just try to talk to them about what’s going on in their lives — I get one-word responses in return. Sure, they can ramble on for hours about Fortnite, Minecraft and Call of Duty, but if I ask them something more substantial, they’ll shrug and mumble with grunts or sighs.

I don’t think this is unique to my family either, especially with tweens and teens. It seems like since the beginning of time, parents have been lamenting the struggle that is getting their teens to engage in meaningful conversations. The one piece of advice that seems to actually work is to seize on the moments when they happen. And for us, these moments happen on our walks, our pandemic walks.

An added bonus? It’s at least 30-60 minutes when the kids aren’t on electronics. Sometimes we walk past a friend’s house and have a socially distanced yard visit for a few minutes. Other times we just wander. Either way, we’re getting a little fresh air and while giving their eyes a break from the screens. Like most parents, we’ve really relaxed our screen time limits during the pandemic, but I still feel guilty. So any activity that can get my kids (and me too!) off the screens is a welcome distraction.

I think we can all agree that just about everything about the coronavirus pandemic – and 2020 in general — sucks. Hundreds of thousands of people have died. People have lost – are will lose – their jobs. The world is a dumpster fire, and it all feels so overwhelming. We have to take our small victories where we can – and by “victories,” I mean moments when things don’t feel quite so awful. And for me that is pandemic walks.

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