On March 7, 2022, we had zero COVID-19 positives and zero quarantines in our schools. How amazing to reach “zero” for cases and quarantines for our Upshur County Schools after two years of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic! Our Board of Education has managed safety and emergency preparedness, acquiring a sharp learning curve during the past two years. We have temporarily closed school when our bus drivers were infected and so sick we could not transport students from their rural and remote homes. Likewise, we struggled to keep schools on schedule with large numbers of teaching professionals succumbing to disease due to the COVID-19 variants. Even substitute teachers have been in short supply.
Now 6,250 West Virginians have died attributed to COVID-19. How tragic!
That means with one degree of separation in the central Appalachian mountains that we are all grieving losses.
At our March 8, 2022, regular meeting of our BOE, I celebrated our good fortune to be at zero infections and zero quarantines. No need for action after a tumultuous two years. Now we can take a deep breath and count our blessings.
Lessons learned from such a horrific plague are several:
1. Basic hygiene remains relevant. I will continue to wash my hands often while singing “Happy Birthday,” or for about 20 seconds.
2. Social distancing continues to be a good idea. In the past I became infected with a virus about six times each year, but during the past two years, much less.
3. Quarantines remain a courtesy when one is ill. Staying home when sick may be inconvenient; however, spreading germs to the more vulnerable surely will cause much harm.
4. Sanitizing makes good public health policy. I feel more secure washing certain items purchased at a store. Besides germs there could be insecticides or herbicides on fruits and vegetables. These are poisons not only to insects or plants but also to ourselves or our pets.
Another lesson learned as supply side crises grow—we are blessed with a climate and water supply ample to raising our food locally. In the last 50 years, we have gotten away from having a milk cow or chickens or a vegetable garden or an orchard. However, our pioneer families lived quite well being mostly self-sufficient. This is an idea whose time has returned.
My boyhood motto from the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared!” Even as COVID-19 “zeroes” out, I urge Mountaineers who are always free, to stay conservative in health habits; healthy in diet; and ready for the next emergency.
The final lesson learned comes from a renewed appreciation for our schools. Teachers make a big difference in the young lives of our children and grandchildren. Technological advances allow for virtual learning, but in-person learning remains best. A big thank-you to our professional and service staff, who have kept the best interest of our students front and center during the COVID-19 pandemic.