Lesson Learned (August 6)

We Homo sapiens as an animal species are trying to deal with an out-of-control virus. Our attempt makes us like the tail in the mountaineer saying heard in my youth: “The tail is wagging the dog.” This is my difficult lesson learned this week as we seek a winning strategy on re-entry into our public schools. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice moved our opening date to September 8th to better prepare ourselves. We are only in the first wave of this pandemic as our Board of Education begins our new academic school year July 1st.

The expression comes from my memory bank: I am listening to Upshur County family doctors and our esteemed chief-of-staff surgeon Basil Page, MD, talking in the doctor’s lounge at the Old St. Joseph’s Hospital following surgery. At that time in the 1950s, the hospital is built around the Barlow Mansion. The expression “the tail is wagging the dog” is used by Dr. Page, who has a Brushy Fork farm where he raises prize beagle dogs at his Pageline Kennels. He is describing a situation in which the Central West Virginia physicians, certainly an important or powerful group of professionals, are being controlled by someone or something that is less important or powerful, that is the West Virginia State Government down in Charleston. I listen to the disdain in his voice tone. Dad explains the matter to me later.

Following the March 13, 2020, statewide closing of our schools by Governor Jim Justice due to the coronavirus pandemic, our Upshur County School District seeks the best for our Rock Cave, French Creek, Washington District, Tennerton, Union, Hodgesville, and Buckhannon Academy Elementary Schools; Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School; Buckhannon-Upshur High School; and Tri-County (Barbour, Lewis, and Upshur) Fred W. Eberle Technical Center.

Now on July 6, we meet as the newly constituted Upshur County Schools Board of Education, following our delayed election, for our first meeting of the new academic year 2020-2021. Finding our way forward to re-entry of our students is proving difficult. Now the dog is COVID-19 and the rest of us are the tail. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., said as much when he said the virus will set our agenda. On July 6th he said that the US is still in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which at that time had killed over 130,000 Americans and infected nearly 3 million Americans. He said that the dog, which is the virus, will always wag the tail; that is, set the course of the pandemic!

Our federal government continues in a Public Health Emergency first declared by Alex Michael Azar II, current Presidential cabinet member who serves as the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. On January 31, 2020, in response to COVID-19, he issued the rare declaration. At that time, he noted the possible overwhelming consequences due to the spreading of COVID-19 within the United States. At first the threat was to our healthcare systems, but then the threat to our educational systems became apparent as well.

What a very aggressive dog that COVID-19 proves to be.



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