Let's get some level-setting items out of the way first, shall we? Here's some bio info about me and my family during COVID-19:
–We were in hard lockdown mode for the spring and summer of 2020.
–We wear masks everywhere we go where there are people.
–I live in Birmingham, AL.
–I identify as a moderate Republican.
–I never voted for Trump, but I'll automatically tune out anyone who throws all who did into a bucket labeled "evil". Life's not that simple, my friends. Not by a long shot.
–As it turns out, the point that appears above this one is important, because the rest of this post is about how the extremes of our system dominate these days and rob 90% of our citizens the chance to live their best lives.
I think COVID is a serious thing. I hate the fact that so many lives have been lost, and I'm supportive of President Biden flying the flag at half-mast as the death count passes 500K.
But let's do some real talk about how the issue has been treated politically. The USA's success rate in dealing with COVID is like most of the free world. If you go to resources like Statistica, you'll see a death rate per capita that looks a lot like our peers globally, with the USA better than the UK and Italy, a lot like Spain, and countries like Canada, Germany and Israel coping much better than the rest of the free world peer group. You can say that the USA sucks, but I'll point to the fact that the rest of the free world is struggling at various levels, and the USA isn't immune to that.
In addition, a quick glance at immunization rates globally is pretty fascinating. The previous administration was widely criticized for their vaccine roll out and generally not having a plan with COVID. Using a great tool called Our World in Data, I checked vaccination rates on 1/19/21 (the day before Biden took office) and the last available data as I wrote this post, 3/5/21.
I found that the truth about vaccinations is more complicated than the media would have us believe, as on 1/19/21, the USA was 4th in the free world in COVID vaccine roll out (as measured by COVID vaccinations administered per 100 people), trailing Israel, United Arab Emirates and the UK. On March 5th, guess where we are at? 4th! Still ahead and trailing the same countries by the same margins. The European Union has about 1/3 of the vaccination rate of the USA, both on 1/9 and today. Use this map to run your own data. My gut tells me we'll still be fourth at the time herd immunity is reached under a new president.
The point—and there is one—is that when it comes to COVID, we look like much of the rest of the free world. Maybe it's not about political platforms, maybe it's about trying to deal with COVID and still have a chance to live your best life. My take is that a pandemic is a challenge that impacts most of the free world in similar ways.
And that brings me to the topic of having kids in schools.
I'm fortunate to live in a state that got a lot of things right during COVID related to school and kids. Here's what's gone down in Alabama:
–Most Alabama schools opened up in Fall 2020 for 100% live instruction.
–As Alabama schools dealt with spikes, they turned to a blended option, where you could send your kid to school or take the virtual option. This pivot allowed them to serve parents who wanted kids in schools while reducing the live student population, which in turn limited risk.
–Just as importantly, most of Alabama went 100% live with all extracurricular activities from August 2020 on. Whether it's sports, band, show choir or something else, kids had the chance to do the things they love with appropriate mask and social distancing mandates.
That last part (sports and other activities) looked dicey as hell in August of 2020. But in the high school district in which I live (1600 students), it went off without a hitch. Kids did these activities masked up as appropriate and coaches had plans for social distancing during practice. As a result, if a kid tested positive for COVID, we didn't shut the programs down. Contact tracing in a reasonable form was conducted, and kids got quarantined from time to time, but widespread shutdowns didn't happen. It was a reasonable and pragmatic approach that's missing elsewhere.
Alabama got it right on every account. My son is a basketball player. As a result of this responsible and pragmatic approach, his team played all 32 games on their schedule and won the 7A (largest school classification) State Basketball Title. He never would have gotten this chance in Illinois, California, and many other states. These are lifetime memories and life experiences that can't be replaced.
It's easy to make jokes about Alabama. But look around, and you'll see our state got it right during COVID. We found the middle ground and reasonable approach during the pandemic, kids are in school and getting life lessons in the activities they seek to participate in.
COVID is awful, but the entire free world has struggled in similar regard. We really aren't different from our aggregate peer group when you look objectively at the data.
The fear mongering and politicization of COVID is a shameful thing. Kids not having the option to be in school and do the things they love to do is the most shameful part of it all. Crushing small businesses takes runner-up position in the shame Hall of Fame.
I'm not an expert on any of this, but I'm thankful to live in a state that got it right. On a side note, as other states were lifting mask mandates recently, our governor announced it would be a month before the mask mandate in our state ended, which is a brilliant hedge—announcing the end, but having the unstated right to come back to the podium and keep the mask mandate going if the situation turns.
Just another way Alabama is getting it right. Welcome to Alabama—where free (and responsible) men/women live and thrive.