This is the time right now when young people from every grade level in our local schools would be going through all the rites of passage that are familiar to us in concluding the latest cycle of a school year. We all know June as the time when students are gathering in classrooms for those last moments of instruction from their teacher, sitting together at their desks for final exams, talking about the conclusion of memorable spring sports seasons, taking the bus for the last of those rides to and from school, and — for some — making that public walk in receiving their diploma.
This year, of course, those usual rites of passage that occur with the end of the school year aren’t able to happen for students.
However, with everyone’s help we can do what is necessary — right now — to improve the chances that the next cycle in the usual rites of passage for students can occur when the 2020-21 school year begins later this summer.
We all know the essential points that have been coming to us from local and national health experts about personal and social safety habits. An article posted by CNN Health on June 1 shows that a review of 172 observational studies from 16 countries indicates that the chance of transmission of coronavirus is 17.4% if a person doesn’t wear a face mask or respirator, but goes down to 3.1% if a face mask is worn. The studies cited in that same article also indicate that the chance of transmitting the disease is 12.8% if persons are less than 1 meter apart, but that this level drops to 2.6% when there is a distance of more than 1 meter between people.
If we follow the good guidance we are all hearing from our health experts, we are all going to beat this thing more quickly. There is no shortcut to progressing through the phases of reopening, so all of us need to put in the work to move our county forward. The late former Yakima County Sheriff Brian Winter always told me, “Safety outweighs convenience every time.”
Listen to the advice of the experts. Wear a face mask, and be smart in your proximity with others. When all of us are actively doing that — right now — we’re going to be making the investments that will help provide all of our local young people with some of their traditional rites of passage that come with the new school year. Do the smart thing now so students can start their upcoming school year this fall by interacting with their teachers in classrooms, learning together at their desks, riding their school bus, and taking part in fall sports as an athlete or a fan.
I urge everyone to help us to suppress the spread of the virus and move us up the phases. Our students are depending on the adults in our cities and towns to bear down and crush this challenge through leading by example. With deep respect to everyone, let’s focus on the health, welfare and education of our children by following the social distancing and face mask guidelines in our county.