Kimberley Chavez Lopez Byrd. She was a beloved, lifelong educator. She is among the more than 135,000 and counting casualties of the coronavirus. Byrd was one of three Arizona teachers sharing a classroom, teaching summer school. All three caught the virus.
Kimberly Byrd was one of many educators who have already lost their lives to COVID-19. Sadly, she will not be the last. Teachers and education employees across the nation are coming to terms with the fearful reality that they are now frontline responders in this pandemic.
Political pressure at the national level has trickled into every community in America with crippling force, and the message is clear: Reopening schools is a priority. Safely reopening schools is not. Because of preexisting conditions, or by nature of their age, a third of American teachers are at higher risk of dying from the coronavirus. Wyoming educators are being called upon to put themselves and their families in harm’s way to allow our society to return to “normal.”
Asking so much from our education employees, I wonder, can we not ask more from ourselves? Doctors have likened refusal to wear a mask to drunk driving. It shows the same reckless disregard for the safety of people around you. Your neighborhood school may open, but it will not stay open if the U.S. fails to bridle our outbreak. Well-fitted masks, made of proper materials and worn correctly, have been credited by the WHO with cutting the risk of COVID infection by between 77-96%.
When we fail to do everything in our power to protect our community, we risk our educators, our family, our economy and our students. Widespread comorbidities like childhood obesity and diabetes put American kids at higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than their peers in other countries. Medical professionals are still uncovering complications and damage to almost every major organ and system in the bodies of coronavirus survivors.
Some children will die. Some will suffer from the debilitating, long-lasting or permanent effects of this disease. Please protect our children. Protect our educators. Protect our economy. Protect our community. Mask up Wyoming.
GRADY HUTCHERSON, Cheyenne
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