The students are still gone, but our daily rates are higher than they have ever been, with new deaths every day and not just people ages 70+. One of our admin just lost her father to Covid in town. Rates will only spike in mid-January when the students return.
I am teaching one section in person next semester. This is going to be dangerous. The course is limited to 15 students and there’s a wait list. My two covid deniers from last semester are not in it, thankfully. (My other section is online. I do not have a choice about either.)
Other than that, we are blessed that we do not have to do anything that puts us or our children at additional risk. Most people are in situations where their jobs require them to be out with the public more than once a week and they don’t have full power to tell people to pull up their masks like I will. Most people don’t have the ability to get all groceries delivered or done by curbside pickup. These folks are at risk of getting covid themselves and spreading covid to others. Those of us who can reduce the spread should because not everybody can.
SO, what are we doing? (Bolding the things that are fun substitutes rather than sacrifices)
- DH and I are working from home when possible. (Technically DH isn’t working anymore, but hey.) This means that I go to work and then come home. I also requested an 8am course so that there’s nobody before me and there’s a big gap after me (since usually classes start at 9:15). Even so, I wipe everything I touch down with clorox wipes that I had to buy myself (and it is not easy buying clorox wipes!) Students sit only in chairs that are 6 feet apart, which are actually 6 feet apart after I complained last summer to the department that the original dots on the chairs where only 1 foot apart on one dimension (they now skip rows, including the first row). I do not let them touch each other. When they share items I make them wipe them down with a wipe before if I catch them and squirt them hand sanitizer after. Doing in-class activities has been a pain in the rear and I collected a lot of suggestions from students last semester about what to do and what not– it seems like pairs are doable 6 feet apart but triplets are not unless one person is zooming from home. Some students liked sharing screens through zoom while still in the same room and some didn’t– one suggestion was for them to share a google doc which I think will work well. I tell students that if they are the least bit sick they have to zoom in. I enforce masking. I don’t let them eat. If I drink, I do it from behind the plexiglass (which doesn’t cover the entire board area, which is annoying). If they drink, I tell them to use a straw if they can and keep the mask on as best they can.
- We’re only shopping curbside. In the few rare cases in which we’ve had to go inside the store in the past (ex. the noodle place and the bibimbap place), we’ve made sure to order ahead so that we can just do a pickup rather than having to wait. Basically I go to work and do curbside library stuff and DH does grocery, target, and home depot curbside (and takeout about once every two months which is not enough, but we do give big tips when we go). DH and I do doctors visits. I did a dentist thing this summer because I needed a crown and a root canal.
- We’re keeping our kids home (our school district allows us to choose). This is definitely the safe decision for DC1 whose high school has at least one new case a day and was getting more like 4 new cases per day just before winter break. Adding to that that mask enforcement and social distancing wasn’t happening in at least one of DC1’s classes (and the teacher caught covid right after we complained to the principal) and the principal sent out pictures of sports team pictures with only maybe 3 people masked… Now that they’re no longer sending out daily emails there’s a dashboard where we can see all the positive cases at each school (only a point in time info, but it does have the cumulative number), and our high school has about 4x as many cases as the other same-size high school. For DC2 it would probably be fine to go to school– there have only been 8 cases so far and they’ve been drawn out across the semester. But the virtual 4th grade teacher is amazeballs so we’re hoping to keep her as long as possible. (It is really interesting looking at the elementary school data– one would think the numbers would map with SES and ability to not work or to work from home, but while the lowest number of covid cases is the richest college professor zone and the highest number of covid cases is the lowest income most working class zone, the rest of the numbers don’t map at *all* which makes me suspect that school leadership is important when it comes to covid spread.)
- We are not having in-person playdates. I am not at all opposed to outdoor masked playdates, but DC2’s friends only want to do unmasked, so we said no and they stopped asking. Two of them do have such playdates with each other. Naturally these are the least safe members of the group– the third friend’s mom is more risk averse and would be safer, but of course, not doing in-person playdates correlates with all those other safe behaviors. Update: Just said no to a zoo birthday party after looking at the yelp page for the zoo and seeing lots of maskless selfies (or chin-mask selfies) and people complaining that masking isn’t being enforced.
- We have two regular weekly minecraft after-school playdates set up for DC2 and lots of other popup minecraft playdates.
- We didn’t visit extended family at Christmas. Once the second wave hit and especially after the vaccine started coming out, MIL stopped suggesting it. We now have hopes for summer.
- For Thanksgiving we had a socially distanced backyard meal with my sister and her boyfriend. I was super careful and made sure we had separate tables that were 6 feet apart. We kept masks on all times we weren’t eating. I had separate paths set for bathroom use– they went through the garage to the guest bathroom and I had hand sanitizers taped to the door to the house on both sides. We went through the patio and used the master bathroom or the kids’ bathroom. For many of the food items (including all the appetizers and desserts), I made sure their table had its own bowls to serve themselves from. For bigger things like the turkey, they went through first and hand sanitized before and after. Then I had us use different serving spoons. I also gave them a separate serving spoon for second helpings but they didn’t end up using it (I’m a bit less concerned about this because it seems like the virus is fragile on surfaces, but still…). It was a bit tiring having to police the distance between my kids and my sister and I can see how easily if you’re not vigilant “safe” meetings can become unsafe. Especially if not everybody attending is as careful as you are. It’s easier to just not, which is why although we talked about doing Christmas at my sister’s patio in the end we just let that conversation not happen in time. (The next day my kids went in the car for the first time since … last March?-we had to adjust the booster seat-for DC2- and August schedule pickup for DC1… to get flu shots.)
- We’ve done a couple of sessions of Crafting with Grandma on zoom, where DC2 and MIL just quietly work on crafts together punctuated by random conversations with DH and DC1 and FIL. DC1 also did a Crafting with younger cousins on zoom. (As the oldest by 6 years and very good with kids, DC1 is extremely popular with the younger cousins.)
- I’ve started buying a lot more fancy stuff online since we can’t go to the City. I’ve already gotten a number of you hooked on nuts.com and we’ve spent some time talking about places other than amazon where we’re buying things. Something remarkable has as well.
- Ringfit, exercycle, console dancing games, bicycling, unicyling (DC1 and DH), scootering (DC2), roller skating (DC2), all around the neighborhood, both masked (when outside and there are a lot of people out) and unmasked (indoors or outdoors when there’s few enough people that the road can be crossed if we see someone; this generally correlates with the weather). I’ve also done a lot of walking around the house watching youtube videos while the kids are out exercising because I don’t want to have to put on pants (if I’m wearing pajama shorts and it’s cold out) or socks.
Something I want to highlight is that after 3/4 of a year of trial and error: Zoom calls that are just straight-up conversations aren’t as good for the kids as are zoom activities. Having something that allows comfortable silences is way better than something that forces kids to keep talking. And with kids, zoom is better than FaceTime, at least for the adult in question, because FaceTime involves lots of running around the house and flipping the screen and playing with filters and basically things that are too frenetic for anyone but the cool auntie (aka, my sister, who is just as bad as my kids with FaceTime). There are a lot of crazy things they can play with on zoom, but there isn’t as much movement of the camera itself.
Playing minecraft with friends with zoom on in the background is better than just zooming (which was what we did last Spring and Summer until DC2’s birthday got us to research safe ways zie could have a party). Playing Among Us with DH’s brother’s kids didn’t work out so well, though part of that was they couldn’t get audio to work so everything was chat-based which isn’t as fun.
Doing crafts at the same time with Grandma works better than just talking with Grandma. It’s almost like actually being at Grandma and Grandpa’s. We’ve done this twice so far and it’s just really nice. DH and DC1 stop by and chat while DC2 and Grandma work on their own things.
We also set up an origami teaching demonstration with DC1 and the two older kids of DH’s sister because Nana had all four kids and suggested we try that while she looked after the babies. So DC1 taught the 7 year old and the 5 year old to make fortune tellers and then did a few coin tricks.
What safe(r) things have you been doing? (Note: any bragging about doing unsafe things will be deleted. Keep your secret shame secret and try not to hurt people.)