We took a trip to DC yesterday and it is interesting to see how differently various localities are treating mask wearing. In Washington, every person on the street had a mask on. This is because of an order from the mayor requiring anyone going out of the house to have a mask on. Here in the Shenandoah Valley, most people are wearing masks inside stores but not just walking around. Of course, there are fewer people, but I can see how having a requirement like the District’s would make a huge difference everywhere.
One result of the virus has been a reevaluation of life in the city versus life in suburbs and more rural areas. It has appeared safer to live in less crowded areas, but my experience in DC makes me wonder if that should really be accepted wisdom. My daughter who lives in New York City says it is like DC. Anyone out on the street is wearing a mask, period, and the numbers are staying very low. So much depends on the governance of a certain area and the compliance there. She has been working entirely from home but has now begun returning one day a week to her hospital in Manhattan. She is a dietitian in the oncology unit, and her job, like many others, may never go back to what it was before Covid. It has worked so well to do her consulting remotely that she will probably continue to do a good part of it that way.
The university here made a decision on Friday to bring students back to campus and to start up face-to-face classes again. The main difference now seems to be the addition of randomly testing 300 asymptomatic students per day and adding more quarantine beds. It is hard to imagine the results will be any different from earlier when classes started up and so many students immediately became infected. My colleagues universally say the workload for online and hybrid teaching is greatly ramped up. Everyone reports spending almost all their time in front of the computer. Teaching three full classes online is exponentially more work than teaching in the classroom or teaching a single online summer course. I wonder what will happen in the spring.
My other daughter works at a public university in Massachusetts where the administration chose to remain online for the fall. She is working only one day a week on site and the rest of the time remotely. Classes are operating fairly smoothly there, but there is talk that many low income students have dropped out for financial reasons related to the virus. Her partner is a high school teacher. Life is much more difficult for her as she tries to juggle hybrid teaching and has to record every lesson for students not physically present. We have heard a lot about the stress on essential workers, but not enough about the heavy load K-12 teachers are bearing. I am so impressed with the creativity, courage, and resilience of people during this time.