Eddie Carifio is the Sports Editor for the Daily Chronicle and, during the pandemic, has been covering all things school-related in the DeKalb County education beat.
Eddie Carifio is the Sports Editor for the Daily Chronicle and, during the pandemic, has been covering all things school-related in the DeKalb County education beat.

If there's one argument that is beyond frustrating when talking about the novel coronavirus, it's the binary way of thinking about risk.

If you contract it, you either get over it or you die.

The fact is there is so much middle ground - and so much of it unknown - that it sets a new low bar for straw men.

If you've seen a school board meeting over the past month, you know this argument well. And you see it on both sides. For those who want to open schools, you'll hear about the low, almost non-existent mortality rates in children. This has come up at board meetings in DeKalb, Sycamore and Genoa-Kingston.

And this is true. But...

COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus of which we are still trying to figure out longterm effects. And even after just a few months it's obvious longterm effects can be critical.

At the DeKalb District 428 school board meeting on Tuesday, teacher Abby Aska related her experience with COVID-19.

Being alone in the hospital. Having to communicate over the phone with nurses. Being so weak she couldn't walk to the COVID-19 testing tent. She spoke Tuesday through tears, explaining that she still faces issues with side effects and continuing complications from the disease even though she contracted in April.

"I physically felt miserable but I was scared more than anything," Aska said at the meeting Tuesday. "I was scared because I was alone and no one was coming into the room to check on me, talk to me or tell me anything."

After hearing Aska's account, it's a headscratcher how anyone can possibly frame this in terms of "Sure, people may get sick, but people get sick all the time, and it's not like you're likely to die."

A common refrain from those who want to push back on in-person learning and instead go remote in the fall is "How many deaths are acceptable?" This too is unnecessarily hyperbolic.

Let's be honest: how many stories like Aska's are acceptable? It's a respiratory illness, so if we start up youth sports again and a child contracts the disease, what if their respiratory system is never the same? What if their career ends? They lose a scholarship or the chance at one?

How many cases like that are acceptable? How many lonesome hospital stays for a child or teacher are acceptable?

Looking at COVID-19 as a two-outcome illness is beyond reductive, as is the argument that sending children back to school is an acceptable risk because it is unlikely (m)any will die. That's not the point. There are so many terrible things that can happen, aside from death, that you wouldn't wish on anyone, let alone a child.

There are arguments to be made for sending children back to school. Social development for starters. The effectiveness of virtual learning. Child care issues.

But to weigh those against only the possibility of death is disingenuous at worst and simplistic at best.

Opinion