What if coronavirus drags on for a year or two – or even longer?
Just about every prediction made so far has turned out to be wrong, and we seem to be operating on the hope that, within a few months, everything will be OK.
But what if that prediction is wrong, too?
Seems to me we should hope for the best but plan for the worst. By planning for the worst, I mean we should start from the premise we’ll be in this situation for possibly years. If we get lucky, terrific; if we don’t get lucky, at least we can get on with things.
I’m thinking about schools in particular, at least to start, since fall is almost upon us.
Students could go on a rotating schedule. One week, half the student body would go to school M-W-F; the next week, they would go to T-Th. On their off days, the students would tune in via Zoom or whatever.
So half the kids will be on campus at any one time. Then everyone can spread out and use bigger classrooms, if needed. Of course, everyone would wear masks.
Maybe some will sit in a classroom that’s not where the teacher is and watch via TV monitor from another room down the hall. If a student is parked in a TV room one day, next time he or she will get to sit in the “real” classroom.
Parents with big rooms in their houses could volunteer to set up “pods” there. Teachers and kids could gather in these locations daily.
If parents simply can’t keep a child at home, because of work needs and daycare limitations, they could use the school’s gymnasiums to park their kids on the student’s non-classroom days.
Students at home or in pods will be connected at all times to their schools via a two-way video monitor.
This hybrid system will keep students in school all the time, and on-campus half the time, spreading things out – but keeping students accountable to teachers.
This isn’t an ideal solution, but it’s something – and better than waiting for the “all clear” signal (which might not come for a long time). If we do this, we won’t have lost much; if we just keep kids at home, we might lose a lot.
Managing and monitoring a rotating schedule with lots of moving pieces will be hard. But what’s the alternative, really? Teachers should get a little added “combat pay,” that makes sense. ALL essential workers should.
Stores, banks, post offices and other enterprises have already taken the leap. Half the customers can enter at any one time. Everyone keeps his or her distance. Everyone wears a mask. It’s not perfect, but it works.
Students need to socialize. So do adults. It’s time for the Brentwood Community Council to relax its long-held concerns about sidewalk dining. Our restaurants are getting killed in some cases.
Why not let them set up more tables outside? Maybe a few parking lots could be used for outdoor dining. How about an outdoor beer garden?
When it gets cold, restaurants with outdoor seating could set up big tents, with space heaters inside. Everyone would just have to spread out.
Servers would of course wear masks (and, like their teacher friends, receive “combat pay”).
Many of us have learned that working from home isn’t so bad – at least those of us who can do it. With more people working at home, that’s fewer people on the roads. Less traffic benefits all.
If we don’t need as much office space in the future, because people are working at home, maybe those office spaces could be put to good use solving the housing and homeless crises.
I don’t think we can shut down and just wait for the storm to pass. It might not pass – for years. So we should continue to proactively adapt.
We might never go back to business as usual. We might as well make the best of it.