It’s morning, and my husband, a health care worker in a local hospital, texts me: “Glad I shaved last night. My first call this morning was in a COVID room.”
I stare at the message, my hand atop the kitchen counter to steady me as my heart rate increases.
The prior week, he’d mentioned needing to shave his beard so that his N95 mask would fit his face correctly. COVID-19 cases in the hospital where he works weren’t just creeping up, he’d said — they were accelerating at a pace far faster than last summer. “By the end of the week or early next week, we’ll easily top what was our highest number of COVID patients last year,” he’d told me.
We live in Florida, and every day, my state breaks some kind of previous COVID-19 record as the delta variant ravages communities. In some areas, ambulances wait an hour or more to offload patients because ERs have no space. We’re in the middle of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S.
All the while, my husband and I are parenting two boys and trying to prepare for the school year.
I’m having a hard time focusing on school supplies and schedules, though, because Florida has more children hospitalized due to COVID-19 than any other state. We have no idea how many kids are dying, either, because, on July 17, Florida stopped reporting deaths by age group to the CDC.
Well past the workday hours, I get off the phone with a representative at my county health department. I’d learned from my 4-year-old’s preschool teacher a few days earlier that another teacher at the school who had covered for her had tested positive for COVID-19. The school’s administration did not notify me.
After speaking with the state epidemiology department and the preschool, the woman at the health department called me back to tell me that the school had followed all necessary protocols.
But I wasn’t informed that my child had been exposed, I said. The health department official replied that because the teacher wasn’t in my child’s classroom for 15 minutes or longer, the school was not obligated to notify me.