McDuffee: Trying to figure out Pandemic Academia

Seth McDuffee is the news editor of the Parkersburg Eclipse News-Review.
Seth McDuffee
Eclipse News-Review

COVID-19 has been a trial, that much is for sure. Whether you’re on the side of the fence that thinks it’s all overblown and unnecessary, or if you are currently wedged beneath the plumbing under your sink with a can of Lysol in one hand and hand sanitizer in the other--most can admit that this has been a time of extreme uncertainty.


With the new Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines for schools, prompted as “Return to Learn,” a compromise has been strongly suggested. High-touch areas will need to be frequently sanitized, requiring the hiring of new staff to ensure cleanliness; partial distance learning is suggested, as well as practicing appropriate social distancing within classrooms; many schools will have PPE on hand for those that feel it is necessary, but will not be required nor recommended. That last part can be sand in the craw for those hoping for a more-bold approach to fighting the spread, but there are just as many people who are staunch vanguards against wearing any kind of mask, and with all things, there needs to be balance.


Some think there are already too many rules around "‘Rona", and are unhappy with each change made to the standard practice of that will inevitably lead us down the path to total medical martial law, while others are worried that doing too little will be the end we all knew would happen eventually.


Erring on the side of caution may seem unneeded for some, but there are genuine benefits to treating the dangers as “guilty until proven innocent.” It is sort of a scientific “Pascal’s Wager” to assume that the virus is virile and harmful, but controllable, as the potential issues that could arise by not doing enough, are more severe than that of doing too much, though personal judgement will be the litmus to divine a final action.


We must also keep in mind that children are susceptible to the anxiety caused by this pandemic. There are kids that are very uncomfortable with the idea of attending school each day without any protective environment, but may not have the means to attend school remotely; or in some cases, will not be afforded that option; and that can be stressful in a very important time of life.


The guidelines also recommend education about stigma and association of masks, or lack thereof, in an effort to foster a sense of fellowship and ease. It is better if kids from either side of the “debate” do not judge one another for their adherence or shirking of the guidelines, and come to an understanding amongst themselves that people will likely debate the most proper method of practice for as long as this virus continues to exist in our lives.


That being said, the schools are doing a marvelous job with what they are able to do. Having overabundant sanitary practices may seem like overkill to some, but it is not harmful, and if there will be no required masks, we need to ensure that children and young adults are capable of learning uninterrupted. No need to make a rough time even more difficult.


Right now, it appears no one has the answers that everyone can readily accept, nor do I think that will ever be the case. But we’ve got to try to come to an understanding where education is concerned and what I’ve seen so far come out of the districts in the area has been nothing short of fantastic. Taking this seriously, while still offering a sense of self-governance. Let’s see where this leads us, and make a more educated decision with further data and metrics.


Parkersburg Eclipse News-Review
503 Coates St.
Parkersburg, IA 50665
Phone:  319-346-1461

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.