ASU School of Magic Part II

08-23-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Call it amazing, after last week’s letter, but it’s really not amazing since we are now dealing with ASU School of Magic, but presto, an email came from ASU Human Resources stating that: ASU has partnered with the Arizona Department of Health Services to provide free drive-thru COVID-19 testing at sites around the Valley and the state to all Family and Friends of ASU. I guess with one wave of the wand (or maybe it was the fork), the Headmaster magically produced COVID-19 Saliva tests with a 48hr turn around and made them available to the community. I suspected all along that of all the University Presidents in the USA, this one had the elder wand. And he did. I guess all other Universities really should fear the fork.

While I suspect the motivation might not be purely altruistic, I welcome the offer and am grateful it has been made available. ASU knows this move is in its best interest as they anticipate that outbreaks may happen on its campuses and possibly spread to the community and the best strategy is to limit the spread with quick available testing. With all the other health and safety measures in place this has been the missing piece to effectively managing and living within a viral outbreak. This type of testing allows schools to identify a case of COVID and then identify those who were in close and sustained contact with that person and have them monitored and tested and on down the line. The quicker that happens the sooner the spread is stopped. This will also minimize and shorten any shutdowns and make them more targeted to individual schools or classes.

And live with it is our lot at this moment. Case in point is New Zealand. That county went 102 days with no new infections and then 4 new cases popped up which quickly became 30 cases. We do not know how long this virus will rage but if other viruses are any indication it will continue to spread until it has infected enough people to create a sufficient level of immunity in a population. So far there have been no reported cases of re-infection among those who have developed immunity. And right now, in the US it is estimated that 8% of the population has developed immunity and in AZ because of our outbreak that number is around 25%.

While we don't know the duration of COVID-19 spread we have learned somethings about the virus. The virus is not very lethal. Some people get no symptoms, some get mild or moderate symptoms and recover. People with comorbidities and the elderly need to be very careful as it can be very harmful to them. Thankfully the virus has mostly spared children. There are, as with most diseases idiosyncratic cases that are unpredictable, almost impossible to explain medically and heartbreaking. The media seems to find every single one of these rare cases and make them sound like the norm. When my sister at 42yrs old, in great health with no risk factors was diagnosed with lymphoma she was dead within 10 days. She had a rare form of the disease which the year before only 47 people in the US were diagnosed with. Heartbreaking but rare, which is important to remember so that we don't base our policies and practices (or fears) on the outliers and exceptions.

So, ASU is now open and their plan is posted on their website. As far as I read, it is a thorough plan based on all the available data and CDC Guidelines much like our School’s Reopening Plan. You can read our School’s Reopening Plan or watch the video at www.olmcschool.info. The big difference is that while ASU deals with young adults we are dealing with children. And unlike young adults, children always have a set of adult eyes watching them. This makes it easier to keep up with the health and safety measures we have put in place and to enforce them uniformly. We also have the advantage of a smaller population and buildings where we can control who comes and goes. But most importantly while we monitor our students for signs of possible exposure while in school, parents are also monitoring their children while outside of school. So, before they come to school, while they are in school and environments they go to while away from school can be closely monitored and thus help prevent exposure to our students and staff. And if there is any doubt, our School Nurse will be in the parking lot every morning to meet with any family.

Every year when we open our school, I never think: children in our school this year will get sick with colds, flu, pink eye, probably lice, a few cases of chickenpox and maybe a few other common infectious illnesses. This year is different. But based on everything we now know about COVID-19 and children, how to manage infectious disease in general and this virus speci#cally, along with treatments that have been recently developed for this virus, maybe we need to start thinking about it more like other medically manageable illnesses and less like the Dark Lord come to destroy every man, woman and child. Despite the virus, with all the precautions taken, sending our children to school, will make them sort of like Harry Potter, namely, the boy who lived… physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Love,

Fr. John B.

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