School shootings happen. As a teacher’s wife, they terrify me. I live in fear that my husband will throw himself in front of a bullet to save a student. But unlike a policeman, a firefighter, or a soldier, he never signed up to die. Dying wasn’t on his mind when my gentle husband signed a contract to teach Beowulf and The Crucible to high school students. He worried, instead, about grading time, about student hunger, about standardized testing. But when his district sent him back to teach face-to-face during the resurgence of the coronavirus epidemic, they told him to contract COVID-19 for his students.
There isn’t another way to phrase that. I can’t sugar-coat it. I can’t make it nicer, or smooth it over, or equivocate. His district has ordered him to risk death for his students, and because we live in a right to work state, he has no choice. The teachers have no bargaining power, no union, no recourse. The district says, “Jump.” They might fuss, but in the end, they reply, “How high?”
The day before they returned, some of his colleagues cried. Their rooms had no windows. COVID-19 safety requires proper ventilation. These teachers were being forced to enter a patently unsafe situation without proper protection.
My Husband Is In A High-Risk Category To Die From COVID-19
My husband has both asthma and a recurring immune condition. If he were to contract COVID-19 he would, with certainty, land on a ventilator. When our son was three months old, he battled pertussis, and he’s had persistent asthma attacks ever since. These come with weak lungs: colds drop into bronchitis, which become pneumonia. When the school district throws him into COVID-19’s path, it asks him (again) to die for his students.
He had been teaching virtually, and while it wasn’t his choice or something he enjoyed, he managed. His students managed. But now, he’s been asked to risk his life so a few of them can “enjoy” the chance of face-to-face instruction, which translates to possible COVID-19 exposure. They have to wear masks. They have to sterilize their areas.
Doesn’t matter. COVID-19, says the CDC, has been proven to spread through aerosolized droplets at a distance greater than six feet after the infected person has left the area in instances where susceptible people were exposed in enclosed spaces and “inadequate ventilation or air-handling” allowed a build-up of particles. In other words: a susceptible person like an asthmatic teacher with an immune disorder. In other words: an enclosed space with inadequate ventilation like a classroom. They are asking my husband to contract COVID-19 so a few kids can return to face-to-face learning… while he still teaches the others virtually at the same time.
My Husband Tries Hard Not To Contract COVID-19
My husband has taken serious precautions against the near-certainty that he will contract COVID-19. He wears an N-95 daily, which he’s been forbidden to do by his district, who says they should be reserved for medical personnel. No one hands him papers; he’s constructed a sterilizer through which he passes everything people have to hand him: papers, etc. He keeps the few windows in his room blasting with fans blowing clean air into the room, rain or shine, no matter what the weather. He isn’t going take the virus lying down.
He teaches behind plexiglass. His students are not allowed within six feet of him, but he has to pass out papers. He has to supervise lunch, held outside, during which he yells (behind a mask) for 15-year-olds to practice social distance. Obviously, they are not wearing masks while they eat. It will only take one exposure for him to contract COVID-19.
One of his colleagues persistently refuses to wear a mask without students present. Convince me she wears a mask anywhere else. Convince me she masks up at the grocery store or the gas station. She works on his hall. She approaches him. He backs up. Other colleagues have approached him. He backs up. He has informed them they have to stay six feet away from him and maintain social-distance protocols.
He Takes Extra Precautions
All work is done virtually. He doesn’t bring papers home. When he comes home, he strips in the laundry room, throws all of his clothes immediately into the washer, walks naked across the house, and immediately showers. I am not allowed to use his car, which he calls “a minor hot zone.”
It only takes one student with one case and one cough for him to contract COVID-19 and spread it to our family.
The Consequences If My Husband Were To Contract COVID-19
We have children. We have no one to help us care for them. If he were to contract COVID-19, he is on his own as I take care of the kids and isolate him. If any of us contract COVID-19 from him (likely), we have to only pray the case isn’t bad enough to send us to the hospital while we manage childcare through it. The thought chokes me, sends me bolt-upright at three in the morning in terror.
What the hell would we do?
I’m also in a high-risk category.
I feel like our family is living on borrowed time. Since March, we’ve lived in social isolation to prevent this very scenario. Now we’re thrown into the middle of it because we can’t afford for my husband to give up his career. My husband assures me he’s taken every precaution. He assures me that between his masks and the care he’s taken, that he’s safe. He says he won’t contract COVID-19.
One kid. One cough.
He never asked to die for your kids. He never signed on to teach face-to-face during the worst pandemic America’s ever seen— while numbers are currently spiking. And yet you’ve sent him to do it anyway. I only have three words for the people responsible for the stress our family’s lived under, our terror, our contingency planning. Three words for those who’ve given us our sleepless nights and tears and worry. Three words for the image of my intubated husband struggling for air, of the disease he could pass to my babies who could also end up struggling to breathe.
Three words, you bastards: Go to hell.
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