When Joan Holliday and I wrote “The Story of Kennett- Shaping the Future One Child at a Time,” we were talking to folks about the normal life in Kennett. The everyday heroic efforts to make great lives for ourselves and our kids. The international pandemic of 2020 has provided the community a whole new set of challenges. You have to go back to the great1918 Spanish Flu outbreak, where 20,000 people died in Philadelphia alone, to have anything close to what we are experiencing now.
My daughter-in-law is an ICU nurse in Norway and she was told thaton Friday, March 20th at noon,all the people of Switzerland cheered in support of all healthcare workers. She said;“Thank you, and we in the healthcare industry, and all others that have to work are clapping for all you people that take this seriously by keeping distance, washing your hands and staying at home so we have more time to help each person who needs it.”
The good news is that there are real signs of the curve flattening. On Monday, March 30th, the daily increase of deaths in the US dropped to 10% (260) from an average of 24% a day for the last two weeks. By Saturday it was 1,306 deaths/day, still going up at double digits of the total deaths. But there are other data points that give a level of confidence that social distancing is helping.
I love it that we are going to be the ventilator capital of the world as Ford and Chevy fight it out with Dyson and other companies. Still we can see that the US will probably have responded more poorly than any other developed country measured by the number of deaths.It is April and we are still grossly under resourced in our ability to test for the virus. The White House says if we only lose 100,000 people we will have done a great job which isn’t far wrong if the 1918 Spanish flu is your benchmark. We do have hope for an effective vaccine by the first quarter of 2021 and concerns that a variation of the virus may come back in the fall like the 1918 flu. But let’s focus on the now.
The one thing we know is we will get through it. But the key to Kennett’s success is to keep the safety net intact in these difficult times. Washington has passed a $2 trillion safety net that includes the corporations, small businesses and the unemployed. I asked a close friend how her kids were doing and she said; “They were all fired from their jobs, but other than that there’re fine.” I remember developing a mantra during my deployments to Vietnam--Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff. If you weren’t sending your men home in body bags you were doing OK.
The people who will really suffer from this event are the 75,000 food at risk and under resourced poor in Chester County.This includes almost half the population of the borough of Kennett Square. These families and individuals don’t have an extra $400 in the bank for a rainy day and are living from pay check to pay check.They already rely on Uncle Sam for SNAP or Food Stamps, which provides them a good 75% of their foodneeds. Their kids get a meal or two at school every weekday and they can rely on the Food Cupboard for an extra week of food once a month.
In the past, the Food Cupboard had been getting lots of its food from the local grocery stores but that has pretty much dried up as people are hording and the shelves are pretty thin. So now they have to rely more on financial donations and support from federal and state food distribution centers.The 80 volunteers that make the Food Cupboard work are mostly seniors, who are most at risk, so the Cupboard has cut back from three days a week to one.
The other area that concerns me are the 85,000 Chester County school students who are now going to school on-line.It took 2 years for the New Orleans School kids to catch up after Katrina. A great education is such a key part of Kennett’s success story. COVID-19 hit just before the last marking period of the year and the teachers have deployed new programs. They have been working together to provide the best syllabus you could imagine for this new way of teaching. I talked to one middle school language arts teacher and this week she is doing a segment on contrasting and comparing our lives now with the time of the Mount Vesuvius eruption and Pompeii Italy. I can imagine a parent complaining about our lives in quarantine and the student saying; “Mom, this is nothing. Just think what it would be like to have hot molten lava running into our kitchen.”
This is unchartered territory. How many kids actually have the tools of WiFi and a computer to participate? Can they use their smart phones? Will the marking period count towards their All U? These are some of the best educators in the country and they will make it work. I doubt any student will be held back because of the experience and everything will be done to make up anything they have missed. Hopefully we can do it in less than 2 years. Plus they will have one unbelievable story to tell their grand kids about the COVID-19 virus of 2020.
Meanwhile, keep washing your hands, practice social distancing, and stay home. This too shall past.
The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at Georgert@gmail.com
Donations can be made at;https://www.kacsonline.net.