Lightning argument doesn’t strike right

On April 5, the Index-Journal published a Guest View from Paul Gilbert in which he made a case for all teachers to return to the classroom in these waning days of the worst pandemic in recent history.

He starts off his argument with “students and teachers have a better chance of getting struck and killed by lightning than dying from the virus” before moving into boring and irrelevant partisan attacks on Democrats and the media.

First, some actual facts. According to the NOAA, over the last 40 years, the U.S. averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities. In the past 12 months, however, the U.S. suffered 550,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19, not to mention the millions who contracted it and suffered weeks of debilitation on top of crippling health care costs. It doesn’t take a degree in mathematics to see Mr. Gilbert’s claim to be wildly false.

Perhaps we should listen to the concerns of the teachers, demonstrate the safety protocols being implemented in the schools and actually show those protocols are followed. Let’s have an honest conversation about the research in this area and treat teachers as partners in the decision-making rather than forcing them back to crowded buildings by proverbial gunpoint. Most important, let’s approach this with honesty. We’ve had four years of “alternate facts” already and it didn’t work.