December 30, 2020, Submitted by Liza O'Reilly
Usually, Hingham is proud of the color red. Our town flag is red. The school colors are red and white. The parade route is lined with a red, white and blue stripe. But not this time, we achieved a new status and were colored with high-risk-COVID-red for the week of December 24th due to rising positive test rates in our community.
This status is a huge setback for our schools. Our schools and our community are explicitly linked and rely on each other to allow our students, teachers and staff to learn safely and confidently. We know from guidance and scientific publications that operating schools safely can be done when community-based transmission rates are low. This is no longer the case.
I invite you to join me as ‘One Hingham Together’ to change the COVID shade from Red to Green. The ultimate goal is zero cases, but we need to start somewhere. We need to cheer for Green instead of Big Red.
Our community would be a safer place for EVERYONE. Getting to Green would mean that our positivity rates go down significantly. When our community is a safer place, schools would have more students return to the classroom and we can all begin to rebuild to pre-COVID times.
- Our youngest learners could be in school rather than remote learning from home. They could be with their teachers, learning to read with support, socializing with peers and getting out of the house. Parents could focus on their jobs and responsibilities.
- Older students could benefit from being with teachers, seeing friends, participating in extracurricular activities, and resuming traditional school events, even if requiring modification.
- Teachers and school staff would gain comfort and confidence knowing that risk factors are lowered.
- The risk to public safety and essential service workers would reduce.
- Restaurants, stores, movie theaters and other businesses could open with more flexibility.
- I am sure you can think of other casualties of COVID restrictions that could resume if our community became safer.
How do we get there?
- Keep doing the basics such as wearing a mask, washing your hands, socially distancing at least 6 feet, and following the State and Local Guidance. A vaccine is coming, but full distribution is months away.
- Stop the behavior that makes us sick. I dropped off my high school student at school and saw four students who drove together, not one of them wearing a mask inside the car! Social media is full of photos of house and basement parties. These indoor events have to stop! We know how to beat this virus. Let’s do it!
- Find new ways to connect and socialize. My friend cancelled an annual holiday lunch and created a group text to share the news of the cancellation. The group text is a continuous sharing of joys, stresses and inspiration of the holiday. We found a new way to connect, laugh and support each other. Be creative!
What’s in it for you?
- Health - no matter your age, no one enjoys being sick or worse.
- Family and Friends - you don’t want to make others sick, be hospitalized or the cause of a death. You may not know that you carry the virus but you can infect others.
- Mental Health - Our children are suffering without the routines and social time at school. Parents are stressed about their children and themselves. Elderly are isolated from their families and each other. The isolation is impacting all of us. We need to beat this virus.
- No quarantine - When one person tests positive, the people who came in contact with them should quarantine for 14 days. I know of three people who could not enjoy their families during the holiday because they were quarantining due to the positive test results of their employers, friends and team members. We are separated enough. Let’s not create additional isolation.
Together we can turn Hingham from Red to Green. Please join me in making “One Hingham Together in 2021” your New Year’s Resolution. The students, staff and families of Hingham Public Schools will be grateful for your support and cooperation.
Liza O’Reilly has been a member of the Hingham School Committee since 2013.