While naturally most are fixating on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases but less on the number of cases of successful recovery, what is presently underway is a politicization of the pandemic. Lost in this politically polarized climate is a serious discussion on the residual and long- term impact that the pandemic will have on emotional and mental health. At the forefront of the issue are the millions of children who suddenly find themselves unable to attend traditional schools, and to interact and experience what has become an integral part of human development for centuries.
Some observers have warned that this period in which children are not socializing with their peers and are not involved in interactive learning will cause mental repercussions in the midst of this pandemic. Many educators have voiced concerns that even with access to online learning, a vast majority of teachers are untrained and inexperienced in the techniques of distance learning. The challenge is amplified when combined with younger children whose attention span is limited. Some have argued that this condition will ill-affect those the most that were already at a vast disadvantage in the inner-city school districts and underfunded communities. This, of course, means that black, brown, and poor white children will suffer the most in such conditions. In addition, hotlines for the reporting of physical and emotional abuse of children have seen an alarming rise of calls reporting such abuse. Reports on domestic violence have also substantially risen since the shutdown and pandemic.
As a result of the politicization of the pandemic, several of the local unions that represent teachers have not shied away from exposing their political ties and agenda. To a large extent, the children have become a political football along the path to finding some degree of normalcy to schooling in the climate of the coronavirus. In cities like Los Angeles that already had major dysfunctional and inept local leadership, the pandemic has exacerbated the situation.
Meanwhile, the battle to follow prescribed safety protocols and attempts to slow the spread of the virus are a challenge. A public that is exasperated and under mental and emotional stress is expressing that distress in violent incidents. For example, several employees and security personnel at some of the major retail outlets have been verbally abused and physically attacked by clients who refused to use a mask and engage in social distancing. The city authority has been called on numerous occasions to shut down illegal house parties in residential neighborhoods in and around the city and state.
Since we cannot hide from the coronavirus in perpetuity and it’s not going anywhere, it is clear, that society will have to learn how to co-exist with the invisible virus, in the same way that we have lived with other viruses. What that new normal and adjustment will look like at this stage is anybody’s guess.