PHOENIX - Eight days into the schoolyear, all five daughters of Amber Cessac, ages 4-10, had tested positive for COVID-19.
Cessac stated that having them all get sick at the same time and worrying about long-term consequences as other parents at school and her mother downplayed it, "broke some inside me."
She said that stress and anxiety had been "contained up". "It just felt like it was so defeating and made my feel so helpless," she said.
Cessac, like all parents, has dealt with pandemic stress since over 18 months.
The exhaustion of worrying about it all--made worse by the spread and infected delta variant, especially among those who refuse to get vaccinated. This has led to a significant increase in the number of infections in children.
Online school disrupted the education of children and their parents. As parents struggled to determine the proper protocols, this year's return to in-person school caused more tension and increased exposures. Many parents have been exhausted by the politicization and repercussions of vaccines and shut downs. It can be difficult to decide what is acceptable for children to do.
Amanda Zelechoski (a Purdue University Northwest psychologist professor) said that parents are at an all-time high of exhaustion. She co-founded Pandemic Parenting and the website. "We've been in survival mode for over a year now, and it is relentless."
Many people view schools as a constant concern. It has been shown that masks in schools help to reduce virus spread. A majority of Americans support the requirement of masksfor teachers and students. This is a sharply divided issue. Some Republican governors tried to ban mask mandates. There are many differences in the policies of different districts regarding masks, testing, and quarantines. After schools were reopened in August due to the high rate of coronavirus infection , many districts had to stop in-person learning.
Masks are not required at the charter school Cessac's older daughters attend in Austin, Texas. The children of Cessac's four older daughters, who are not yet vaccinated, informed her that they are among only a few students in their class that can wear masks. She sent them back to school once they were fully recovered.
She said, "It's no better anywhere else." "All moms feel trapped in this situation. We don't have any options.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 5.5 million American children have been tested positive for COVID-19 . 20% of all cases of child illness occurred since the start of the school year. Children are less likely to die from severe illness, but at least 498 children have already died.
Although vaccines are available for children as young at 12 years old since May, rates of vaccination lag behind that of adults. Federal data shows that about half of 16-year-olds and 17-year olds have been vaccinated. Only 43% of 12-year-olds and 15-year-olds have it. Two-thirds of Americans are vaccinated.
Even though a vaccine is available for children younger than five years old, they are still more at risk. Many parents were unsure how to protect their children. Zelechoski stated that parents still struggle with making decisions and what is safe for their family. He also said that feeling invisible or left behind by other sections of society was a sign of a lost generation.
More than a million students fled U.S. public school in 2020, which was marked with widespread remote classes. Although it's unclear what happened in this academic year's school year, some parents have found alternatives to mask mandates.
"Last year it was OK. The whole world has gone mad and we all have to adapt to this. She said that it is now a different type of stress. "We are trying to control this as a nation or at the very least as a country, but there are so many people who don't participate in that. My children should be in school as much or more than anyone else.
Others parents believe that their children are best served by being at school, but they don't know what to do with them.
Heather Buen is a Democratic politics organizer in Fort Worth, Texas. She works at a local utility, and insists that her children wear masks and wash hands even when teachers or other children don't.
She said, "It takes a lot of effort that to maintain that."
She believes that seeing their father, an electrician, receive COVID-19 scared them into taking preventive measures. Buen stated that the five children at school have not been sick and that she feels reassured by the fact that more students and staff now wear masks than they did in the beginning of school year. Despite this, parents from three other districts, including hers , have filed lawsuits, claiming that schools violate students' constitutional rights due to the absence of a mask mandate.
Stress can also be caused by lawsuits, fights at school boards, and dissension among family members or friends.
Sarah Brazwell has two children, a 3-year old in daycare and a 9 year-old in elementary school. She isn't ready to be vaccinated . Despite overwhelming evidence that masks can protect against the virus, she stated that wearing masks in her Florida Panhandle community is "a little pointless" since so few people do.
The pandemic has caused a lot of stress in the area of child care. This includes finding and paying for it as well as worrying about spreading diseases. It can be hard to find labor as there is a shortage. Children can be sent home from day care for minor illnesses or exposures. Parents will need to scramble for childcare.
Deanna Manbeck is the board president of the Wilmington-based, non-profit daycare. She carries the responsibility for the 20 families that she serves. Teachers must wear masks, but staff members are not required to have vaccines.
"How can I tell parents we are unable to care for their children, and that they must find a new center rather than a mandate?" She said that she wanted all teachers to get vaccinated as a mom but was not in a position to do so.
Jeff Sheldon began interviewing nannies to care for their sons. The interview was conducted after the family had lost their day care and their child developed routine illnesses. His wife was ill and he worked from home. Their mothers were also supportive.
He said, "We can't continue living with the uncertainty that class will close at any moment," and referred to Lincoln's day care, Nebraska, noting his older son has flourished there.
Although Sheldon was more capable than his wife who works for the public schools system to work remotely, the pandemic has highlighted the difficulties faced by women, in particular when it comes to juggling work and child care. Millions of women have quit the workforce.
Dr. Ankita Modi was briefly considering taking a leave. She is a Charlotte pediatrician. She said she was shocked that the idea of taking a leave even occurred to her, but she was so desperate. She claims that contact tracing is not effective in her school district because masks aren't mandatory and there's no remote schools option. The district was threatened with legal action by local health officials before they agreed to new procedures at September's end.
The youngest child, 11 years old, is not yet eligible for vaccination. However, the other two are. She said, "It feels as if you're knowingly putting their at a real concrete danger every day." That, as a parent is very unnerving. Since school started, I don't believe anyone has slept well.