Some Pierce County parents fear return to remote learning as health officials warns of high COVID-19 cases

One new COVID-19 death and 32 cases were reported on Monday from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Officials said a man in his 60’s from Lakewood with underlying health conditions died from coronavirus. This brings totals to 181 deaths and 8,626 cases in Pierce County.

TPCHD said recent high case rates are worrisome and recommended school districts to begin preparing for a return to remote learning. Officials said if a decline doesn’t happen over the next two weeks, kids could be back to learning from home as early as October 26th.

“People need to understand these are important things that affect all of us and if we want schools to reopen for in-person learning if we want businesses to reopen so that our economy can start to recover we’ve got to control this virus and each of us makes a difference,” said Dr. Anthony Chen, director of health at TPCHD.

Chen said staff is closely monitoring case rates and plan to give adequate notice should kids in Pierce County have to go back to remote learning. He explained there will be an exception for students with high needs to work in small groups of five. This includes children in special education, those who can’t afford the tools for remote learning, or don’t have access to good internet connection.

“We really do want to get kids back into in-person learning, if we can, because we know that’s not working out very well for some kids. And, this could impact them for a long period of time. We want to get as many kids safely back to in-person learning as possible,” said Chen.

The highest COVID-19 numbers over the past weekend peeked at 98 cases. 25 of the cases were from a slight backlog and 14 cases were reported from a long-term care facility. Still, Chen said 50 percent of the county’s cases are people under age 40, and of those 10 percent are younger than 20-years-old. Chen said the numbers are unsettling.

“When we get lazy, when we get complacent, get frustrated and stop doing it, whatever the reason is, the virus doesn’t stop. And once it gets going, it gets into a group of people it just magnifies,” said Chen.

Kristal Mensonides, a mother of four, has children in 1st, 3rd, 6th and 8th grades. She said during the spring semester of remote learning, her kids felt lonely and isolated. They returned to in-person learning at their private schools in September. Mensonides said the thought of returning to remote learning is the last thing she wants to hear.

“What’s going to happen next? When is the rug going to be pulled from under us?” said Mensonides. “There’s just no reason why they can’t make something work for these kids.”

Mesonides said the back-and-forth for kids in and out of the classroom could be detrimental to their education. She said the health department asking school districts to prepare for remote learning contradicts the loosened regulations in the community.

“We’re just going to invite more people to going to restaurants and all these things, but we’re not going to allow our kids to go to school? It doesn’t add up and it doesn’t make sense,” said Mensonides.

The mother of four said she believes Governor Jay Inslee should deem schools and teachers essential.

“They are 100 percent needed. There’s a lot of kids where that’s their safe place,” said Mesonides. “The schools are doing the best they can and they’re having to figure out all these regulations and rules and guidelines. Schools are doing hands-down great job. But the 'yo-yoing' back and forth is kind of coming from beyond them and it’s out of their control."