Back to School: Covid Walks These Halls


Today is the first day of school for many of our children across the country. It’s one of my favorite days of the year, in fact. I love the smell of erasers and sharpened pencils, the wrinkle-free brilliance of new clothes, and the glimpse of a new classroom and new teachers waiting for us. 

But this year is different. Covid-19 continues to walk the halls of schools, and instead of feeling hopeful and lighthearted when I dropped my kids off this morning, I’m struggling with a heaviness in my limbs and heart. My two daughters head back into a school system with no mask mandate in a rural county with high transmission and low vaccination rates. Lucy and Susannah are 10 & 7, and they are among the unvaccinated in this country. 

Lucy Coe
S Coe

Our state governor is threatening to withhold funding to school systems that issue mask mandates. A robust system of misinformation campaigns about vaccinations and mitigation strategies is holding many families hostage to ever-rising numbers. The hits keep coming. 

Perhaps this is why Sarah Smarsh’s op-ed in this Sunday’s Times resonates so deeply: what do we do with our rage at this virus, at the systemic brokenness that allowed it to take such a deathly hold, and mercy, what do we do with our rage for our friends and neighbors whose risk assessment diverges so far from our own?

This last year of pandemic has taught me a lot about anger (it can eat you up); and it’s taught me a lot about grace: There is an infinite supply if we focus our energies there. Our fractured country needs to harness both right now if we’re going to stay human and humane. How are you hanging  in there? Let’s keep talking about it: rage and grace, vaccinations and community care, what it takes to stay in relationship right now. Send us your reflections by commenting below or emailing  We would love to hear what’s on your mind. 

— Whitney Kimball Coe 

P.S. The Rural Assembly is working with a number of partners to create and share resources about vaccinations. Check out these resources about mask wearing from the American Hospital Association, as well as the Childhood Vaccination Initiative from the Health Action Alliance

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