At-risk families fear the return to school

Most of the children and teenagers who are infected with the virus have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, but studies show they can infect others.

Photo of the Haddad family (photo credit: ELIYAHU HADDAD)
Photo of the Haddad family
(photo credit: ELIYAHU HADDAD)
Eliyahu “Lee” Haddad, who underwent major open-heart surgery last year and is especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, said that “because of my situation, I can’t just roll the dice and say, ‘Let’s get through this’” – as he considers the prospect of sending his four children back to school on September 1.
The second wave of the virus has been marked by a high number of clusters of infection in schools, such as the one at the Gymnasia Rehavia School in Jerusalem where 140 students contracted the virus.
Most of the children and teenagers who are infected with the virus either don’t have any symptoms or only have mild ones, but studies show they can infect others nevertheless.
Last week, Takeshi Kasai, regional director of the World Health Organization, announced that an analysis of six million cases with detailed information reported to the WHO between February 24 and July 12 showed an increase in the proportion of children and young people infected.
Haddad, a venture capitalist who lives in Har Adar and is the father of two sets of twins, knows that his children would love to return to school with their friends, and said, “I feel bad for them.”
“They’re very sociable. Of course they would like to go back.” But due to his medical history, it would pose a huge health risk for him if they went back to school.
Given that their schools in Jerusalem will be doing distance-learning three days a week anyway, Haddad feels it is not unreasonable to ask that his children be allowed to stay home and learn online on all school days.
Having suffered a ruptured aorta in late 2018, Haddad could be in grave danger if he were infected with the coronavirus.
Since the crisis began last winter, the Health Ministry has repeatedly urged people with health conditions like his to isolate themselves as much as possible.
The issue of high-risk teachers and school staff members has also come up ahead of the school reopening, and the Teachers Union is fighting for their interests. But, as yet, the Education Ministry has offered no solutions for families like the Haddads.
Since thousands of Israelis have heart conditions or other issues that cause them to be immune-suppressed, such as undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, it stands to reason that many families are coping with this issue.
He has spoken repeatedly to officials at his children’s school, who have told him that without a mandate from the Education Ministry to make special accommodations for children who cannot come to school, they find it difficult to offer a solution.
A spokesperson for the ministry told The Jerusalem Post that the issue was under discussion. But Haddad worries that no one is taking this problem seriously.
Haddad says that offering distance learning only on certain days is similar to access ramps for people in wheelchairs “being removed every third day. You don’t just tell someone in a wheelchair, ‘OK, three days a week you take the stairs.’”
“I feel I don’t have a voice; I feel disenfranchised,” he said. As a businessman, he understands the economic ramifications of keeping schools closed and isn’t arguing for that, but only that his family’s hardly unique situation be taken into account by the decision makers in the Education Ministry.
But, although he has tried, “I haven’t been able to get through to anybody there. No one wants to take any responsibility.”
Haddad, who is observant, said, “Torah law says preserving health overrides everything.” Now he wishes that education officials would look at his case – and those of people like him – from this point of view.