Editorial: Thumbs up to a milder flu season, down to shortage of subs at schools

Thumbs up to nursing homes in Connecticut receiving initial doses of a coronavirus vaccine, allowing staff and residents to be among the first to get the protection. This is fitting as during the early months of the pandemic a majority of deaths came from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Hospitalizations overall have begun to decline slightly in Connecticut, which is a positive direction, but by no means a license to let down our vigilance during the holidays. Wear a mask in public, observe social distancing, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

Thumbs up to a milder flu season — so far — this winter. Health experts had been worried about a “twin-demic” of the coronavirus on top an active seasonal flu. But so far the number of cases are lower than normal. By Dec. 12 only 19 people in Connecticut tested positive to the flu, compared with last year when 69 residents had been hospitalized in early December. By the end of 2019, the state had seen 1,613 people test positive. Part of the reason may be that social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands happen to be wise habits for avoidance of the flu.

Thumbs up to last week’s snowstorm, the first one of the season, passing with relatively minor setbacks. Municipal leaders throughout the state praised their public works crews for clearing roads while about 10 inches of snow fell from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning. Additionally, outages reported by Eversource peaked at no more than 400, and were resolved relatively quickly. That state police recorded no fatalities on the roads among the accidents on the roads was indicative of how uneventfully this storm passed. That fewer drivers were traveling to and from work during the pandemic might have helped, but it was a relief to see local and state systems work somewhat ideally in a storm.

Thumbs up to state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona reaching the short list of President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for U.S. Secretary of Education. Others are being vetted as well, and Cardona ultimately may not be nominated, but it speaks to the high caliber of Connecticut’s education leadership that Cardona is considered. He assumed the state’s highest education post in August 2019, and has been a steady force guiding the schools through the turbulent time of the pandemic.

Thumbs down to a disconcerting shortage of available substitute teachers in Connecticut. It’s understandable that seasoned substitutes could be hesitant to walk into classrooms during the pandemic, but the fallout is putting even more pressure on full-time staff as well as a necessity to hold additional remote learning. Norwalk offers a stark example of the dilemma. A shortage of available teachers led to 11 schools having to revert to distance learning. Some districts increased their rate of pay (Stamford, for example, raised their rate from $95 to $105 a day). If nothing else, the situation has underscored the value of substitutes.