Talbot County Public Schools and Queen Anne’s County Public Schools have announced they are going back to only virtual and distance learning due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

There has been a surge in testing and positive coronavirus cases in Maryland and other states. Government health agencies are also reporting a rise in hospitalizations and positivity rates for COVID-19.

We need to protect those most vulnerable to the virus — in particular seniors, those in nursing homes and those with underlying health conditions.

We also need to make sure our school districts, public health officials and elected leaders are aware of and are balancing all the dynamics and impacts of COVID-19.

Closing schools again to classroom instruction impacts students and their families. Districts and their leaders need to be as transparent and up front as possible when it comes to these decisions and actions.

We continue to stress the economic, social and mental health impacts cannot get lost in the challenges and concerns created by COVID.

Having kids sequestered at home is not just a hassle for some parents and households. It creates challenges for parents’ and grandparents’ abilities to work. That can threaten livelihoods and more.

In addition to the health impacts, the pandemic and our reactions to it have already cost scores of jobs and have hurt small businesses. Another round of shutdowns and restrictions could be the tipping points for even more jobs, local businesses and restaurants.

Public health needs to be protected — including the health of teachers, staff and students.

But we continue to worry that our prescriptions for the coronavirus and the latest rise in reported cases will magnify other problems.

We have students without internet access. While school districts have been working to help those students with hot spots and to accommodate in classroom settings, it is a challenge that cannot be ignored. We have students who are dropping out because they can’t connect to virtual classes. Other students are having to take care of younger siblings and others are in toxic or even abusive situations at home. Let’s not forget those factors.

The previous shutdowns and all the stresses of the year 2020 have created a mental health, substance abuse and addiction crisis here on the Eastern Shore and across the country.

Some of those challenges our neighbors are facing stem from the social isolations while others are magnified by lost jobs and pay cuts.

School districts and other elected decision makers across the Shore and the country need to take prudent steps related to the virus. They just need to be aware that their decisions and actions are not only in a public health vacuum.

The actions we are seeing in other states and cities — in particular Chicago, New York, Michigan and California — are very worrisome.

Some of the new restrictions and warnings will decimate already hurting small businesses and restaurants. They will cost even more jobs.

In some instances, the actions infringe on our civil liberties, personal and economic freedoms. Those have also been lost at times as we navigate COVID-19.

Protecting public health is important but we should not sacrifice everything else as the prescription to the pandemic.

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