It is an insane, upside down, inexplicable world we're living in -- and not just here in Franklin County.
Just last week, I wrote a news story about the various plans and schemes officials have come up with to educate our children beginning next month.
Franklin County, like most districts across the state, has different options. One is full-time, face-to-face school; one is part-time face-to-face school with days of virtual learning interspersed and the third option is entirely virtual learning.
Franklin County also created a full-time virtual learning academy for any Franklin County child whose parents see that option as best. An estimated 14 percent of local parents are expected to choose this option for their kids.
Also, last week, Gov. Roy Cooper decreed that all school districts must use at least the "hybrid" option this fall, meaning some face-to-face classes and some virtual learning -- or go to all virtual classes.
He made this decision even though the state Department of Public Instruction is still shut down and officials there are working from home or, should I say "working" from home?
Now if education leaders from the state's Pink Palace -- as the DPI office is derisively known by some -- don't feel safe enough to go back to work, how can they in good conscience recommend that we send our kids back to face-to-face classes, even part-time?
Locally, even the Franklin County Board of Education is still meeting virtually, meaning they are logging in via computer rather than meeting face to face.
To be clear, the school board meets, on average, two or three hours a month, in the evening, in a large, former classroom with lots of space for social distancing. Prior to the pandemic, there usually were the seven-member board, about eight or 10 administrators, their lawyer and one grumpy old reporter in attendance. Not many members of the public attend.
So, if the school board is afraid to meet face-to-face (and honestly, I don't blame them!) is it wise to be sending our kids back to face-to-face class work, even part time?
And what about teachers?
Each of them -- and some of them are more "experienced" and have other risk factors besides age -- will be in classes four days a week, teaching kids face to face.
And yet, we have state and local officials telling parents to just load up their kids on a long, yellow tube with really poor ventilation -- but only one kid to a seat, please -- and ride to and from school.
We're going to expect bus drivers -- at each and every bus stop -- to climb out of the bus and check the temperatures of each kid before allowing them to climb aboard.
If a kid has a fever, that child is to be left standing at the bus stop, apparently in the hope that the kid, even a kindergarten or first-grade student, will be able to get back to the house, get inside and find a responsible adult to care for them.
Once at school, the halls are supposed to be one way, kids are supposed to social distance in the classrooms and elsewhere and each and every one of them is required to wear a mask, all day long.
Teachers and other staff are to be masked up all day long, too.
Really? That's what the state says is supposed to happen. Believe any of it?
Yet when I go to the post office or on rare trips to grocery and other stores, probably a third to a half of the people are unmasked.
Yet we're apparently dead set on sending our kids back to school, even though public libraries are closed, many government offices are closed to the public and many businesses remain closed and many that are open are allowed to run at only partial capacity.
But we're sending our kids to schools for two days a week in classrooms that will be filled with kids four days a week to be taught by teachers who have been exposed to "virus vectors," er, I mean kids, four days a week.
In someone's world this makes sense.
Of course, some Americans still disavow established science and maintain this COVID-19 virus is no big deal and no worse than the flu.
Not me. I've helped write or edit at least 21 obituaries of people known to have been killed by COVID-19 right here in Franklin County.
And as horrible as that is, the national death toll has long surpassed DOUBLE the number of people who died in the brutal, seemingly endless Vietnam War.
Since this COVID-19 pandemic began, we have chronicled its spread in Franklin County from a tiny handful to, at a most recent count, more than 600 CONFIRMED cases.
Truth be told, because testing has been so sporadic and often unavailable, best estimates are that the actual number of cases in Franklin County is between 5,000 and 10,000 -- and some estimates have projected the total somewhere north of 14,000 cases.
It's also likely that deaths are being way under counted because so few autopsies are done if people, especially, the elderly die. Usually, such deaths are reported as respiratory failure, heart failure or just the inevitable result of old age without anything more definitive being discovered.
But it's not just older people who are being affected. Recently a "cluster" of five COVID-19 cases was discovered in a Louisburg Day Care facility, all of the cases were children. A sixth case has now been added to that total.
And yet while much of our government stays essentially locked down and working from home, we're gung-ho to send our youngest, most innocent members of our community back to school.
Worse than the current situation is what the leader of the Centers for Disease Control had to say last week.
This fall and winter, said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield, "will be one of the most difficult times we've experienced in American public health."
Even as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, experts say we probably haven't seen the worst of the outbreak yet -- and the normal arrival of the flu season will make the situation worse.
That word comes, on the day this was written, that this nation recorded its highest-ever daily count of more than 60,000 new infections.
The U.S. has broken its daily records for new COVID-19 cases six times in the previous two weeks (when this was written) and there is no evidence of the infection rate slowing a bit.
But what makes the situation truly bizarre is that health officials say that if we all just wore facial coverings for the next four to six weeks, the increase of the virus infections could be drastically slowed to the point where, maybe, it could be contained.
But yet we still feud about wearing masks -- and political idiots like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ban cities and counties there from requiring masks, even though they are known to be a major help. Georgia is quickly becoming a hot bed for virus infections and deaths.
Much of the confusion has resulted from an almost total lack of leadership from this nation's highest elected positions.
President Donald Trump, who first proclaimed loudly that the virus would be quickly contained and amount to very little, has changed his tune so many times it's impossible to count.
He's touted drugs that are largely believed to be ineffective and even espoused hare-brained ideas like drinking disinfectant and using bright lights to effect cures, leaving medical professionals looking like they have just seen a UFO land on Main Street.
Worse, Trump has totally politicized the pandemic and the virus, calling it everything from a hoax to a media/Democratic inspired effort to oust him from office.
It is truly bizarre that anyone, especially some of those closest to the President of these United States, can listen to such blatant nonsense and then turn around and parrot that same nonsense.
Yet, they have, although more and more those words are falling on deaf ears.
Ultimately, I believe the American people will use common sense and rely on science to at least some degree as they deal with the health threats to them and their families that are certainly coming over the next few months.
Most likely, it will be parents -- not politicians and education officials -- who will determine how and when schools will reopen and how children will be educated for the next 12 to 24 months until, hopefully, this pandemic will end.
Whatever happens, you can bet the farm that historians will have a lot of fun writing about this pandemic and our response to it.
But I doubt that there is a screen writer or a novelist alive who can recapture the image we all saw last week on television.
As the confirmed victims of the pandemic in America alone surpassed 3.7 million and the American death rate passed 140,00, what was the President of the United State doing?
Donald Trump was sitting behind his desk in the White House hawking cans of beans simply because the CEO of the company that canned those beans had something nice to say about him.
Think about that image -- and what it says to the rest of the world.
The President of the United States peddling beans like a late night TV huckster while millions of Americans are afflicted by virus that already has killed more than 140,000 of their fellow Americans.
Yes, beans. Peddling beans. From the White House!
And it's just not him. One of his chief advisors and first daughter, Ivanka, had been on the tube earlier in the day, also hawking black beans. There she was, in a white silk outfit (or so I'm told 'cause I couldn't tell silk from polyester in a photo) proudly holding up a can of black beans, looking like Vanna White flipping letters. (My apologies to Vanna!)
The first daughter reduced to peddling beans while millions are infected with a mysterious virus, the economy is in shambles and Americans are scrambling just to survive.
Maybe she and her dad are correct. Maybe we'll all be surviving on black beans before long. But don't plan on mixing them with rice anytime soon because rice is as scarce today as toilet paper was several weeks ago.
Now, I've got nothing against beans. Truth be told, they are probably good for you (well, maybe not the canned ones) and America does need the gas. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
But after writing about schools reopening for kids and teachers while many adults huddle safely at home, helping tell the story of a rising pandemic right in our own county and how it has affected local kids in one of the best-run day care centers around, and reporting on the death of another Franklin Countian from the virus, you can perhaps understand why I was so bumfuzzled, confused and yes, irate, to watch a President of the United State selling beans in the midst of a national crisis that is getting worse daily.
Obviously, I can't fix any of this.
But here are a few suggestions that might help.
1) Use common sense -- and rely on science, not politics. Listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, he's the expert, not some wacko politician who just wants their moments of fame.
2) Do what you truly believe is best for your children. Listen to the options available to you, make sane, responsible decisions.
3) Understand that the dangers from this virus are growing daily -- and that no one is immune. The virus doesn't care about your political affiliation, your age or what type of dog you parent. Or, even what brand of beans you serve.
4) Take care of yourself and your family. Be careful. If you go into a business that is not taking this virus seriously, leave. Go somewhere else. It's not worth the risk.
5) Wear a face covering if you're around others that you don't live with. It may help protect you, it will help keep you from spreading a virus you may not even know you have. It's better to be safe than to infect others.
6) Wash your hands with soap and warm water, thoroughly and often.
7) Keep in mind that there is little you want to do -- party, vacation, travel, etc., -- that is worth dying for!
We're all in this together and while we may not understand much of it, we can get through this if we stick together and use our heads.
Stay safe. And help keep others safe.