Feb 11, 2021 / Education | Health Care

McMorris Rodgers Fights to Reopen Schools in Eastern Washington, Shares Families’ Struggles with COVID-19

Washington, D.C. (February 11, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today continued fighting to reopen schools in Eastern Washington, sharing stories from families who have felt the deep impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle. During today’s Energy and Commerce Committee markup of the COVID-19 reconciliation package, Rodgers said the following:

“Five separate times, we upheld the rich history of bipartisan work on Energy and Commerce. We appealed to the better angels among us, and we plowed the hard ground necessary to legislate and deliver relief to people in desperate need. It was for families like Shannon’s in Spokane Valley.”

“Shannon says that virtual school is nothing like homeschool. Her daughter is in hybrid learning. She’s falling behind. Shannon coaches young athletes, too. She told me that young people in our state have been neglected. They’ve been ignored. They’re told that they’re not important. Her daughter’s friend tried to end her life.”

“I’ve heard from a mental health provider in Eastern Washington, she’s a mental health therapist. Her caseload is up seventy-five percent. In ten days, seven teens reported self harm and suicide attempts. All seven had zero history, but the isolation took a severe toll.”

“We all want [the pandemic] to end for the health and wellness of our communities—so that our kids can get back to school, people can get back to work, and everyone who wants to have the vaccine, and needs to have a vaccine gets one.”

“We need to get the vaccine in people’s arms—and we need to lead with the same urgency that we did to develop these vaccines through Operation Warp Speed. Let’s be bold. Let’s really figure out what it’s going to take to protect our most vulnerable populations, get people back to work, give people the courage to dream again. We need to increase the vaccination rate.”

“For families like Carla’s in my district. Carla is a mom of 3 teenagers. They want life to go back to normal. She’s a softball coach. 60 percent of her team is in counseling for anxiety and depression. She’s had young athletes call her in the middle of the night who are contemplating suicide. They don’t see a way through it.”

“Widespread vaccines to Americans is a way that we will get through it. It’s how we’re going to reopen and restore our way of life for our kids.”

This week, Cathy also joined her colleagues in sending a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to follow the science and get our children back in school. In the letter, the representatives wrote:

“Our children are suffering, and it is time to allow them to resume their education with in-person instruction. By allowing our nation’s schools to remain shuttered, you are depriving these children of the people and support systems they depend on. If you continue to ignore the data and allow special interest groups to hold your Administration hostage, you will be directly responsible for exacerbating the mental health crisis many children in this country are experiencing.”

Click here to read the full letter: LINK

Cathy stands by these families in Eastern Washington and continues to lead the effort to reopen schools in communities across the state. Click here to watch Cathy’s full opening statement and additional remarks, which included personal stories from the following Eastern Washington families:

Shannon, Spokane Valley

Shannon has three children, one of which attends public high school. Shannon told Cathy that virtual school is not working. Her daughter is falling behind in the classroom, and she feels completely ignored. She even had a friend try to end her own life. Shannon’s children and their friends feel like they are running out of hope.

Tiffany, Spokane Valley

Tiffany is a senior in Spokane Valley. She takes a full AP class load and is a captain in the colorguard. Despite her high marks before the pandemic, Tiffany has struggled with the challenges of remote learning. She spends multiple hours each night trying to make up for the lack of in-person instruction. Tiffany and her friends believe they are the forgotten class. Her parents told Cathy it has been difficult to watch her mental state decline, and her interest in the things she once loved wane. She feels as though what should have been one of the most memorable years of her life has been all but taken away. 

Carla, Spokane

Carla is the mother of three teenagers. Carla is also a softball coach, and she told Cathy that sixty percent of her team is in counseling for anxiety and depression as a result of pandemic policies. She had young athletes call her in the middle of the night who were contemplating suicide. They don’t see a way through this. She has seen firsthand the impact canceling sports and closing schools has had on her children and their friends. All they want is for life to go back to normal.

Heather, Liberty Lake

Heather is the mother of two children and works as a mental health therapist. She told Cathy this week that in just a ten day period, seven teens reported self harm behavior and suicide attempts. All seven had zero prior history. Parents are worried about their children as so many have become withdrawn and depressed. These are new mental health concerns, and they are a direct result of the continued severe isolation and disconnect.

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