Gazette-Mail editorial: Outdoor graduations need to be safe

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It’s great that Kanawha County schools are moving ahead with plans to allow in-person high school graduation ceremonies conducted outdoors. The novel coronavirus pandemic had already robbed students of so much, and the planned “virtual graduation” ceremonies seemed very unpopular and a poor substitute.

Gazette-Mail reporter Ryan Quinn noted in a report Thursday that high schools wishing to conduct such ceremonies won’t be able to do so until at least June 22, per guidelines from the West Virginia Board of Education regarding COVID-19 and outdoor events. Students must sit 6 feet apart, as will family groups attending the ceremony. No hugs. No handshakes.

Coming up with such a seating arrangement could prove difficult. There are only so many outdoor venues in Kanawha County that can accommodate such a large crowd with proper spacing, and some of those — such as high school football fields — are undergoing turf renovations. So there will be some logistical and scheduling challenges.

As for disallowing hugs and handshakes, that’s going to be tough. It’s the right policy. COVID-19 spreads through body contact, and the more bodies in one place over a longer period of time, the more likely the virus that has, thus far, killed more than 112,000 people in the United States — and for which there is no vaccine or cure — is to spread.

That has to be taken seriously, especially at an event where knowing who has been where and had contact with whom is virtually impossible. But such a policy also is going to be difficult to enforce at such a joyous occasion. The temptation to disregard the guidelines will be strong. Students and parents, friends and family need to remember that they are not only protecting themselves, but everyone else, when they keep the appropriate distance and eliminate physical contact with anyone not living in their household.

Maybe the landscape regarding the virus will have changed by late June or early July, but, for now, plan to celebrate with public health in mind.

Funerals for Saturday, July 4, 2020

Hinzman, Mary - 3 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Payne, Gregory - Noon, Brookside Ministries, Mt. Carbon.

Spaur, Annette - 1 p.m., John H. Taylor Funeral Home, Spencer.