Lenore Skenazy: Lost and Found: Kid Edition
Lenore Skenazy

Lenore Skenazy: Lost and Found: Kid Edition

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Oh, dear, what can the matter be

Oh, dear, what can the matter be?

Oh, dear, what can the matter be?

Johnny’s so long at the fair.

That fear is so common and persistent that that song dates back at least to the 1700s, according to ye olde Wikipedia. Thus it has been for generations: Kids get lost at the fair.

Or at least they used to.

But a fascinating piece by Sahar Fatima in the Canadian newspaper The Star found that lost kids are nearly a lost tradition. Fatima interviewed one 60-ish man, Wayne Malley, who recalled getting separated from his folks at age 5 when distracted by the excitement of the Canadian National Exposition.

Back then, Fatima wrote, “Malley was just one of 356 kids who got lost at the CNE on that day alone, at a time when up to 400 used to go missing at the fair every single day. Archives going as far back as the 1920s show a big bustling tent for lost children, and a 1958 Star headline blaring ‘1,624 lost children’ in just one day.”

By contrast, five to 12 kids get lost now — a number only partially explained by the 50% drop in fair attendance. What’s going on?

Blame — or, I guess, praise — parenting. Parents are keeping far tighter reins (sometimes literally) on their kids.

Not that I’m suggesting a hundredfold increase in lost kids is a good thing! I’ve lost track of my own kid, and it was a heart-stopping half-hour in midtown Manhattan. But there’s something rather shocking about how normal it used to be for kids to have enough autonomy to wander off without their parents noticing. It suggests that parents were less watchful but also less fearful. Whether they were less fearful of strangers or less fearful of being blamed for not watching their kids closely enough I don’t know. It could also be that they were more tipsy or neglectful, or simply had too many kids to keep track of. But still, it seems that losing your kid didn’t automatically used to mean losing your kid.

Fatima quotes Dr. Natasha Sharma, a therapist who says that a generation or two ago, “Parents were far less anxious ... They were more trusting of their environment, which probably led to allowing kids to go off on their own.”

Now, Sharma went on, we’re more scared and vigilant. “The upside is less lost kids; the downside is, I think kids then start to absorb that fear and that anxiety, and also don’t know how to cope with a situation where they find themselves on their own with a problem in front of them.”

Think what teary-then-cheery Wayne Malley has in his memory bank, 50-something years later: that time when he once was lost but then was found, to sort of quote another ancient and powerful song.

Most of us remember something similar — a time when we were lost or scared but everything ended up fine. Why do those memories stay with us? Because they’re so emotional, of course, but also foundational: Something that seemed so wrong ended up just right. Something that we couldn’t possibly handle ... we handled nonetheless. What an important, empowering lesson to carry in our hearts.

Today’s kids get scant chance to realize things are less terrifying and impossible than they fear they are, and less chance to rise to a scary occasion. Heck, we barely let them trick-or-treat without a motorcade.

So, oh, dear, what can the matter be now?

Johnny’s GPS’d at the fair.

Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of “Has the World Gone Skenazy?” To learn more about Lenore Skenazy (lskenazy@yahoo.com) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


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Small news organizations in rural states aren’t often on the front line of broad public service journalism, but times are changing and one-or-two person shops can make a lot of difference in public awareness of issues if things come together.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.


That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.


No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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