A Cork woman working as a school administrator in Florida has said President Donald Trump's calls to reopen schools in August has left the country "poised on the precipice of disaster".
Cathy Tobin, originally from the Bandon area, moved over to the States in 1993 with her husband Tom, a Douglas native.
The couple now lives in Orange County with their three children, Ciara, Aoife and Tomas.
Speaking to, Cathy said the push to open Florida’s schools within a matter of weeks is a topic of "much anxiety for educators and parents across the state".
"Florida is currently the global epicentre of the coronavirus.
"Sunday marked the 23rd consecutive day where the transmission rate in Florida topped 9,000 people.
"It hardly seems like the time to be discussing opening the state’s schools, much less planning to open them in a few weeks’ time," she said.
In recent weeks, Trump has been resolute in his stance that it is safe for schools to reopen, however, on Thursday he acknowledged that some schools in virus hot spots "may need to delay reopening for a few weeks".
Even as he mitigated his position though, Trump insisted that every school should be "actively making preparations to open".
He said the decision will fall to governors.
Cathy says she believes the Trump administration and Florida's Governor, Ron DeSantis, have been inept in their approach to the pandemic.
"The Trump administration’s lack of a concerted national effort to subdue the spread of Covid-19 followed on a state level by Florida’s Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, has contributed to huge Covid numbers," she said.
Cathy believes the push to get schools open for face to face teaching is a political agenda.
"That impression is formed by the fact that Trump has tweeted that he believes there is a democratic push to keep schools closed simply to undermine his chances at reelection.
"Trump has done what I would never have predicted an American president would do; at a time when a national plan or, at least, empathy, was called for, he politicized a national tragedy," she said.
"It’s clear that decisions that directly impact our lives are being made by people who have no concern for us at all.
"We are political pawns," she added.
Cathy says that in many ways she believes the landscape of Covid-19 has become politicized in the US.
"Wearing or not wearing a mask has become a political statement – if you’re a liberal, i.e. enemy of the state, you wear a mask, and if you’re a conservative, you don't."
If schools are to reopen next month, Cathy says she is concerned about her own health and safety as well as the health and safety of her colleagues, the students and the wider community.
"At my school, we have been working remotely since brick and mortar schools were closed by the state on March 14.
"While I sorely miss my colleagues and our students, and despite the fact that the novelty of working from home has long since worn off, I am nervous about the prospect of spending eight plus hours a day in close quarters with others.
"I worry for our staff, I worry for our students and I worry for our community," she said.
"I’m very lucky to work under a principal and a charter school board who take the threat of Covid-19 and its responsibility to our staff, students and community very seriously.
"Together we have been working non-stop to do all we can to limit the negative impacts of the order to open schools for face to face instruction," she continued.
Cathy said members of the local district school board have also been vocal in their beliefs that the school shouldn't be opening, but feel "hobbled by the state order".
"School board members, administrators and educators in Florida are stuck between a rock and a hard place, with lives hanging in the balance.
"It feels like we are in a dystopian novel.
"Right now, as I see many talented and devoted educators having to decide between their health and the health of their family members and their careers, it’s hard to be optimistic," she said.
Cathy said most families in her community are opting to have their children attend school virtually, while others elect to send their children to brick and mortar schools in August.
From across the pond, Cathy says she is looking at Ireland's response to the pandemic with "appreciation, gratitude and just a little jealousy".
"I realise the benefit of a nationally embraced effort and a sense of solidarity, understanding the complication of doing so in such a large and diverse country as the US, I so wish we could have had the same response here," she said.
"Comparing the graph of Europe’s progress through the pandemic to the US's is depressing and exhausting.
"We are weary with no end in sight."