Yeah, it's definitely not the same situation.
Like I said, I don't know how it is in the US, but I don't know a single person here's that's even been affected by the virus itself. There are a lot of precautions and what not, but in terms of the virus itself it still feels like something that's only a problem far away.
Yeah I don't know anyone personally that's been affected either but that's more a stats game even if 1.3% of our population has had it at this point I just don't know enough people for that to sink in.
I understand what you mean about it feeling like something far away. I'm in a state that got hit early so thankfully we're not in the thick of it currently, but our schools are still taking it slow because there's nothing stopping the infection in other states from getting here.
It's a tough scenario because we've built a society around the idea of public school as a means to let both parents go to work, and not every family has at least one parent that can work from home during these times. That's more an indictment of the policies in the US than the school teachers who would prefer not to die for their profession.
I know people that have had it (and even died from it), just none of them were here in Japan. I definitely know it's a thing, but I just haven't seen it with my own eyes (other than the precautions). Even went to hospital in an ambulance the other day (something unrelated to the virus) and it felt like I was the only patient there. Definitely doesn't seem like there's a major pandemic going on, despite everybody wearing masks and all shops having alcohol hand spray outside.
I get that some people don't want to go back to work. I have some colleagues that would rather not be working at the school again and even when we did close down I was one of the few (less than 10%) that decided to still come to work and teach online rather than stay home unpaid, so I know a lot of people are worried about it.
I guess policies are key here. If there's an option not to be forced to do something you don't want to do, or don't feel comfortable doing (both for students and teachers) then that's definitely best. While we're properly open again now, and most of our students do come to school again, we do still offer online lessons to those that don't feel comfortable coming back. Plus, when things shut down, it took about a month, but eventually there was a stay at home and get half pay option too. And when it comes to a choice between doing my job properly, staying home but still being able to pay bills etc. or doing my job in a way that's not ideal for either myself or my students then the latter option is definitely the worst option as far as I'm concerned.