Schools in Missouri, DC, Maryland, New York Close early because of Coronavirus as Omicron spikes

As states scramble to contain large amounts COVID-19 circumstances can only get worse with holiday season and the appearance of Omicron variant, schools are once again closed to limit the spread of the deadly disease.

In Maryland, at least three schools announced early closures following reports of a COVID-19 outbreak, while several schools in the District of Columbia area have also transitioned to online learning to contain the outbreak. happenning. A few states away, in New York City, the Department of Education closed more than 800 classrooms amid a massive increase in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Missouri school officials have also been forced to start the holiday season early, a grim combination of both COVID-19 exposure and an ongoing battle with the state’s attorney general over mitigation measures. epidemic.

Michael Allgood, a high school teacher in Hannibal, Missouri, told The Daily Beast: “It’s going up again. “I can easily teach virtual through Google Meet and Zoom, so that is it.”

The stated reasons for the mass closures, which echo earlier waves of school closures during the pandemic, vary by jurisdiction. And schools close early and often this school year in states like Mississippi, where immunization rates are low.

But even as the country boasts a vaccination rate of approximately 60% – by the old standard of two doses of the mRNA vaccine, the emergence of the Omicron variant has local and federal officials worried. on the possibility of a tsunami across the country.

The World Health Organization this week acknowledged that although Omicron, first detected in South Africa, is spreading faster than its predecessor variants, with the limited data available, it did not appear to cause so many severe cases. Anthony Fauci also noted to CNN this week that the next wave of COVID could still be mitigated by vaccination.

“We are in a Delta bull run. I mean, cases are going up,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of the variant that remains dominant, at least for now, in the United States. “And when you look over your shoulder, the Omicron variant, which we know from what’s going on in South Africa and in the UK, is a highly transmissible virus.”

In New York City, however, at least one school was completely closed. according to city data. The move comes as local education officials reported 546 new cases in the school system on Thursday.

“In some areas like NYC, there is evidence of an increase in Omicrons present in higher percentages. But Delta is still a big force nationally,” Dr Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an expert on infectious diseases, told The Daily Beast.

Adalja added that some schools have “isolation policies with exposure and case thresholds” that could also lead to closures. In Missouri, at least two schools had to close because of staff shortages.

In Nodaway County, there is one of the Highest number of infections in the state, The school board voted unanimously this week cancel school during the holidays to solve the problem of not having a teacher. The Polo School District also agreed to begin closing on Thursday “due to the potential for major illness that our elementary and middle schools are experiencing,” school said.

The Caldwell County school closure comes a day after Polo School Superintendent Kyle Ross revealed in a letter to parents that due to a court ruling, the local health department is no longer required to ask students exposed to COVID-19 to stay home from school.

Adalja added: “The pandemic has harmed children not because of the virus but because of what adults have done to them.

In the nation’s capital, politics doesn’t seem to play a big role in school closures as much as pandemic pain.

Whittier Elementary School, a public school in Northwest DC, announced Wednesday it will switch to online learning for a week after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. The decision to close before the winter break, with plans to resume classes on January 3, came after at least 14 cases were reported at the school.

“The decision to move entire schools to virtual instruction next week is not light,” said the school’s Principal, Tiffany Johnson. said in a letter to parents. “However, with many students required to be quarantined and limited staff, virtual learning will allow all students to effectively end the calendar year.”

Next door, in Maryland, at least three schools have also begun closing due to COVID-19 cases. As Baltimore Sun 15 out of 24 Maryland public schools are experiencing a spike in cases after the state reported its highest increase in academic engagement this year. The move also prompted others to cancel extracurriculars, sporting activities or switch to a partially virtual system.

The trio of shuttered schools, all in Prince George County, said they would transition to virtual learning after “this week we saw a high of 155 cases reported in just one day,” The district’s CEO explained in a letter Wednesday.

“The recent surge in local, national, and statewide cases is beginning to affect our ability to teach at different schools, resulting in entire classes being quarantined and some schools have to close,” Dr. Monica Goldson added in the letter.

Georgetown Preparatory School, a private school in Montgomery County, announced last week that it would also transition to virtual learning ahead of the two-week holiday after 30 students who tested positive for the illness died. people.

In Olney, Maryland, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School also announced it would end the semester early after at least 21 confirmed cases. The school’s principal said in a letter to parents that a “significant increase” had also caused the Catholic institution to delay midterm exams, which were scheduled to begin Wednesday, until later. new Year.

For Genevieve Kanter, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman College of Medicine, the decision to close some schools early could be just a matter of time.

Kanter told The Daily Beast: “Since we’re getting close to winter break anyway, school districts may decide that closing a week or two ahead of schedule won’t have too much of an impact. different for parents and families. “Schools often have thresholds based on school cases and community positive tests or COVID rates to trigger classroom or school closures, and it appears they are reaching the thresholds. there.”

Kanter, however, added that these closures stem from a combination of things, including the “greater transmissibility of Omicrons, the imperfect protection produced by vaccination against In the face of Omicron, cold weather forces people to stay indoors in poorly ventilated spaces and increases levels of non-compliance with mask wearing and proper eating because people are simply increasingly tired of the extra precautions they are required to take.”

So even if there are early signs that the deaths won’t be as dire as they did a year ago thanks to the vaccine, parents, teachers and teachers could be forgiven for experienced a nightmare deja vu. Schools in Missouri, DC, Maryland, New York Close early because of Coronavirus as Omicron spikes


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