With the recent uptick in COVID cases and the new Omicron variant, concerns have been raised regarding the future of our country, state, and schools.
Omicron Variant Information
According to the CDC, the Omicron variant spreads more easily than other variants of COVID-19 due to the increased levels of transmissibility, along with immune evasion (increased ability to evade immunity that has been gained from the previous evasion and from vaccinations). There is not enough information to determine whether the Omicron variant causes more severe illness in those who have already been ill.
Additionally, the vaccines that are currently available should protect from severe illness and hospitalizations from the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections (fully vaccinated individuals still becoming infected with COVID-19) are still possible. To emphasize, the vaccine should still prevent from falling severely ill.
Updated CDC Guidelines
With changes regarding the current situation of the pandemic, the CDC has also updated its guidelines in response to this ever-changing environment. According to the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
- If you are positive for COVID, quarantine for FIVE DAYS (updated from the ten-day quarantine). If you’re asymptomatic after five days, your quarantine can be over. Wear a mask around others for five days after this quarantine period. If a fever is present, stay home until the fever resolves.
- If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and you’ve either received the primary series of COVID-19 (6 months for Moderna and Pfizer, 2 months for J&J) or have received a booster shot, then wear a mark around others for ten days, and test on the fifth day.
- If you completed the Pfizer/Moderna vaccination series more than 6 months ago, completed the J&J series more than 2 months ago, or are completely unvaccinated, remain in your house for five days and wear a mask for five days after that. Try to test on the fifth day. If quarantining is impossible, then wear a mask around others for ten days.
Recommendations from a 17 year-old girl with absolutely no credentials or authority on this matter
As a student at a public high school in Florida who has experienced the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’t have any real credentials to provide serious recommendations to our country. However, I’ll do it anyway because I can.
- GET VACCINATED. Don’t know what’s in it? Look it up.
- Provide students AND teachers with a realistic option to remain enrolled in their current school– but through distance learning. Many households have elderly, infant, and otherwise immunocompromised individuals. While Omicron has been shown to not cause severe cases in those who are vaccinated, those who are immunocompromised or can’t receive the vaccination are still at severe risk. Even if these individuals stay home, if they have family members in schools, this can pose a severe risk to their health. Maybe children don’t usually experience horrible effects with the virus, but don’t be selfish. Children can still transmit the disease to others.
- Mandate masks for students: I don’t care if you feel like you can’t breathe. Perhaps if you’re so severely ill that you cannot breathe wearing a mask, you should not be in a traditional school anyways. And if it’s so hard to breathe with a mask, imagine how difficult it’ll be with COVID. Wear a mask. The spread of this virus will only continue to increase with this lack of regard for safety. If you want life to return to “normal”, take the necessary steps NOW. Complaining doesn’t change things.
- Wash your hands: Seriously, don’t forget this one.
- Limit Crowding: With current mandates, this probably won’t happen. But at least prevent YOURSELF from being in these crowds. The Omicron variant is highly transmissible, and crowds only increase this risk. And if you must be in a very crowded space, take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and the rest of your community safe! Mask and vax, everyone.
- Maintain your distance: For the same reason as the crowding, maintain your distance from others when possible! I love hugs as much as the next person, but I also love NOT being ill and posing as the possible cause of death for an immunocompromised family member.