How will Lake Ridge navigate the new Variant?


Courtesy of Google Images

Every major variant of COVID-19 that has mutated so far, including Omicron, the most recent Courtesy of Google Images

On November 30, 2021, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was classified as a ‘Variant of Concern’ in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC. The website for the CDC states that the Omicron variant likely spreads easier than the original virus. This has led to a rise of positive Coronavirus cases, causing many learning institutions to revert back to virtual learning.

In Texas, Lancaster ISD announced that their students would not return to campus until January 10, 2022, at the earliest, amid the surge of positive cases. The district made arrangements for students to attend classes virtually until further notice. Some universities including the University of Texas have also switched to remote learning in an effort to control infection rates on their campuses.

So far, Mansfield ISD hasn’t declared any plans to start remote learning again. However on January 13, the district sent out a letter stating that due to the significant number of positive cases throughout MISD, students and staff were not to return to campus until Wednesday, January 19. Before the decision to temporarily shut down schools was made, the district’s only protocol was to continue to send out emails instructing students and staff members who are sick to stay home, and encouraging people to get vaccinated. Lake Ridge nurse, Tricia Johnson, first took notice of the rise in COVID cases before Christmas break after more students started to exhibit symptoms. 

“I was starting to notice an increase probably right before Christmas break. We were starting to see, like that week before Christmas break, more kids with fevers and that kind of thing,” said Johnson.

Compared to the original strain of Coronavirus, not much is known about the Omicron variant, however, Pfizer has suggested those are taking their vaccine to get a third dose for more immunity against Omicron. The CDC has also recently suggested for a N-95 or KN-95 mask to be worn since they offer more protection. According to Johnson, the surge of cases on campus is due to the virus mutating. 

“It’s just a new variant that is highly contagious so it spreads really quickly and the vaccine isn’t as effective against it. It’s keeping people from getting as sick probably, but it doesn’t prevent it so even everybody that’s vaccinated is at risk of getting it and I think that’s why our numbers are going up so much,” stated Johnson.

In order for Mansfield ISD schools to keep track of the cases, anyone who tests positive has to contact the school nurse and will receive instructions from her on what to do next.

“The parents have to let us know or staff members let us know and then we do the recording we’re required to,” Johnson said.

In 2019, the global influenza pandemic was number one on the World Health Organization’s list of health threats. However, in 2020, COVID surpassed the flu as a threat. Earlier this month, Israel detected its first case of flurona, a mutation of both COVID and the flu. According to the CDC website, flu season peaks between December and February, allowing for both diseases to mutate. Nurse Johnson has seen cases of flurona during the surge of cases at Lake Ridge.

“Most of the places that do testing now test for the flu and COVID so we typically would know but honestly we’re seeing cases where people have both but I haven’t seen a lot of cases where it was flu only and not COVID,” Johnson stated.

Last school year, MISD had both a remote learning option and an in person option for students. Masks were also a requirement for all students and staff members on campus. This year neither of these precautions have been implemented by the district. Sophomore, Lindsey Ngo, thinks virtual learning helped reduce the spread of COVID at school.

“I do think virtual learning helped reduce the COVID cases because since we are all doing virtual lessons, everyone is staying inside of their house so there isn’t any physical contact with others,” Ngo said.

Although Ngo believes virtual learning was beneficial to slowing the infection rates from COVID among students and staff, she doesn’t think it will happen again this year since the district has already established some protocols. Ngo does hope that students and teachers will be required to wear masks again. 

“Since COVID is easily spread, I think people who don’t wear a mask or aren’t careful with their surroundings will get COVID easily. And if one student gets COVID, the people that sit next to them in class or lunch could possibly receive them too,” stated Ngo.

When news of the peak in COVID was heard by students, some said they would want to go back to virtual learning due to concerns for their safety. Others said they don’t want to because they struggled either mentally or academically last year. When Ngo was a virtual student, she made sure to prioritize what she needed to get done. It wasn’t as hard on her as it was for others, but she does think that if remote learning is to start again, that student’s GPAs would go down.

When I did virtual learning last year, I really made sure to prioritize what I needed to prioritize first. If I didn’t get enough sleep, I would sleep in a bit on the free classes I had or if there was a specific class I had to pay close attention to, I would pay very close attention so I can regain all the materials. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard to me because the teachers would always record their lectures so if I didn’t understand something, I would just rewatch the video or go to the tutoring they provided. I was a bit sad because being in my house for such a long time while looking at the screen for a straight 8 hours would make me feel like I didn’t have a good social life. I missed seeing my friends and talking to them. But I learned to adapt to virtual learning so I got over it,” Ngo said.

Ngo thinks that by the end of this year, many students and teachers would have contracted COVID. She has had COVID in the past, and other people that she knows of as well, due to the spike in cases.

“I think the beginning of 2022 or the end of 2021, many students and teachers received COVID. A lot of people I knew, including myself, had COVID around that time and since so many teachers and students had COVID in January, the school shut down for 5 days,” said Ngo.

Some students don’t have as much of a concern with COVID since they haven’t had a first hand experience with it and haven’t been infected. Freshman, Lydia Laman, thinks that because COVID has been around for a while, it is now a topic that everyone is accustomed to by now. As a freshman, she’s experiencing high school for the first time, and with the current pandemic, things could change at any given moment, however, Laman is sure that remote learning won’t start again and that as long as people monitor who they are around, they can avoid getting sick.

“I think that most of us are pretty adapted at this point so I don’t think it will affect my high school experience very much personally,” stated Laman.

Sophomore, Isabella Casas Dorn-Havlik, thinks that remote learning wouldn’t be good because to some degree, virtual learning is always disastrous. 

“To put it rather bluntly, I think going back to virtual again would be a bit of a mess. Even though most of the teachers now have experience with teaching virtual, and the ability with inline tools has increased tenfold since intermediate, there’s always issues with virtual learning at this scale. With so many students across countless schools in the district, and technological and personal issues certain to arise by that time, it just seems inevitable for virtual to struggle a bit,” said Dorn- Havlik.

Dorn-Havlik thinks that the cleaning methods that MISD has in place are the best precautions that have been incorporated into the regimen as it is more of a ‘behind-the-scenes’ job that helps to control the spread around school. Dorn-Havlik would like for temperature checks to be added to the precautions by the district, and more cleaning as well.

 “At the very least, I would love if daily temperature checks were enacted and for further hygienic cleaning to be applied. In an ideal world, it would be great if masks were much more encouraged, perhaps even mandated, and vaccines were at least pushed further for staff. I understand not everybody agrees with masks, and I certainly don’t think less of those who don’t wear one, but considering the simplicity yet protection that comes with one, I really think it would be useful. Also,  reinstating the staggered bells as a precaution would be fantastic since the crowded halls are both a perfect breeding ground for COVID as well as an uncomfortable inconvenience,” Dorn-Havlik stated.

Along with many other people worldwide, Dorn-Havlik is shocked at the fact that it has been nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic started and there is still much to refine as far as controlling the pandemic and guidelines go. 

“It really is just insane to think that we’re nearing the two year anniversary of the first US lockdown from COVID, meaning it’s been 22 months of this madness that simply still has a lot to improve. We live in a surreal environment where nearly normal living has been reinstated despite the continued pandemic, several new vaccines and boosters and the adoption of masks. It’s scary when you just stop to think for a moment and really realize all that’s happened as well as all that’s yet to come ever since COVID plagued the world,” Dorn-Havlik said.

At the end of the day, everyone is trying their best to navigate through this pandemic. There hasn’t been a pandemic to cause a global health crisis like this in roughly one hundred years and nobody is certain when this will end. For now it’s up to everyone to protect themselves but to also keep moving forward.