It’s almost summer. The temperatures are finally getting into the 70’s, the trees and plants are green, and you’re finally considering taking a swim in the lake. Along with the activities closely associated with summer, you may be yearning to do activities with your friends and family that you missed out on last year, from going down the block to the ice cream truck to traveling across state or country lines to visit loved ones. Given all the activities we missed out on last summer, we would be remiss not to ask if we could do them again in 2021. Additionally, many students and faculty are wondering what school will look like in the fall. For some, pre-pandemic life included traveling domestically or overseas to explore new places or visiting old friends and family members. The school experience has changed astronomically since March 2019: these days we follow protocols like wearing masks and socially distancing. One of the biggest questions following the CDC’s landmark decision is, when will our school start to implement those changes? While it likely won’t happen this school year, many are hopeful it may come before the start of the next. I talked to Northwest School Health Coordinator Sierra Maxwell to try to answer those questions.
As we all know, many small but joyous activities of the summer had to be scrapped last year, along with just about every other plan you had before this pandemic. As a result, people are rightfully wondering if they can resume those quintessential ‘summer’ activities that made them love the season in the first place. Everyone missed being able to see friends, jump in a pool or just spend a warm, summer evening relaxing. As we all have heard by now, the CDC announced on May 13th that fully vaccinated people aren’t required to social distance or wear a mask indoors or outdoors. This means that if it’s been two or more weeks since your second dose of the COVID vaccine, you can take your mask off around other people, including your friends and family. While this announcement sounds straightforward, it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. You still must follow rules from private businesses, like restaurants and stores, and you must still wear a mask in doctor’s offices and on planes, which brings me into my second question of this article: is it safe to travel domestically or internationally on planes?
Like me, I’m sure you’re missing visiting your grandparents and relatives who often live across state or country lines. One way to travel long distances before the Coronavirus was to take a short plane ride but with the spread of this disease, the closest many of us have been to our relatives for the past 14 months is on the computer screen. With 42% of people in the US fully vaccinated, is it safe to travel by plane now? While you may think the answer to this question is simple, there are a lot of variables involved in traveling that may change the risk of infection substantially. Let’s get one factor out of the way: if you are fully vaccinated, it’s safe for you to travel. This is because, well, you’re immune to the virus and, as of the release of this article, airplanes have a very strict masking policy. Unfortunately, it gets more complicated if you don’t have the shot. For example, what happens if one person in your family doesn’t have the vaccine yet but everyone else does? This is the case in my family because my younger sister can’t have the shot yet. There have been many studies that aim to determine the safety of flying. For example, according to NPR, studies from Emirates, an airline that has very strict masking rules, shows very little COVID transmission. For example, on five flights from Dubai to Hong Kong, 58 COVID positive people boarded their flights, but nobody got infected. On another flight, 27 COVID positive people boarded in Dubai and only two in-flight transmissions occurred. Like my family, I would advise making a personal decision with your loved ones about the risks your family is willing to take.
As the school year is starting to wind down, many Northwest School students and faculty are beginning to wonder about what next year will look like in terms of COVID protocols as an increasing amount of people are getting vaccinated. Thankfully, I’ve talked to the person who knows best on all thing’s health related at NWS, Sierra Maxwell, the Northwest School Health Coordinator. One of the biggest questions people are wondering about is if they are fully vaccinated, do they have to wear masks or socially distance in school, but before I talk about what Sierra said, I must clarify one thing: information can change rapidly! Information today can be totally different than tomorrow, and nothing is guaranteed. One day the state and local guidance could say one thing, then the next day it could be the opposite. For example, nobody knew about the CDC’s May 13th decision that reversed much of their earlier guidance until after the formal announcement. With that being said, Sierra says that NWS will be offering full time, in-person learning next year. On the other hand, many of the COVID prevention policies this year are here to stay into the foreseeable future. She elaborates on this by saying safety practices like mask wearing and social distancing will continue to be enforced next year. Along with those protocols, the Northwest School will continue to have windows open, plenty of sanitizer stations available and air purifiers buzzing in the back of class. Additionally, the COVID travel policy, which I discussed at length in my earlier article ‘Batter up, mask up’, will stay in effect for next year. As always, if you have any other questions about Northwest’s COVID policies, feel free to email Sierra at email@example.com.
I want to thank the Northwest School Health Coordinator, Sierra Maxwell for all the helpful insight she provided today for the school’s safety protocols for next year. Hopefully by reading this article, you will have developed a deeper understanding of what to expect when you come back to the Northwest School in September. Additionally, I hope I’ve helped provide you with more facts and information about the safety of activities this summer that we’ve all missed last year. Now, let’s all enjoy this warm weather before it rains again!