In the midst of a global pandemic, it is essential to know as much as possible surrounding any new outbreaks, statistics and guidelines. “The COVID Update” is a recurring news series that aims to do just that.
For the last 18 months our lives have been revolving around the ever-changing and seemingly ever-present COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it be policy changes, mask mandates, vaccination news or hospitalization and death rates, new information becomes available every day. This should make it easier for students to keep their knowledge up to date about COVID at West, in the state and across the country.
West has done well in keeping the spread of the virus to a minimum, according to Principal Kevin Spainhour. In these first few weeks of school, an average of about one to two cases have been reported per day. To put it in perspective, of the approximately 2,300 students enrolled, less than 0.001% test positive each day. For every positive case there are between 15 and 20 close contacts. A close contact is someone who has been within a 6 foot radius of a student who has tested COVID positive. However, because students are wearing their masks, only a few of them have had to quarantine, and in some cases there were no close contacts that had to quarantine at all.
Despite these low numbers, the future remains uncertain.
“It is really hard for us to know the direction this is gonna go over the next four to six weeks as we head into the real fall season,” Spainhour said.
Even though most students are doing their part by staying masked, West is impacted by each of the schools in the county. If numbers reach a tipping point at a school across Winston, whatever guidelines are put in place to slow their spread, West will have to follow as well.
While students have been excited to return to school in-person full-time, the mask requirement has dampered school spirit.
“Wearing a mask puts students and young people in maybe a more somber mood,” Spainhour said. “There’s value in seeing people laugh, seeing people smile.”
During the second week of school, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a bill that approved remote learning at the discretion of the school district as well as a requirement that school boards meet at least once a month to re-discuss the mask mandate in schools. Even though the county made the decision before the beginning of the school year to require masks for the first nine weeks, the next WS/FCS school board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Alongside this bill, schools across the state follow the rules laid out in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/media/164/open). This “toolkit” is essentially a compilation of numbers, rules and explanations as to why schools have these rules. The big ideas in it include: keeping personal items separate, social distancing, wearing masks and getting vaccinated if you can. However, there is one thing that students need to know how to do: what to do if you test positive for COVID-19. At West, protocol is a little more simple. First and foremost, if you don’t feel well, do not come to school. Should you begin to feel sick at school, tell an adult, make sure you maintain distance and call a parent to pick you up and take you home. In the event that you test positive, have a parent or guardian contact the school administration either by email or phone so close contacts can be informed as soon as possible.
In times like these, it is vital to stay updated on the most recent guidelines and protocols. For more information surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, visit the World Health Organization website (https://covid19.who.int/). The most important thing for students and staff, alongside the rest of the country, is to remember that no one likes this situation, we just all have to do our part to put an end to it.