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Monday, March 20, 2023

COVID Omicron is Preventing Return of US Workplaces and Schools

Because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, several school districts throughout the country extended their holiday break or went back to online teaching on Monday, while others continued with in-person courses amid a growing sense that Americans will have to learn to live with the virus.

Because of the super-contagious omicron variant, school districts in cities such as New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, and elsewhere found themselves in a difficult position midway through the academic year, caught between pleas from teachers afraid of infection and pleas from parents who want their children in class.

With a stockpile of take-home COVID-19 test kits and intentions to treble the number of random tests done in schools, New York City, home to the nation’s biggest education system, reopened classes to nearly 1 million children.

“We’re going to keep our schools open and make sure our kids are protected,” said Mayor Eric Adams, who was recently sworn in.

Trisha White of New York believes that the danger to her 9-year-old son is the same whether he is in or out of school, and that being around peers is far better for him than distant learning.

“He might acquire the virus outside of school,” she warned as she handed the kid over to his teacher. “So, what are your options?” I can’t say I blame the educational system. They’re giving it their all.”

While the teachers’ union had requested that in-person instruction be postponed for a week, municipal authorities have long maintained that mask regulations, testing, and other safety procedures ensure that students are safe in school. Employees are also required to get vaccinated by the city.

COVID-19 cases in the city increased from roughly 17,000 per day in the week before the holidays to about 37,000 per day last week.

New COVID-19 cases have quadrupled in the last two weeks in the United States, reaching over 400,000 every day, the highest amount on record, as more Americans hurry to get tested.

High infection rates and the resultant labour shortages are putting a strain on both large and small businesses. Thousands of flights have been canceled in recent days, and many companies have put their return-to-work preparations on hold.

In New Orleans, waste collection has been postponed until the weekend, while jury trials in numerous Colorado counties have been halted. Some libraries on Long Island, New York, and a ski resort in New Hampshire had to close due to the storm. To ensure that he had enough labor to staff a recent evening shift, an Atlanta restaurant owner spent $700 on fast test kits and resorted to testing workers in the parking lot.

Dawn Crawley, CEO of House Cleaning Heroes in Herndon, Virginia, claimed she had to postpone four of her 20 cleaning tasks scheduled for Tuesday due to four staff being sick, three of whom had COVID-19.

“The concern is that it will spread throughout the crew,” she added, as well as among consumers.

Policymakers and health officials have been conscious of the economic and educational costs.

Experts say that eliminating the virus is improbable, and that instead, the world will have to find a means to keep COVID-19 at a manageable level, similar to how the flu is managed.

“We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cut the recommended COVID-19 isolation period from 10 to five days.

The Food and Drug Administration issued its approval for Pfizer booster doses for children as young as 12 on Monday, which might have an impact on schools’ ability to stay open. Boosters are already advised for everyone aged 16 and over.

Because of the surge in omicron, the Los Angeles Unified School District stated Monday that schools will resume on January 11th. In addition, all 600,000 students and 73,000 staff in the district will be required to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test result in order to attend school. A testing center as well as take-home test kits will be accessible in the district.

Due to an increase in the number of illnesses and a shortage of replacement instructors, Syracuse, New York, suspended classes on Monday.

Because of increased instances among staff members, the 75,000-student Milwaukee school system is returning to virtual instruction on Tuesday. The district stated that it plans to resume in-person sessions on January 10th.

Beginning Thursday, the Madison, Wisconsin, district will switch to virtual learning.

Because of a high rate of infection among employees, which might lead to widespread spread of COVID-19 and “severe personnel shortages,” Detroit School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti informed parents that there will be no in-person or online learning until Wednesday.

The nearly 350,000 children in the Chicago public school system have returned, but a conflict over safety measures between district administration and the teachers union might cause disruptions later this week. In the nation’s third-largest district, the union indicated it may vote for remote teaching on Tuesday.

Winter break was prolonged by a week in the Peoria, Illinois, district.

Early Monday, schools in Davenport, Iowa, startled parents by announcing the cancellation of all classes for the day due to a bus driver shortage attributed in part on COVID-19.

As classes resumed on time, Minnesota educators braced for a surge of cases.

Bob Indihar, executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association, said, “What I’ve heard from superintendents is that they are scared about omicron.” “It appears to be the new normal that things will change, and that quarantines and individuals being thrown out are now part of the process.” “It’s being taken in stride by the districts.”

The rapid return to virtual schooling, according to the head of the National Parents Union, a network of parent groups, is “an obscenity.”

In a statement, Keri Rodrigues said, “Once again, parents are scurrying at the last minute, and, worse, far too many children are being robbed of an in-person learning experience, which is crucial for their academic and social-emotional development.”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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