Students must display caution with school return

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A return to in-person instruction does not mean an end to maintaining safe protocols.

Nate Albin, Online Editor

This seemingly never-ending pandemic has been tough on everyone. From serious restrictions on social lives to the weight of a global crisis on mental health, COVID-19 considerably changed the course of many people’s lives. For students, the biggest change has been the move to virtual learning.

With events like sports seasons and proms being cancelled, students have already missed out on many school experiences. It is understandable why school starting off virtually was a metaphorical kick to the groin for some. For a lot of students, the start of the school year is not something that excites them, but this year, it seems many cannot wait for that first day of in-person school.

The good news for everyone who is ready to roll for that first real day is that the HSE School Board voted to begin 50/50 instruction for grades five through 12 beginning on Thursday. HSE Schools already sent back kindergarten through fourth grade the Tuesday after Labor Day. While this may appear to be the finish line of the pandemic, that is not at all the case. In fact, it probably means that we need to be even better about maintaining COVID safety.

Our age group has become an increasing problem in the fight versus COVID-19. As of Sept. 16, 19.9% of all cases in Hamilton County are in the 0-19 age group, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. This number has been steadily rising, as it was around 9% of all cases in early July. We must work to lower these numbers, and luckily, there are plenty of ways we can.

Social gatherings are great. I appreciate a good weekend with friends as well, but now is not the time. These gatherings are prone to being sites of transmission. If even one friend shows up as an asymptomatic (or symptomatic) carrier of the virus, it can spread easily. Even one positive test has the capability to shut down major aspects of in-person learning. Part of being able to continue to school will be making sacrifices. If we want school, we need to cut down on the gatherings. If there is a gathering, mask up and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

Another thing we can try to work on is the positive test rate, meaning the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive. Hamilton County has been scattered with its positive test rate. We have had days of around 3% positive and days of around 8% positive in the past two weeks alone. While there is no concrete number that the county needs to be at to reopen, the lower the percentage, the better. This constant fluctuation will not help us get back to school. While there is no direct way to lower it, trying your best to not spread the virus will help the COVID-19 positive test rate stay low.

We can work to lower the spread by being mindful when we are out in public. If you are shopping at the grocery store, do not linger. Refrain from touching every item. Wait for the person ahead of you to grab their groceries and get out of the way before you grab yours. Overall, be very mindful of others in public and limit your possible exposure to the virus.

Going back to school sounds great. Many students learn better in person, and it will help them enjoy some healthy social interaction again. But we need to remember that this is not the end of the pandemic. We should not just want to go to school, we should want to stay there and not have COVID-19 shut us down again. If we want school, we all need to work together to limit spreading the virus. Waiting to have big social gatherings and wearing a mask while in public can mean the difference between going back to school or finishing the semester virtually. We can do this. Mask up, and stay safe.