Thoughts About COVID-19 Precautions

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A social distancing sign in the commons.

Garrett Byrne, Journalist

Following the reopening of OSD schools during the latter end of last year’s second semester, masks have been required to be worn by students and staff alike and social distancing has also been required. Furthermore, the recent Washington COVID-19 vaccine mandates that 

went into effect about 4 months ago and a statewide vaccine requirement for state employees that came into effect 2 months ago has only increased the rigidity of requirements concerning mask wearing in schools within the Thurston County area and bordering counties. As a result of these mandates, thoughts regarding requirements in light of COVID-19 have varied among students and staff. 

Among the staff, Craig Baker, Science Teacher, stated that “Mandates and requirements regarding COVID-19 are all meant to help regain, or approach, normalcy.” The pursuit of health seems to be the main intention of all COVID-19 requirements that have been implemented in recent months, and many have chosen not to take the COVID-19 vaccine for varying reasons. Regarding this issue of indecision towards the COVID-19 vaccine, Baker says “when making the decision to get vaccinated, you must consider your health and the health of others.” Following the recent COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the number of cases have risen over the past few months, however, very few have died due to this new variation, (around 1% of about 27,000 cases just in Thurston County). Concerning this fact, Baker states that “Teens are rarely hospitalized because of COVID-19, but cases still rise.” Even though death rates due to COVID-19 seem to be on the decline, precautions should still be considered, such as getting the vaccine or wearing a mask to prevent further infection among the populus. 

Even though the COVID-19 vaccine has had its reach extended to Washington universities and state institutions in the past year(such as schools and state jobs), the vaccine has not been required in schools, which could be perceived as a benefit or disadvantage. Matt Grant, Principal, concerning these recent actions, has stated that, “The COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t been required at OHS, but it’s still encouraged as cases still rise, and we’ve just experienced a spike in cases just days ago.” A spike in cases at OHS was experienced just days before winter break which led to required COVID-19 testing and suspensions of those found to test positive from certain school activities. Concerning the possibility of individuals that oppose the vaccine or mask, Grant states that “mostly no complaints or opposition has arisen, only minor complaints that concerned the masks and the vaccine have been recorded.” Even though there has been some minor resistance, most seem to agree that the vaccine and masks are the best we’ve got to fend off COVID-19. 

When asked about their thoughts and feelings about the vaccine mandate and other COVID-19 stipulations, Larry Hatch, an OHS Senior, said “I have no problem with the mandate and I’m indifferent towards wearing a mask at school. Just along for the ride.” This seems to be the common consensus among OHS students who just want to get through the chaos brought on by COVID-19 these past years. Concerning the social lives of students, if COVID-19 has affected this aspect, Larry stated that, “l did experience a little bit of turbulence in my friend group just because of distancing and all, but me and my friends have been deterred solely because of COVID-19.” The COVID-19 experience does vary between students.

Following the start of the pandemic, OSD has implemented many precautionary requirements within its schools to limit the spread of COVID-19 following last year’s quarantine and the current increase in cases. Many have been affected adversely from these requirements and mandates brought on by COVID-19, from losing jobs because of a refusal to take the vaccine due a variety of reasons such as medical or religious to contracting COVID-19. However, despite much uncertainty, precautions have been put in place and sacrifices are being made to hopefully decrease the spread of COVID-19 in schools around Washington and nationwide.