As I penned last year's farewell, I had hoped that this year would be different. COVID rates had dropped, the vaccines were being deployed, travel restrictions had loosened … we were looking forward to a return to normalcy come fall. What a difference a couple of months can make. Here we are continuing to wrestle with, learn from and to adapt to life with SARS-CoV-2. Here we are, once again, seeking your understanding, support and kōkua, but this time it's different.
Our State's COVID numbers are troubling though hopeful. Record high infections (46.4 new cases/100K), positivity rates at 8.0% and ICUs at near 70% capacity tell a sad story for many. Our community anxiously awaits policies that might reverse the trends, but none have come.
On the other hand, this time is different from the last wave. The vaccine is a new tool in our mitigation arsenal; and, notwithstanding media focus on "breakthrough cases", according to the HDOH only 0.065% of vaccinated individuals have tested positive for COVID. Positivity, while moderately high, is lower than it was during last year's summer spike, and ICU bedspace, though quickly shrinking, is not as scarce as this time last year when infections were three times lower -- reflecting improved hospital protocols and treatments.
Last year, a New Cases rate as high as today's would have shut down the State and LJA. Important differences this time around have allowed us to remain open as we cautiously try new things:
- We are adjusting procedures, on a provisional basis, to provide greater parent/spectator access as long as mitigation measures like distancing and masking can be managed.
- We are attempting field trips contingent on travel restrictions, safety precautions taken by host facilities, vaccination status of students and staff, and our ability to manage other mitigation practices.
- We are exploring the adoption of a vaccination/testing policy, once vaccinations are licensed by the FDA, in the absence of a Statewide mandate.
The road toward a possible vaccination/testing policy is not an easy one. Beyond consultation with our Medical Hui and Trustees, LJA feels compelled to probe more deeply into the medical and individual rights issues as they apply in our particular circumstances, today, and in the future. We do not take this decision lightly. We do not seek to stigmatize those who cannot or choose not to vaccinate but provide an alternative that adds another layer of mitigation against a virulent and adaptive threat to one and all. And while for some it may seem a "no brainer" and for others a "caving" to popular opinion, understanding that our final determination will be neither is the beginning of comity among members of our community.
Our policy process includes advance communication in order for students, families and staff to share concerns that might better shape and inform policy. As such, I welcome your personal comments and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also consult those with greater expertise and those who represent our broader school-community in order to be careful in our application of science and considerate of all perspectives.
We beat SARS-CoV-2 last year, but this year the game has changed. To beat back the virus and its variants will require everyone's continued understanding, vigilance, grace and kōkua.
- If you are willing and able to be vaccinated, don't wait
- If you are hesitant, consult your physician
- If you are unable to be vaccinated, then take extra precautions to remain safe
The sooner we defeat this virus, the sooner we can restore the best of our pre-COVID selves. Until then, please stay home when sick, be careful in completing the self-screening form, and when in doubt call the school nurse.
COVID-fatigue is very real. We are all feeling the effects of a year-and-a-half of restrictions and self-restraint whether we acknowledge it or not. We may not realize all the ways that COVID-fatigue has affected our habits and demeanor, but assuredly it has. So, let's move beyond denial, acknowledge its impact, and resolve to beat it back again. We may have differences of opinion, but we are of one mind in this: we all want to be free of this scourge. So, let's set aside our differences and do the work. Together, we've got this!
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