The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 17, 2024

COVID is back: Whitman reacts

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Vassili Prokopenko

Since returning to school this fall, Montgomery County has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Students have been out of school due to COVID and hospital admissions have increased slightly.

MCPS Medical Officer Patricia Kapunan released a statement on September 6 announcing the rise in cases. Cases have not reached pandemic-level heights, but COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths nationwide have been on the rise since summer. Despite this increase, doctors say symptoms have become much milder overall.

Case numbers are less precise because Montgomery County no longer provides up-to-date information on COVID-19 infections by zip code, but instead monitors sewage wastewater to track the virus. The CDC no longer reliably receives case numbers from states, and the FDA recently approved an updated vaccine for the new COVID variant.

Junior Mattie Oliver believes an increase in cases is natural as students return to school. Whitman should provide test kits to students and encourage responsible behavior, Oliver said.

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“I’m not surprised that COVID-19 is having a resurgence, especially since it’s very easy to become ill from other people at school,” she said. “The vaccines only protect from certain strains of the virus, so as it continues to mutate, it’s best to stay updated on vaccinations.”

History teacher Abigail Lamb has also seen an increase in students and coworkers missing school due to COVID. She thinks COVID will become cyclical and reappear every fall, so Whitman should encourage sanitation measures and clearly communicate updated policies as students return to school.

Senior Arjun Mohan recently contracted COVID, causing a disruption in his personal and school life. He was nervous about spreading the virus to others, especially his grandparents, whom he visits regularly.

“I was worried I had exposed a lot of people,” Mohan said. “I saw a lot of Whitman kids and also my grandparents so I was really worried about hurting others. That’s the thing about COVID — you aren’t liable for just yourself if you’re irresponsible, which is really unfortunate.”

Mohan has noticed more of his classmates wearing masks, but he thinks overall student concern for COVID is low.

Senior Josey Long also noted an increase in cases at her brother’s school, St. Albans. Long is relatively concerned, but believes people are now more familiar with how to deal with COVID than in 2020.

“I definitely don’t think they should shut down school again because that had a huge impact on the student body and not necessarily for good,” Long said. “But if the numbers continue rising, it would be more of a problem to have people getting sick than to have them wearing masks.”

Many MCPS COVID-19 procedures from last year are still intact, such as a five-day isolation period and an optional mask policy. However, students no longer need to report their cases, and schools will not notify families of single case exposures to COVID-19 in the classroom.

Junior Samantha Lin expressed that while new restrictions could become necessary, most students are too indifferent towards COVID-19.

“Up to a certain point, people will still think it’s not significant enough to do anything,” Lin said. “I don’t think the school will be able to enforce any rules involving distancing or masking or anything that we did before.”

As of May, only 17% of Americans received an updated booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which Lamb believes is a factor in the resurgence of COVID cases and hospitalizations. Booster doses are very effective at reducing the severity of cases and preventing hospitalizations, the CDC says.

“I think we should adjust our mindset of vaccinations,” Lamb said. “They don’t stop the flu from spreading, [but] they stop the flu from getting bad. Same with COVID vaccinations — they don’t necessarily stop COVID from spreading, [but] they prevent the worst case scenario.”

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About the Contributor
Vassili Prokopenko
Vassili Prokopenko, Online Production Head
Grade 12 Why did you join The B&W? To improve my art and design skills. What is your favorite board game? Blokus

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