Holidays in US schools and workplaces extended amid rise of COVID-19 cases
In the last two weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has tripled to over 400,000 per day
Because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, some school districts in the United States extended their holiday break or returned to online instruction on Monday, while others continued with in-person courses amid a growing conviction 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.
On MSNBC, freshly sworn-in Mayor Eric Adams declared, "We are going to be safe, and we will be open to educate our children." Trisha White of New York believes that the risk to her 9-year-old son is the same whether he is in or out of school, and that being with classmates is far better for him than distant learning.
"He could get the virus outside of school," she said as she dropped the boy off. "So what can you do? You know, I wouldn't blame the school system. They're trying their best."
While the teachers' union had requested that in-person instruction be postponed for a week, municipal authorities have long maintained that mask requirements, testing, and other safety procedures ensure that children are safe in school. Employees are also required to be 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.
In the last two weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has tripled to over 400,000 per day, the highest amount on record, as more Americans race to get tested.
High infection rates and the resulting labour shortages are putting a strain on both large and small businesses. Thousands of flights have been cancelled in recent days, and many businesses 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.
Dawn Crawley, CEO of House Cleaning Heroes in Herndon, Virginia, said she had to cancel four of her 20 cleaning tasks scheduled for Tuesday because four of her employees were sick. COVID-19 is one of the three. "The fear is that it will spread throughout the crew," she said, as well as among consumers.
Policymakers and health officials have been conscious of the economic and educational costs. Experts say that eradicating the virus is unlikely, and that instead, the world will have to figure out how to keep COVID-19 alive.
"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 gave 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 anyone aged 16 and up.
Because of the surge in omicron, the Los Angeles Unified School District stated Monday that schools will reopen 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 enter school. A testing centre as well as take-home test kits will be accessible in the district.
Due to an increase in the number of infections and a shortage of replacement teachers, Syracuse, New York, postponed classes on Monday.
Because of increased cases 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 lessons on January 10. Beginning Thursday, the Madison, Wisconsin, district will switch to virtual learning.
Because of a high rate of infection among employees, which could 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 said 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.
Minnesota's educators braced for a spike in cases as classrooms reopened as scheduled. "What I've heard from superintendents is that they are nervous about omicron," said Bob Indihar, executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association. ?It seems to be the new normal that changes are going to happen and quarantines and people being out are just part of the process now. Districts are kind of taking it in stride."
The president of the National Parents Union, a network of parent organisations, called the sudden switch back to virtual learning "an abomination".
"Once again, parents are left scrambling at the last minute and, worse, far too many children are being deprived of an in-person learning experience, which is critical for their academic and social-emotional development," Keri Rodrigues said in a statement.
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