A closer look into the newest variant of the coronavirus and its effects on Upper Arlington.
BY CARLY WITT, ’23 AND ELENA FERNANDEZ ’23. GRAPHIC BY DAPHNE BONILLA, ’22.
As 2022 advances, the world seems to be constantly evolving with the pandemic, accepting it as a part of life. Over winter break, the highly contagious Omicron variant quickly spread throughout the country, placing a stop on holiday plans and putting more restrictions on the lives of millions. Schools and businesses went back online, flights were canceled and finding COVID-19 tests became a challenge.
According to The Washington Post, a total of 3,800 flights were canceled on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, hindering the holiday plans of hundreds of families around the world. These flights were canceled due to the newer spike in cases and staffing issues between flight attendants and pilots.
Due to the recent spike in cases, testing for the coronavirus has become a normalized part of life and is typically easy to complete. The Upper Arlington Public Library started distributing test kits in March, 2021, as a part of an initiative by Gov. Mike DeWine. Since then, the library has given out 28,667 test kits.
“[The state] asked if we wish[ed] to participate,” UA Public Library Assistant Director Kate Porter said. “Not all libraries, I know, joined right away. When we heard that March of last year, we were like, ‘Yeah, we want to do that.’ And so we signed up [as] soon as it was possible.”
However, once the Omicron variant began to spread, tests became harder to come by.
“Temporarily, we won’t be getting any more kits,” Porter said. “I don’t know when we will get any more kits, but they are extremely popular.”
Due to the increase in air travel, the Omicron variant spread rapidly as hundreds boarded their flights, causing thousands of flights to be canceled in late December. Many were not able to see family and friends, halting long-awaited plans.
Junior Paige Parker contracted coronavirus over winter break, canceling her holiday plans when she tested positive for the first time on Dec. 20.
“I was double vaccinated before I had COVID and then got the booster after,” Parker said.
To pass the time, Parker established her own routine while in quarantine.
“I would Facetime my softball friends who also had it and binge Netflix to pass the time, and I also couldn’t see my grandma,” Parker said.
Omicron continued to spread after winter break. The daily COVID-19 cases among members of the high school reached its peak of 24 cases two days in a row in mid-January. Due to a shortage of substitutes, the staff has been filling in for one another. In January, members of the administration served at the lunch counters.
“[Nutritional services are] one area where we have been understaffed. We are monitoring and hanging out during lunchtime anyway, so we stepped up,” principal Andrew Theado said. “We were happy to do it because our nutritional service does an amazing job, and they just happened to be down a few folks. Most of the folks in the building would do that at the drop of a hat.”
On Jan. 8, the UA School Board extended the district mask mandate to after-school, evening and weekend activities that take place within district buildings. Originally, the mandate began at 8:05 a.m. and ended at 3:05 p.m.
“The virus does not change between 3:05 and 3:06,” Theado said. “There were still lots of people in the building; we were having big events like our [winter] dance; we had some athletic events. It was just time to press pause, talk to our medical advisory board, [ask], ‘Are we doing the right things? Could we be doing anything better?’ and that’s just what came out of it.”