It’s the time of year to wait for spring.


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, January and February were considered peak times for flu and cold cases. This was expected every year due to more time spent indoors and worse air flow.

However, this year, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, flu and cold rates have decreased as a byproduct of COVID-19 health precautions. While there are still many cases of the common cold and the flu, the world is mostly concerned with COVID-19.

And concerned we should be—a new variant called Omicron was discovered in December and spread rapidly during winter break. The World Health Organization (WHO) then announced that the Omicron variant was considered less harmful but more contagious than previous variants.

After returning from break, both the U.S. and our school district saw extremely high numbers of coronavirus cases. According to The New York Times, more than 800,000 cases were reported in the
U.S. in mid-January, while there was a double-digit number in every COVID-19 update from the high school. Classes were half-full and teachers were absent. Omicron had replaced the staple cold and flu season.

One reason for the large number of COVID-19 cases is the stalling vaccine rate, especially the booster vaccine rate. The New York Times reported that while 63% of all Franklin County residents have
been fully vaccinated, only 30% have received a coronavirus booster shot.

Despite these low vaccination rates and the cold temperatures, Omicron infection rates in the U.S. are steadily decreasing.

As spring grows closer, we begin to think about our futures. With scheduling week beginning at the end of February, we will soon be planning our next school year. The district will be offering many new
courses, and we will have to choose how to fill our schedules.

For seniors, college decisions and career choices await in March. Not only is this planning for the next school year, but for several years to come. We will all be looking to the future, away from the cold and snow.

This winter has been particularly vicious, with solid sheets of ice and below-freezing temperatures for days on end. The sunsets at 5:30 p.m. and high COVID-19 infection rates certainly don’t make this winter any easier.

At the Feb. 8 UA School Board meeting, the board voted 4-1 to repeal the mask mandate beginning Monday, Feb. 28. This means that masks will be optional for students, staff members and visitors in all school and district buildings. The vote came after the mask requirement for after-school and evening activities had expired, meaning masks will be optional for everyone in every building, regardless
of school hours.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, wearing a mask in a public space, no matter your vaccination status, greatly lowers your risk of either becoming infected and/or infecting others. When deciding whether or not to wear a mask, please take time to consider the impact of your choice.

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