2022 COVID-19 Update


Calvin Tankersley , Staff Writer

As we all return to school after a three-week winter break, there are a few updates about COVID -19 that everyone should be aware of going into 2022.

During the first half of December, according to the CDC’s “COVID Data Tracker”, cases have been on a roughly flat and declining curve in Virginia. However, during the holiday season, people traveled around the country to see family and friends, potentially spreading the disease. As people went back and forth these past two weeks, the number of cases began to skyrocket as people began to spread the new COVID-19 variant known as Omicron. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this variant is known to be highly contagious regardless of age and health.

The Omicron variant was first identified in early November in South Africa, and the first confirmed case of it in the U.S. was on December 1 in California. Since then, the New York Times states that the “variant has been detected in all 50 states and Washington D.C.”

For those of us who don’t know what exactly a COVID variant is, the New York Times does a great job of simplifying it: “ When an infected human cell assembles new coronaviruses, it occasionally makes tiny copying errors called mutations. Scientists can track mutations as they are passed down through a lineage, a branch of the coronavirus family tree. A group of coronaviruses that share the same inherited set of distinctive mutations is called a variant.” Although scientists do know that the Omicron has several mutations that can cause it to spread more easily, they are still attempting to identify how lethal it is compared to other variants and whether or not it will be able to evade immunity from vaccines or infections.

So what can you do to help prevent the spread of this new variant? The CDC advises that people continue to wear their masks and get vaccinated. 72% of the US population is fully vaccinated with 27% having received the additional booster as well. Anyone ages 12 and older can receive the booster shot six months after completing your COVID-19 vaccination.

The CDC explains that the vaccine’s ability to combat the virus and its variants decreases over time, especially in people ages 65 years and older. The CDC also emphasizes the importance of the booster shot stating “Data from clinical trials showed that a booster shot increased the immune response in trial participants who finished a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna primary series six months earlier or who received a J&J/Janssen single-dose vaccine two months earlier. With an increased immune response, people should have improved protection against getting infected with COVID-19.”

According to the WTOP website, as of January 31, 2021, Fairfax County will launch test-to-stay programs at seven public schools. The participating schools include South Lakes, Robinson, Katherine Johnson Middle School, Glasgow Middle School, Bush Hill Elementary School, Baileys Primary, and Hybla Valley Elementary School. Test-to-stay allows unvaccinated students deemed close contacts of someone who tests positive to remain in school instead of quarantining at home. The process requires exposed students to take a rapid test every morning for five days after being exposed. Prince William County and Arlington schools are among other Virginia school systems that announced intentions to launch a test-to-stay program.

While the CDC theorizes that the pandemic will get worse before it gets better in the coming weeks, you can do your part to help stop the spread by continuing to wear a mask in public areas and receiving the vaccine and booster dose.

Tips to lessen the spread during the school day:

– Wear your mask for the entire duration of the school day, except when you’re eating in the cafeteria.
– Get vaccinated! Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
– When possible, maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between yourself and other students.
– If you have any signs of an infectious illness stay home.
– Use hand sanitizer as much as you can.