The school newspaper of University City High School

Covid-19 safety takes a village

November 5, 2021

Looking at the school district Covid dashboard, as of Oct. 25, there were no active positive cases among students and no students quarantined due to exposure. There were no active positive cases amongst staff. The district is following all the CDC protocols and obviously, they are taking the issue of safety seriously.

The rules are there, but for rules to actually work, they have to be enforced and everyone has to adhere to them. The responsibility does not fall solely on the staff; students should take it upon themselves to be safe for the benefit of those around them and focus on how our choices affect others. .

Wearing a mask for a few hours shouldn’t be the end of the world, but students’ masks are frequently worn only over their mouth only or not even at all. A few teachers take down their masks when giving instruction, claiming they “can’t project their voice” with it on. While many try to keep a safe distance while their mask is down, there’s also those who are less than a foot away from other people maskless. This might not seem like a big deal, but with a new case almost every week, it begs the question: Is U. City doing enough to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19?

U. City is a public school, and therefore cannot require the students who attend to be vaccinated. However, it’s a different story when it comes to teachers. Requiring staff to be vaccinated is a definite step in the right direction.

“Overall, I think the district is doing a very good job,” Nathan Pipes, history teacher, said. “[They’re] trying to use indirect methods of getting people vaccinated. That includes presenting the data and incentivizing. That’s a good policy approach. Beyond that, I subscribe to the data, to what the scientists are saying. [The data] all indicates that it is effective in protecting people. Not just ourselves obviously, but others as well from the spread. So, I’m in favor of it.”

In addition to requiring teacher vaccinations, the school is currently offering free saliva testing through Washington University that is available to anyone associated with the school district, and it’s something more people should take advantage of.

“The Wash U. weekly testing is an amazing program that they have in place and I think that if everyone were to participate, or at least more people would participate, we could really keep our school ahead of Covid,” Michael Simmons, junior, said.

Even with adhering to CDC guidelines and partnering with Wash U., there are still a few issues worth noting that could be improved. For instance, many of us have classes with less than 10 students, but some have over 20, which makes it very difficult to keep a safe distance. With masks constantly coming down to take a drink or “take a breath,” being in such a confined space creates lots of opportunity for a spread of germs.

The contact tracing situation is also less than ideal. According to the CDC, close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of a person diagnosed with Covid-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Even with this definition, the lines are still a little blurry. Many are confused what to do if they’re identified as being in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. Some students have gotten emails saying that they don’t have to quarantine since they’re vaccinated, and others have been in close contact but haven’t received an email at all.

Lunch adds a new level of difficulty. There’s no record of who eats lunch with who and masks are obviously down since people are eating. The table seats are also very close together. You could very possibly catch something from someone you eat lunch with even if you only see them once that day.

The outside lunch area is helpful, however, there are still eight students jammed together at a table.

Without assigned or ample seating  then how do we keep track of who is close to who and who could’ve possibly gotten someone sick?

However, none of this is to say that this falls on the district leadership. They’re doing the best they can with the resources they have, and there has been a decrease in cases at the school recently. In fact, our district has navigated this much better than many others in the St. Louis area where cases have been much higher. While it is their responsibility to make the rules and keep students safe, the students must make more of an effort to do their part as well. The responsibility of safety falls on all of us.

We were jumping at the opportunity to be back in person. Therefore, we need to be more aware of the risks that come with being close to so many people for seven hours each day. It would be less concerning if more people would follow the safety precautions. It’s a possibility that we jumped back into “normal” a bit too quickly. We believe most everyone prefers learning in person to virtual, but safety must be the top priority.

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