Coronavirus cases have dropped significantly. Federal health officials are backing the reopening of schools. And while the vaccine rollout continues to lag, more than 50 million doses have been administered across the nation. But every time signs of hope appear in the pandemic, yet another mutation seems to emerge to dash the optimism.
Dr. Stephanie Silvera, Public Health Professor, noted: “Most of the variants seem to increase the transmissibility of the virus. As we have been with COVID from the beginning, we’re building the airplane while we’re in flight. So we are learning about these variants as they’re developing, and research takes a certain amount of time to conduct if you’re going to do it well.”
Dr. Silvera is also concerned with the so-called “COVID fatigue” and a desire to return to normal is causing the nation to let down its guard just as the end of the pandemic appears to be in sight. She added that she’s been fielding many calls lately about the issue of reopening schools. It’s a difficult question.
She stated, “I’m concerned for a few reasons. One, we’re seeing an understandable push to reopen. But we’re pushing to repone when we still do not have anywhere near heard immunity. I think New Jersey’s between 10% and 11% of the population (that) has received the first dose of the vaccine. We need those numbers to be closer to 70%. And while we’re working towards that 70%, we need people to continue to, as I said, practice the public health measures that we know work, even after you’re vaccinated.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines last week calling for schools to reopen.
Dr. Silvera added, “But the reality is, they (schools) haven’t been the first to reopen. We’ve opened a lot of other industries or settings. And so, opening schools safely also require that community transmission is low. So we can’t open schools safely if we still have numbers of new cases per day that are high and growing. And while those numbers are seeming to come down a bit, these new variants can very quickly change the direction of our epidemic curve. And it can quickly go back up.”