Hope springs eternal, so I sent the following plea to our school board in the hope that, this year, they will actually try to reduce the amount of COVID in our schools instead of consistently reducing protections every time there’s a surge. It’s past time for them to display some actual courage and do the right thing instead of the thing that appeases the most irrational members of our community.
Dear Dr. DiMarino-Linnen and members of the Rose Tree Media School District School Board,
I’m writing as a concerned parent of a child at Rose Tree Elementary School. I want to encourage you to use the remaining weeks of summer to prepare for a safe and healthy school year by overhauling the Health and Wellness Plan and by placing HEPA air filters in each classroom.
I tried to review the current Health and Wellness Plan before writing this message and was concerned to find that it no longer appears to be available on the District’s revamped website. In fact, I could not find a single mention of COVID on the new site. A number of hits come up in the site’s search function, but all of those links appear to be broken.
As I am sure you are aware, though, the BA.5 variant of COVID is surging across the country, hot on the heels of BA.2, which itself replaced BA.1, the original omicron variant that hit early in 2022. Each of these variants demonstrated a great ability to escape prior immunity from vaccinations or earlier infections. Many people, including my own family, have been infected twice in just a few weeks because prior infection offers so little protection against another infection. Worse, only about 30% of eligible children ages five through eleven have been vaccinated nationally, making students in our schools exceptionally vulnerable.
In other words, there is no meaningful, widespread immunity to the currently dominant variant, much less any other variants that may soon follow. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have all been trending upward across the country this summer and are actually higher than at the same time last summer. The CDC estimates that as many as 20% of all those infected will experience long COVID (a serious condition that has resulted in permanent disability for multiple people I know personally). In short, the pandemic is not over, much as we all wish it was.
I therefore hope you are using this time to improve the ventilation in our school buildings, and at the very least, place HEPA air filters in each classroom. HEPA air filters will go a long ways toward keeping our students, teachers, and community safe. These filters and restoring universal use of quality masks are the two most effective things you can do at the board level to prevent further spread of this dangerous disease and protect our kids.