Rise In Omicron Cases Brings Rise In Questions


Adyan Al-Shamri, Staff Writer

A rise in COVID-19 cases brings with it big questions.

It’s been almost three years since the start of COVID-19. People have been quarantined, losing jobs, and doing online school. Every person alive has been affected by COVID-19 in some way. Now, a new variant of COVID-19–Omicron–has been discovered, and cases are taking a dramatic climb. 

Elkhart High School junior Jacob Windy sees the importance in this change. “I have heard of the new variant of COVID. There is a huge rise in cases, and I believe it should be a main focus.” 

The Omicron variant was first discovered in the United States on Dec. 1. Over break, many students and adults found themselves contracting COVID-19. Many universities, such as Harvard and Michigan State, even went online for the first couple of weeks back from break. 

Now the problem is evident more than ever in Elkhart High School. Students are even wondering when mask mandates will come back in order. “The school needs to enforce tighter COVID policies; they should make people wear masks when they are not eating or drinking.” Windy vocalizes. Elkhart High School sophomore Mayai Kyle adds her thoughts on steps the schools should be taking. “Personally, I believe that there should be more hand sanitizers provided so that germs are not spreading as much.” Kyle adds to her thought. “They need to bring back the mask mandate in addition to that.”

This rise in cases are starting to divide the student body in the next steps to be taken. Some believe that going virtual is the only way to keep students and staff safe, while others believe a mask mandate is all that is needed. Windy seems to be on the side leaning towards going virtual. “Based on personal experiences, I wouldn’t be upset if schools went virtual or hybrid. I was virtual last year and had a good experience,” he adds. “It was nice working from home, because some classes would let you leave if you had your work done. It was much more convenient and safe for me to work from home.” Others, such as Kyle, believe that there could be downsides to virtual learning. “My personal thoughts would not be happy. I had to personally deal with being all virtual last year–and it wasn’t good. I know that I and several other students weren’t happy being online all the time…and being stuck at home.” Concluding, Kyle adds, “I know that personally it affected me greatly, and not in a good way.” 

In all, there is one thing all students and teachers agree on: safety. The safety of students and staff remains a major concern for many. As everyone anxiously awaits to hear what the administration’s next steps are to be taken, Dr. Steve Thalheimer, superintendent of Elkhart Community Schools, takes this opportunity to alleviate the concerns. “We are monitoring COVID cases among students and staff,” Thalheimer begins. “As we have established since the fall, we keep an eye on building absences and look at the situation school by school to decide what action may need to be taken.” Continuing on, he adds, “If student levels become too high or staff absences make it difficult to manage having school in that building, that school moves to e-Learning for a few days, as was done with the Freshman Division last week.”

Still, many–like Kyle–wonder about the possibility of returning to a virtual learning experience. “I cannot foresee any situation related to COVID where we would move to close down schools all across the district,” Dr. Thalheimer concludes reassuringly.