By DAVE THOMAS
Companies, organizations, schools and more are adjusting how they go about doing business again amid another winter surge of the coronavirus.
Several universities and schools in San Diego announced recently they would return to virtual classes to begin the 2022 spring semester.
For many students and staff, virtual classes are not new.
School officials said delaying the start of in-person classes until early February serves two purposes. First, it helps to better ensure more time to help those individuals who were exposed to or infected by COVID-19 over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays to quarantine while not missing out on class. Second, people who recently received a booster shot have added time for the shot to become more effective.
San Diego and Imperial Valley school districts are currently holding virtual classes but plan to return to in-person instruction on Feb. 7. Still, the campuses are open in the meantime.
In a release, San Diego State University stated that instruction would be virtual through Feb. 4 with a few small exceptions. SDSU reminded its students, faculty and staff (this includes those deemed auxiliary workers) able to get the booster that such shots had to be on file with the school by Jan. 18 in order to be labeled as fully vaccinated.
SDSU is not the only San Diego area university to be pausing in-person classes.
UC San Diego in La Jolla went to virtual classes in early January. School officials said if all goes accordingly, in-person classes will resume Jan. 31.
At the high school level, precautions are also being taken seriously as the new year unfolds.
Jennifer Osborn, a community relations spokesperson at La Mesa’s Helix Charter High School, noted the school’s return to classes following the winter holiday break was slated for Jan. 5. At that time, COVID cases due to the Omicron variant were skyrocketing and the ability to test for it was quite limited.
“In response to this situation, the Helix administration asked the Charter Board to consider available options, which included returning to school in person with precautions in place; delaying the return to school altogether for five days (including a weekend); or returning to school in a sort of ‘soft open’ approach for the first three days back, where classes would take place following the regular daily schedule, but students would attend via Zoom,” Osborn commented. “After much discussion and weighing out pros and cons, the Board voted unanimously to return with a virtual schedule for three days and postpone returning to school in person until Jan. 10.”
As of Jan. 10, the school is holding classes on campus with stringent safety measures in place.
Osborn added that the school provided COVID-19 testing on campus for four days in the first week of January so any students and staff who had been possibly exposed during holiday festivities could protect others if they contracted the virus.
Meantime, sports also returned though some games were postponed or canceled if either team had been impacted by the virus, either via illness/positive tests or being quarantined.
“There is no vaccination requirement at this time for any Helix students, but they are highly encouraged to be vaccinated and boosted when eligible,” Osborn commented. “Some athletes, depending on the sport, are required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing. In order to meet this requirement, Helix provides three testing opportunities on campus each week.”
Other extracurricular events have been taking place with safety measures in place.
For those not aware, Helix has the Helix Virtual Academy (HVA) for students who were not able to come back to school or had concerns related to returning for in-person classes. The HVA has been operating since the start of the school year.
According to Osborn, there are myriad of precautions in place at the school to best protect students and staff.
“Early in the pandemic, Helix’s Safety Team was tasked with the ongoing review and analysis of the constantly-evolving guidance from state and local authorities,” Osborn noted. “That remains in place and they continue to monitor best practices. They are ready to recommend and implement changes as necessary.”
Among some of the more notable mitigation measures implemented at Helix:
Significant modifications were made to the HVAC system to provide the best possible filtration and ventilation.
Teachers have been provided with sanitation equipment and supplies to use between classes.
Classrooms are equipped with disposable masks and hand sanitizer.
Students and staff are required to complete an online screening prior to coming on campus each day.
Everyone is required to wear a mask when indoors, and it is highly recommended that masks be worn outdoors when not eating or drinking.
COVID-19 (PCR) testing is provided 3 days a week on campus to any students and staff.
Most recently, students were provided with at-home testing kits to use prior to returning after the MLK holiday.
Additional staff have been hired to form a COVID-19 response team to complete all contact tracing and to implement and communicate the COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines provided by the County Public Health officials.
As of last week, more than 852,000 COVID deaths had been reported in the United
States, according to the New York Times.
California leads the way in deaths with more than 78,000 to date. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been some 605,000 cases reported in San Diego County and more than 4,500 deaths.
— Reach Dave Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.