As Delta variant cases rapidly rise across the country, some students and staff at Midtown remain unvaccinated and unwilling to participate in weekly Covid-19 testing. For the safety of all Midtown students and staff, the school must make weekly testing mandatory. It is now mandatory for teachers.
Weekly testing is an effective way to prevent and stop the spread of Covid in schools. According to the CDC, younger people are much more likely to be asymptomatic, meaning they are more likely to unknowingly spread the virus to others.
The most dominant version of Covid in the U.S is currently the Delta variant. This strand is more than twice as contagious as past Covid variants, and more contagious than the common cold. Because of this, people infected with the Delta variant are able to spread it more quickly and for longer periods of time.
The Delta variant has already caused panic in some schools. In a school in California, an unvaccinated elementary teacher, infected with the Delta variant, briefly took off her mask to read out loud. She ended up spreading the virus to the students closest to her, their families and other faculty members. After an investigation, 27 people tested positive. If the students and teacher hadn’t gotten tested, the results could have been much worse. In order to control the spread of Covid, testing is important, especially for people who are not vaccinated.
Dr. Anna Durbin, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes there is a trend concerning young adults and effects of the Delta variant. Pediatric ICUs and the need for intubation has increased from the Alpha variant’s peak in early 2021. This is supported by a U.K study published in the medical journal The Lancet on infectious diseases, which found that the Delta variant is more dangerous than previous variants. In elementary schools, children are too young to be vaccinated. They have no protection from the Delta variant. To minimize the risk of hospitalization and possibly death, testing can be used to stop the spread.
Vaccines are necessary and effective in controlling the spread of the virus. The higher the vaccination rate, the lower the chance of widespread infection. However, while it is extremely uncommon, breakthrough cases can still occur. Since the middle of July, 189 Atlanta Public Schools employees have tested positive for Covid. Of those 189, half said that they were vaccinated, as of Aug. 26.
According to the CDC, vaccinated people can still catch the Delta variant, but the symptoms will most likely be mild, and the virus will be spread for a shorter amount of time. However, for people who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised, catching the Delta variant could be fatal.
After Labor Day, APS started testing staff twice a week for Covid-19. This will be extremely helpful in catching new cases among the staff and preventing outbreaks before they become widespread. However, the staff is a small fraction of the total school district’s population. If APS wants to truly protect and reduce the risk of Covid, the district should require Covid testing for students as well.
If every student gets tested weekly, schools can limit the highly contagious spread of the Delta variant. This could potentially save lives, not just in the Midtown community, but for family, friends and other people outside of it.