Community still feels need for precautions despite decrease in cases

A+student+gets+her+temperature+checked+amidst+the+rise+and+fall+of+COVID-19+cases.+

Grace Montgomery

A student gets her temperature checked amidst the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases.

We are all familiar with the smell of urgent cares and the feeling of COVID-19 tests tickling your sinuses. Overhearing your peers and local news stations droning on about the latest variants and severities of positive cases. 

The ongoing pandemic has affected our community in various ways. 

“Just living through the pandemic is affecting me a lot,” Sophomore Nora Jacobson said. “It feels more normal for me to go to school with a mask on and take all the precautions against COVID-19 than it feels to not wear a mask at all. Remembering life before COVID-19 feels so weird to me since it’s so different than how we’re living now.”

When Jacobson tested positive for COVID-19, it proved to be a struggle. She began falling behind in school and was forced away from friends and family. On top of that, her sense of taste and smell were greatly affected after contracting the virus.

In the end, Jacobson recovered and is now grateful that things are beginning to go back to normal, especially since she can get back into doing the activities she loves.

“I’m involved in the theatre and choir programs, and not being able to perform was devastating,” Jacobson said. “I was reminded of how much I love the performing arts programs at our school. It’s just good to finally be able to take part in the things I’m passionate about again.”

While students like Jacobson have stumbled upon many struggles due to COVID-19, GHAPS has also found themselves having a fair share of conflicts.

“We made it through almost the entire school year last year without a single teacher becoming positive for COVID-19 and now because Omicron is running rampant, every time you turn around, it’s kids, it’s adults, it’s grandparents, it’s cousins. I mean, it’s everybody,” Principal Tracy Wilson said. “I really hope that we can get to a space where kids don’t have to have the stress, pressure and worry of COVID-19 and can just be a student and focus on this time in their life.”

Despite positive cases at the time being higher than they were when we went remote last school year, districts like West Ottawa have lifted mask mandates. On Monday, February 28, Grand Haven will follow the trend and lift the mandate. 

Although there are some that don’t support the mandate, many people do not take into consideration the changes that will have to be made. 

Quarantine is one of the most notable changes. If masks were made optional, quarantine would be restored to 10 days rather than 5, regardless of vaccination status. However, contact tracing will not be required unless there is an outbreak involved. 

“People that want masking to be optional have always wanted masking to be optional. I don’t think that all of a sudden now new people are coming out of the woodwork and really putting pressure,” Wilson said. “I don’t want to live in a mask the rest of my life any more than you guys do, but I will continue to support a mask mandate until 10 days of quarantining is not required anymore.”

Despite everything going on, one of Wilson’s top priorities is trying to make things as normal as possible for students.

“I don’t know if I have a main concern that’s any different today than it has been for the past almost two full years, which really is the fact that our students are not getting a traditional high school experience,” Wilson said.

Amongst other things this year, GHAPS has had immense staffing shortages; however, local hospitals, like North Ottawa Community Hospital, have also been facing the same complications.

“You have to protect yourself in the way that you feel best. Whether it is wearing masks, vaccines, or working from home,” Laboratory Coordinator Sabrina Frank said. “COVID-19 is hitting every age and every person differently and it really isn’t picking an age group as far as who it affects the worst.”

Although masks are not a fan favorite, they have helped prevent the spread of diseases. Last year, influenza was essentially nonexistent during flu season, unlike before COVID-19 where influenza cases generally spiked during that time. 

However, with less people wearing masks, more influenza cases are starting to reappear. Masks may be disliked; nevertheless, it is important to wear them, especially since we are unsure if or when another variant could emerge.

“The staff that I see at the hospital are amazing. People are going above and beyond what they would normally put into their job,” Frank said. “They’re worrying about the patients more than they’re worrying about themselves.”

Hospitals like NOCH are trying to keep up, and cases are starting to go down, but a far worse variant could appear at any point. Until then, the staff is working extremely hard to make sure that everyone remains as healthy as possible.

 “The virus isn’t a joke. I was very lucky to have a mild case, but I know that others aren’t as lucky as I was,” Jacobson said. “We should still be careful to stay as healthy as possible so we can avoid spreading it to someone who could get seriously ill. I feel we’ve come a long way in dealing with the virus, but there are still precautions to take and things to do before we can be completely out of the pandemic.”