COVID-19 cases on the rise

Virginia’s case increase alters return to school plans

McLean staff has been working on ensured distance learning with safety measures including separated desks, social distancing reminder signs, health checks before entering school and shielded front office desks.

Khushi Rana and Ivy Olson

Due to the period of heavy travel during Thanksgiving and Christmas, COVID-19 cases have been rising once again, and the numbers show no signs of stopping. According to the Virginia Department of Health website, 5,141 new cases were reported on Jan. 10 in Virginia, and 9,914 new cases were reported on Jan. 17. 

This increase in the span of just one week demonstrates how rapidly the case numbers continue to significantly increase. As a result of this increase, in addition to other community health metrics, the Fairfax County School Board voted to postpone return to school plans. This plan would have brought McLean High School students back into the building as early as Jan. 26. 

The thought of returning to school has made some students uncomfortable, especially due to the rising rate of COVID-19 cases in the area.

“I do not feel comfortable going back at all because cases are going up and will continue to through the winter,” sophomore Kara Bremser said. “Virginia is in the red zone as of now, which makes going back a bad idea because [in-person school] won’t last long and so much is being put at risk.”

Students and teachers are worried about coming into contact with those who become infected when the hybrid plan returns. However, Principal Ellen Reilly has a plan to keep the community safe.

“Let’s say a student goes to the clinic and says [they’re] not feeling well and have symptoms. We would put them into a room that’s away from everybody else, and we do have a room for that,” Reilly said. “We then would contact [that student’s] parents, and the parent has to be here within the hour.”

Making sure that the rest of the community is fully aware of a potential outbreak is also a priority of Reilly’s.

“That student will go home and we will send out a note to the entire school community saying that there is a [potential] case of COVID that occurred in our building,” Reilly said. “The person would then get tested, and everybody in that classroom would go home for a little bit. If the test came back positive, people would quarantine for 14 days.”

In spite of the precautions that are in place, students worry about the potential spread from asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers and other risks associated with going back.

“While I would love to go back and see all my friends, thinking practically, it’s just not safe at all,” Bremser said. “And in a time like this, that’s what we have to do: think practically. So I really hope this isn’t a bad decision about even thinking about going back, because although I think it is, the staff knows best. I guess we’ll find out what will happen soon enough when we do open. I do really think it was a good idea to hold off on the hybrid plan for now, though.”