The Delta variant of COVID-19 raises new questions and concerns for the Concord Academy community as we enter the 2021–2022 school year. Although last year, school ended with suspending indoor mask mandates, the new Delta variant puts a new strain on our ability to return to a “new normal.”
In the news recently, public health information concerning vaccines and the Delta variant have become politicized. The spread of misinformation has led to vaccine hesitancy and an overall dismissal and disinterest in safety precautions. Although this summer, some may have felt like COVID-19 was under control, it is clear now more than ever how infectious and deadly the Delta variant is and how everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must follow suggested guidelines to stop the spread and future outbreaks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released information stating that the Delta variant is nearly twice as contagious by R0 as previous variants and that it causes more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated people. It is described as more transmissible than the common cold and viruses that cause smallpox (SARS, Ebola etc.) and slightly less transmissible than chickenpox. The most vulnerable population is unvaccinated individuals, specifically young people. While older age groups are still at risk, children ages 5–12 who do not have access to a vaccine are 2.5 times more likely to be infected by the Delta variant. The CDC and other medical resources recommend two main actions for people in areas of substantial or high transmission: to get vaccinated and to wear masks in public, indoor places.
As we enter the new school year, it is crucial to get vaccinated, if able, in order to stop the spread of the new Delta variant. While CA is currently working on releasing a concrete plan for the upcoming school year, it is clear that school will return to functioning in-person, full time, five days a week this fall. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) compiled a document with useful information that the CA’s senior leadership team and the COVID-19 Response Group (CRG) will utilize to inform future policies on campus. They strongly recommend that students and unvaccinated staff members wear masks when indoors, and to implement a robust plan for testing in schools.
While the past couple of months could have induced a sense of optimism for the end of a tiring period filled with terrifying news headlines, COVID-19 is still prevalent and will influence the way that CA operates in the fall. But, if CA continues to stay informed with accurate information and remains cautious, hopefully the community—our friends and faculty and their close ones as well—will stay as safe as possible!