Covid-19 Cases on the Rise and How FCPS Could Be Affected


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Father Applies Mask to Daughter Outside (Photo by: Getty Images)

Brandon Level

March 13th 2020, is a day Americans alike will remember. The deadly COVID-19 virus crept up on the United States from Wuhan, China. President Trump declared a national emergency over the coming virus while Governors, local officials, and other policy-makers came on TV and local stations to announce the closing of schools, and what would happen going forward. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia joined a group of nine other states in closing in-person schools for the academic year. The effects of this decision would be long lasting and have devastating impacts on children in the U.S. For the rest of the 2019-20 school year, the plan for FCPS would be to shut down schools for two weeks; the county sent packets to students throughout the county with grade level material.

After a chaotic end to the 2019-20 school year, FCPS, along with a large portion of American children returned to schools in a remote fashion. Through computers, students would log in 4 days a week to do classes online. Parents were extremely unhappy with this decision, going as far as creating an organization to recall the FCPS School Board for shutting down the schools. The organization “OpenFCPS”, came together to “support each other’s advocacy to the school board on behalf of their children.” The group is a 50/50 bipartisan policy committee with parents on both sides of the political spectrum. To learn more about their organization, print out their flyers, or donate, click here. Parents weren’t the only people upset. Centreville Highschool freshman, Adama Sawi, says It was very depressing and challenging and when we actually got a chance to go back to school I saw an improvement in my work and productivity”. With not much positive feedback to go around, and with lowering COVID-19 cases, FCPS found it logical to open the schools once again.

The school board did just that in January-February of 2021, when the county began to offer 4 days of in-person learning. Some FCPS educators expressed concerns over the reopening of schools. Emily Vanderhoff, first grade teacher in FCPS, told abc7, “A lot of people said, you know, in all my years of teaching this is the first time I felt terrified of going into work.” Those striking words show just how stressed some residents felt as they headed back to work.

Now FCPS is in full swing as the county has gone back to full in-person instruction. On the 12th of August, the Virginia State Health Commissioner issued a controversial mask mandate for indoors in K-12 schools. This mandate disregarded vaccination status. However, as we go into the 2021-22 school year, cases have still begun to rise. According to the New York Times updated statistics, Fairfax County’s 7 day average new cases have been lingering between 447 and 180 cases since the start of the new school year (this chart can be found here). New cases have risen to their highest since last winter on February 21st. That date is important because it’s around the time schools began to reopen last year. The data presented on the COVID-19 Health Metrics site shows that transmission of the COVID-19 is low on weekends, and significantly increases during the school and work week.

So the data shows that having schools open for in-person learning is not a good thing in regards to COVID-19, but what is the solution? Never return to in-person schooling? Only offer in-person learning to some students? Pick and choose which students need to return, or forever have a hybrid (in and out of the building) system? This might in part be affected by the Governor and the policies they will implement

Glenn Youngkin, Republican candidate for Virginia governor has a plan. He pledges to ban mask mandates, and vaccine mandates for schools. He also believes that it should be up to parents to decide whether their children wear masks when attending school. This might in turn cause COVID-19 to skyrocket and result in a involuntary shutdown in order to protect public health. Governor Northam believes masks should be worn in indoor spaces in schools. He acted on this opinion when he initiated a mask mandate for all Virginia Schools, public and private. Keeping the mask mandates, might cause lower COVID-19 spread, and thus keep schools open.

Currently running for governor, is Terry McCaulife, former Virginia Governor and Democrat. He said that the commonwealth should “follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” That suggests that he would uphold the mask mandate for K-12 students. Similarly, keeping the mask mandate could lead to lower COVID-19 cases, and thus keep schools form shutting down.

Politically, it would be unwise of the current Virginia Governor to shutdown schools as that isn’t a good look before a giant election that is tightening by the day. So, we will have to see what happens after the election. If Youngkin wins, we may see schools open with no masks, and possibly, COVID-19 cases could spiral out of control. If McCauliffe wins, we could see children being forced to mask up indoors once again. It all comes down to the upcoming gubernatorial election that ends this November 2nd, so go out and vote!