When Covid-19 first hit, many of us thought that it would be gone by the start of 2021. However, as the start of the new year quickly approaches, the pandemic is far from over. While you may be tired of hearing the same story about wearing your mask, social-distancing and staying at home, this is because the magnitude of the virus has not changed, yet people are starting to get more relaxed about safety. Everyone wants this to be over as soon as possible, so we can return to normal; however, it takes a cooperative effort from the entire Maclay community for this to occur. 

As of Dec. 8, the New York Times reported an average of 9,495.1 new cases daily in Florida over the last week. Leon County has seen a total of 15,680 cases with 152 deaths. In addition, the median age of people affected in the county is 25. Over the past two weeks, Covid-19 cases in the United States have increased by 17 percent over the last 14 days. As case numbers rise across the country, we must recognize how this can affect our lives in the future and take safety measures. 

With these rises in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, there is a very real possibility that we could switch to virtual learning for all students again. Especially after a long break, there are often concerns about the activities of students over the break that could lead to an outbreak at school. We have been fortunate that cases at Maclay have been limited, but that does not mean there is no possibility of spread in the future. Virtual school was a nice break for some of us last year, but for many students, learning online can be difficult, as some students may not have a productive work space or access to technology. Amy Bintliff, a developmental psychologist and professor at the University of California, San Diego, found that many students had lowered motivation, difficulty forming connections with peers and feelings of isolation because of online learning. The effects of virtual school can cause issues with academic performance, along with mental health. To ensure that students who benefit from an in-person education are able to do so, we have to continue to take the virus seriously because one person’s actions could ruin it for everyone. 

As winter break approaches, Maclay families have made plans to travel and reconnect with family or friends. Ultimately, the best option is to avoid travel and limit contact with large groups of people; however, there are still ways to stay safe over the holidays. If you are traveling, driving and making limited stops is the safest choice because you are just in a car with you and your family. If you choose to fly, some ways to reduce risks are wearing a mask or face shield the entire trip, carrying disinfecting materials, bringing your own snacks and things to do on the flight, flying short distances and avoiding moving about the cabin. If you choose to travel, it is also highly recommended that you quarantine before and after your trip, in addition to getting a negative test before returning to school. Furthermore, if you have been around large groups of people over the break, also consider getting a Covid-19 test to ensure you are safe to return to school. 

While in school and going about the community, following precautions such as mask-wearing and social-distancing is still very necessary. Even if you do not agree with wearing a mask, do it out of respect for your peers who may be at high risk or have lost family members to the virus. Additionally, continue to stay six feet apart from people and avoid being in contact with others for long periods of time. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 or have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19, CDC protocols call for quarantining for ten days without testing or for seven days with a negative test on or after day five of quarantine. For the health and safety of the Maclay community, make sure you follow protocols and avoid coming to school with any symptoms. 

In the end, we all want our school year to finish out with normal traditions: graduation, class trips and more. Additionally, our peers online who may be staying home due to health concerns could be able to return to school safely. Taking precautions seriously and following guidelines helps protect our teachers and other faculty, who all take risks by coming to school every day. To reduce the chances of going online and increasing the chances of normalcy, continue to be safe and think of others.

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