By Yuto K. ’23
It has been over two years since Covid-19 first disrupted our lives. Since then, there have been times when the number of cases were going up at an alarming rate. There have also been other times when the number of cases were decreasing or holding steady. Different variants of the virus have been introduced, while the number of daily cases fluctuated. One area of the world would see a surge in cases and then another area would soon follow. So what’s next?
Crystal itself has gone through many changes as a result of the pandemic and its fluctuation. First, it was the Distance Learning Plan for the end of the 2019-20 school year and for the first part of the 2020-21 school year. Then the hybrid model, along with weekly testing, were implemented for most of the school year. At the end of the 2020-21 school year, vaccines became available to the general public and the final weeks were fully in person.
This school year started off as a continuation of the previous one. Slowly, it looked like Covid was finally going away as testing was no longer required and masking policies were loosened. Suddenly, upon returning from winter break, the Omicron variant was prevalent and cases were rising once again. We were back to weekly testing and Zoom was once again used for those who had tested positive. As people were testing positive, possible Covid exposure emails were sent to the community. However, in the last couple of months, cases have been on a decrease as weekly testing is no longer required and masks are no longer a requirement indoors or outdoors.
So what’s next, with spring break looming in the near future? As we have seen in the past two years, just because cases are going down doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. Will there be another rise in cases or will the numbers hold steady?
Although the future is uncertain, there is another variant of Omicron that seems to be making its way to the United States. In the past few weeks, Covid cases in Europe have been skyrocketing due to a variant called “Omicron variant BA.2”. Covid cases in the United States have been on a decline since January of this year. According to the New York Times, in mid-January, the weekly average of new Covid cases was around 750,000. Now the weekly average has declined to less than 30,000.
Not much is known about this new variant as of now. While it is still considered a part of the Omicron variant, research is still being conducted as to whether it should be classified as its own entity. Experts have said that the variant is more transmissible than Omicron but may be around the same or less severe in terms of symptoms.
Dr. Anthony Fauci made an appearance on ABC on Sunday and said that although the variant is “more transmissible,” he does not expect a huge surge in cases like Omicron, although there may be an “uptick”. Early research also shows that getting the vaccine and the booster should have similar effectiveness to the Omicron variant. Also, just because you caught the Omicron variant does not guarantee you will not catch Covid again. In fact, Dr. Charles Chiu, a UCSF infectious disease expert, told the San Francisco Chronicle that his study showed that catching Omicron provides less immunity than other variants such as Delta.
A rise in the number of cases of the BA.2 variant is already starting to be seen in some areas of the country. Los Angeles County has observed the percentage of the BA.2 variant double in the past few weeks and that trend is expected to continue. In New York City, BA.2 variant cases account for over 50% of the total number of cases. As of now, the total number of cases is still holding steady.
Much of the future is still uncertain when it comes to the ending of the Covid-19 pandemic. What we can do is take precautionary measures when needed and be especially aware of those that are still at high risk, in addition to trusting the scientists and experts who are most knowledgeable about the pandemic.