COVID protocols relaxed after case numbers drop

Ainsley Bice, Staff Writer

The school adminstration made masks optional again Feb. 7 after a challenging start to second semester.
After battling Omicron through January and the beginning of February, the school currently has no reported COVID cases. Students and teachers can go to school without masks.
However, that was not the case in January. At that point vaccinations rates were up, positive tests were down, and COVID seemed to be coming to an end. Then the weather got colder, and Oklahoma schools began to cancel in-person learning. COVID was back in full force with a new variant, Omicron, and there was no end in sight. On Jan. 7, administration decided to mandate masks again until Feb. 1, before reevaluating.
Dr. David Chansolme, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Integris Health, explained the Omicron variant.
The Omicron variant in early January was seen in students and teachers being different from other variations of the virus because it has significantly more mutations compared to other variants. It was incredibly transmissible, and at its peak students and staff members were out sick with the virus.
“People who come into contact with it are almost certain to develop COVID at some point,” Chansolme said.
“The good news is it looks like it’s also a lot milder than previous variants that we’ve had. The problem is because we have so many more cases, there’s still some people who are going to end up in the hospital, and that’s why our hospital census is higher than it’s ever been.”
The most common symptoms of the Omicron variant of COVID were sore throat, congestion and achiness.
Since classes here were never canceled, Chansolme said every vaccinated person eligible for a booster shot should take advantage of that opportunity. Administration held a COVID Vaccination and Booster Clinic Jan 14 for anyone who needed their first, second or third doses. Another clinic is not scheduld yet, but one will be in the works before students and teachers leave for summer break.
“We saw from the studies that people who had boosters as opposed to just the primary vaccine series had about 25 times higher antibodies than people who do have just had the primary series,” Chansolme said.
COVID coming back in full force this winter also affected many people’s mental health.
“Since COVID came in again, we’ve seen a decline in mental health, not just from students, but from teachers, from staff, people outside of school from our families,” COVID Communication Director and Freshman Counselor Courtney Gougler said.
With spring break almost here, many wonder how COVID could affect traveling and international vacations.
“It seems like we’ve kind of hit the peak, and we’re kind of starting to come back down because our numbers and our school numbers look much better,” Morton said. “I think we’re going to have to live with this. I think you just have to take care of yourself.”