New school year brings new Covid-19 challenges for America and local communities

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Jackson McCoy, Staff Writer

As America faces a Covid-19 resurgence with the delta variant and rising cases, the Jonathan Alder community is, too. Both the nation, the state, and the county are at a tipping point, balancing between normal life and lockdown.

Covid-19 appears to be tearing through mostly southern states where governors have opposed health regulations and vaccines. According to The Mayo Clinic, a medical nonprofit organization, Florida has the most cases reported per day, with an average of 20,764 new cases per day, despite a relatively high fully vaccinated population (53.8%).

States bordering Florida are also experiencing higher cases per day and significantly lower vaccination rates. Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana all report around 3,000 to 9,000 new cases per day, with Georgia reporting the most with 9,230 new cases per day. Georgia’s percentage of people fully vaccinated is 41.2%, Alabama’s is 39.1%, Mississippi’s is 39.6%, and Louisiana’s is 42.3%.

Other states that are experiencing a rise in Covid cases include numerous other southern states, like South Carolina and Tennessee, but also western states like Wyoming. Lagging vaccination rates in these states has made the resurgence significantly worse, and overcrowded hospitals have made the situation in these states particularly dire.

“Hospitals across the U.S. had more than 75,000 coronavirus patients as of last week, a dramatic increase from a few weeks ago but still well below the winter surge records,” writes the Associated Press for NPR. “However, Florida, Arkansas, Oregon, Hawaii, Louisiana and Mississippi all have set pandemic records for COVID hospitalizations in recent weeks.”

In the past two months, however, the governors of these states have been pushing residents to get vaccinated. Tennessee governor Bill Lee (R) told reporters at a morning news conference in July, “I want to say today, and I want to continue to say, that the No. 1 tool that we have to continue to manage COVID-19, including the delta variant, is the vaccine.” 

Alabama governor Kay Ivey (R) also told reporters in early July, “I want folks to get vaccinated. That’s the cure. That prevents everything,” and that it was “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the disease’s spread in Alabama.

In Ohio, the positive Covid test rate has increased significantly from July, jumping from 1.32% to 9.94%, according to the Mayo Clinic. As of July 1st, Ohio also reports an average of 4,735 new cases per day, and has a just-below-average vaccination rate of 48.7%. Governor Mike Dewine (R) started the Vax-a-Million initiative to encourage people to get vaccinated, though this has been a controversial step, with some studies claiming it raised vaccinations while others claimed it did not. Dewine has also recently stated he is against bills that block or ban vaccine mandates.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Madison County has reported an average of 23 new cases per day over the past 2 months, and there are 52 cases per 100,000 people, which is slightly higher than the statewide average of 41. However, Madison County has a population of about 44,000 according to the most recent census, so the cases are closer together than the surface data suggests.

In the Jonathan Alder district, there are 35 active cases as of September 1st. According to superintendent Gary Chapman in his email to parents, “this is significantly more than we saw this time last year.” In total, there are 300 students currently being quarantined, which amounts to about 12% of the student population. All current case reporting for the district can be found on the COVID dashboard.

Staff shortages are also worrying, as without teachers consistently in the building “we cannot maintain in person learning,” Chapman continues.

Neighboring districts have begun reimplementing health regulations like mask mandates. Hilliard City School District now requires masks to be worn in all school buildings. Jonathan Alder has not made that decision yet, but the district is strongly encouraging people to wear masks.

“We are simply asking, to keep children in school, to consider having your student wear a mask indoors,” Chapman writes. “This is not a requirement, but is a significant tool in helping to avoid quarantine. We value personal choice, but if the number of cases continues to increase, the district will have to consider other strategies to combat the spread of the virus.”