Heading into spring: COVID-19 developments in OC


Official U.S. Navy Imagery

CONTINUING CRISIS: Medical staff put on their personal protective equipment (PPE) in preparation for treating a COVID-19 positive patient.

Jonathan Kang and Tyler Wong

From the new COVID-19 variants to the number of students switching from the hybrid learning model to IUSD Virtual Academy (IVA), the pandemic has proven to not only be a core part of our everyday lives, but a constantly changing one as well.

New COVID-19 variants:

Found in more than half the states in the country, the new U.K. variant, B.1.1.7, has been found to be more deadly and transmissible than the original virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that the variant could be the dominant strain in the United States by March.

Another strain called B.1.351 is now prevalent in South Africa, and a closely related strain, known as P.1, has been identified in Brazil. As of Feb. 3, B.1.351 has been detected in Minnesota and P.1 has officially been detected in Maryland and South Carolina.

A Pfizer Inc. laboratory study found that coronavirus mutations identified in the U.K. and South Africa had only small impacts on the effectiveness of antibodies generated by the company’s vaccine.

Cases at Northwood and IUSD:

Multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 in IUSD schools have caused backlash from several students, parents and teachers who argue that school is unsafe for in-person learning. They voiced their concerns on a recent Instagram post from IUSD as well as by signing a petition on Change.org requesting for Northwood to resume school fully online.

As of Feb. 2, there have been 25 cumulative cases of COVID-19 among students and teachers at Northwood. 20 of them had not been on campus during their infection period, and no cases are known to have been contracted on campus.

“All of the cases that have been reported the students and staff have contracted that somewhere else, so the good news is that we don’t have any evidence of community spread here,” Northwood Assistant Principal Jennifer Ollila said. “Any time there is a positive case, we do contact tracing for that student or staff member. I believe we continue to be safe here at school.”

IVA students switch to hybrid:

A large number of students across IUSD switched from the hybrid academic model to IVA for the spring semester. At Northwood, over 120 switched their academic model.

Some students requested to switch their academic model after the early December deadline due to concerns of spikes in cases following the holiday season.

In an attempt to accommodate these last-minute changes, only a handful of students were allowed to switch their academic model at this point due to issues with staffing, schedules and the ever-growing number of students at IVA.

“There were a number of factors that went into my decision to switch,” junior Emily Okamato said. “Socialization and in-person class setting were necessary learning environments for me, but the paranoia I felt from COVID-19 ultimately drove me to switch to IVA.”

COVID-19 in the United States:

With 25,971,202 cases and 436,780 deaths as of Jan. 30, the United States leads the world in both cases and deaths. California currently has the most cases at 3,205,947, and New York has the most deaths at 42,639, but both states seem to be decreasing in the number of cases. Despite this decline, California, Texas, Florida and New York continue to have the highest number of cases.

Free COVID-19 testing at IUSD schools:

IUSD is offering free COVID-19 tests for students, staff and dependents at its high schools after its successful partnership with LivingFit Nation Corporate Wellness, who have funded free testing for staff since September 2020.

Each of the district’s six high schools will rotate hosting the clinics from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Irvine High School and Portola High School hosted a clinic on Feb. 1, while Creekside Education Center held a clinic on Feb. 8. Woodbridge High School and University High School will hold clinics on Feb. 15 and 22, respectively.

Vaccine distribution:

The COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to over 3,649,440 people in California as the state transitions from Phase 1A to Phase 1B in its distribution plan.

Healthcare workers and long-term care residents were prioritized first as part of Phase 1A. Individuals 65 and older and at risk of exposure at work are currently able to receive the vaccine. Vaccination sites range from clinics, pharmacies and hospitals to other buildings dedicated to vaccination.

In Orange County, 301,433 people have been vaccinated so far. Residents can register through www.Othena.com for a vaccine.