archive

Omicron Variant Has SM Scrambling With New Requirements

NOELLE CABRERA

Lifestyle Editor

As the Omicron variant continues to spread, it seems as if we have returned from Winter Break to a completely different world. The first case of the Omicron variant was reported in Santa Barbara County on December 29, 2021 and has led to a surge in cases with an average of over 800 cases per day, more cases than at any other point in the pandemic. There has also been the notable absence of hundreds of students and staff seen across our school district, as people test positive or stay home to reduce the risk of infection. In an effort to keep as many people in school safely as possible, the school district has put numerous new safety measures in place over the past couple of days. 

The first and most noticeable measure has been in-school COVID testing of the entire school, which began on Monday January 10th. The test is a nasal swab antigen test which provides rapid results, and the entire student body was tested this week. While important, the procedure has been time consuming and has generated mixed feelings from the student population. 

Students wait in line to be tested at the Wellness Center on campus. Image courtesy of SM journalism

“I feel like it [testing] could definitely be structured a little bit better because I’ve been called out of my classes twice, even though I have already been tested, and so I have to stand around outside during testing waiting instead of doing classwork,” said sophomore Hannah Henderson. “I think that it is a really good thing to be tested every week because so many students are out and it is important to stay safe, but I feel like the administration should come up with a better plan to make sure that it is not taking away too much time from learning.” 

If you test positive, are experiencing symptoms, or know that you have been exposed to someone who has COVID, you should consult the guidelines sent out in a recent newsletter from the district that outlines what you should do depending on your situation. 

A more accurate form of testing, saliva-based molecular testing, is also available to Santa Barbara Unified students and staff at Earl Warren Showgrounds for free as long as you have your name and student ID number. Testing is available there from 9 am- 5 pm Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am- 2 pm. 

Other recent on-campus safety protocols include mandatory mask wearing both inside and outside (unless eating), and the temporary suspension of all extracurricular activities including field trips, performances, and both indoor and outdoor athletic competitions. The suspension of extracurricular activities was then lifted January 13, as there was only a 6.9% positivity rate in students across the district. N95 masks have also been distributed to students in their second period if they wish to have one, and are available at the Wellness Center.

The recent influx of cases has been especially untimely considering that finals week has arrived, along with the end of the semester. With approximately 1,900 students and 250 staff absent across the district during the week of January 3rd, preparing for the end of the semester has been difficult, and teachers have had to come up with extra resources and plans to help quarantining students complete finals. 

Students check in at the Wellness Center for on-campus COVID testing. Image courtesy of Dr. Glazer

“It was definitely hard to try and keep up with my schoolwork at home especially when there was no Zoom option because I really had nothing to motivate myself,” said sophomore Zoe Javanbakht. “However, with many students and staff members also getting the virus I feel a little better about my situation since so many others are in it and I am hoping that because of this there will be a time slot to make up for lost time and finish the semester as if I had been at school the whole time.”

Aside from concerns pertaining to finals, some students feel that they are putting themselves or family members at risk by attending school, especially if they or a loved one are at high risk. This too has contributed to student absences.

“Everyday I question the safety of my family’s health by being at school, knowing how many students are testing positive,” said sophomore Viviana Galindo. “Having high risk family members and exposing myself to an area where there are many students who are not always wearing masks with the possibility of having COVID is scary.”

The effectiveness of the latest safety protocols will become evident in upcoming days, and they may be adjusted or added on to as circumstances change. In the meantime, the best that we can do is comply with guidelines by staying at home if you are ill and getting tested if you have been exposed to COVID or are experiencing symptoms, wearing masks inside and outside, practicing social distancing, and even double masking, wearing an N95 mask, and getting vaccinated and boosted if you can, all to protect yourself and those around you. 

NOELLE CABRERA

Lifestyle Editor

Categories: archive