Staff Editorial: Guidelines need to be followed as new variant looms

Proper masking and quarantining necessary


Patricia Lopez-Milian

Park students cheer on boys’ basketball during their games Jan. 11 against Orono. Masks are currently required for all spectators at Park sports games that are indoors and in the building.

With the emergence of the Omicron variant, COVID-19 is on a surge throughout schools. To combat this issue, guidelines such as mandatory masking and quarantining if positive have been put in place. While the guidelines are, the Echo Editorial Board believes students and teachers must fully comply with these rules to prevent infections. 

Currently, guidelines state that masks must be worn at all times, students should report any positive cases and, at a minimum, a five-day quarantine period is required after a positive test. Students who are exposed but fully vaccinated with no symptoms are not required to quarantine, although the COVID-19 vaccine is not currently mandated in schools. While the Board believes that these procedures can prevent the spread, students and teachers are not following them to the fullest extent. 

There are issues with both students and staff masking. There are disciplinary policies in place to try and keep students wearing masks, but these policies are not enforced. It’s common to see students walking in the hallways with masks halfway or fully off. When asked to put on a mask, students are often defiant or only put them on for a brief amount of time. In addition, many teachers do not fully mask and students have no way to regulate this. Obviously, this is a major issue especially with rapidly rising case numbers. 

When students are exposed, if not fully vaccinated, they are required to test and if positive, quarantine for 5 days. Students are supposed to be reporting positive tests so that the nursing staff can keep track of cases, but many students only tell their teachers. If students are not reporting, that means nurses cannot properly contact traces and students who have been exposed may not be notified. Also, if they are not reporting, the school has no way to track positive students, meaning any positive student could go to school with no problem. 

With the 10 day quarantine being shortened to only 5 days, the need for proper guideline following is even more imperative. Although students may be vaccinated, not all are, and those who are immunocompromised are still at high risk. Omicron has been portrayed as less dangerous and infectious, but for immunocompromised individuals, any infection poses a massive health threat. People are still dying from COVID-19, and our prevention is crucial to saving lives. 

The Echo Editorial Board believes students and staff need to follow guidelines to keep everyone safe. This means wearing masks at all times besides lunch, reporting positive tests, quarantining for the appropriate amount of time and holding friends and family accountable. All students have responsibility to keep eachother safe and The Echo Editorial Board believes by being selfless and having compassion for others, we can fight the Omicron variant.