Administration continues to assess current state of the pandemic

Decision announced to move to mask-optional status beginning on Tuesday, February 22

Els Krimsky, Staff Writer

As COVID-19 numbers continue to fluctuate, the John Carroll community works to follow public health guidelines and maintain a productive learning environment.

The 2021-2022 school year has allowed for full in-person learning for JC students and faculty. However, since the start of the academic year, the appearance of the Omicron variant and the lingering Delta variant have sparked concern.
On Friday, February 11, John Carroll made the announcement that masks would be optional beginning on Tuesday, February 22, the day following the long Presidents Day Weekend.
An email to the school community cited a 96% drop in COVID cases over the last four weeks with 24 cases during the week of January 17 to only one case last week. The email also stated that “students, faculty and staff will be fully supported in their choice to mask or not.”
The low numbers currently are a big difference compared to the numbers coming back from Christmas break.
School Nurse Stacey Quigg said, “We had 4.5 times as many COVID positive cases the first week back from break than we did the week prior to break.”
While there are numerous reasons a growth in cases may occur, a combination of large indoor social gatherings, extended periods of travel, and lower temperatures and humidity levels create a breeding ground for the virus to spread.
However, experts studying the trends of the pandemic predict that the winter surge will not be as deadly as that of the previous years. The Omicron variant that is responsible for many of the new cases is not to be dismissed.
Dean of Students Sean Ireton said, “I caught the virus, and I was down for three days. I’ve been going on three weeks, and I am still not completely recovered.”
As the major enforcer of COVID rules in the JC community, Mr. Ireton wishes to communicate to students that “[the virus] is not a joke. It is serious, and it is real.”
With the safety of all Patriots being the school’s priority, Ms. Quigg recommends for students and faculty to “speak with their doctor and get vaccinated if that is safe for [them]; stay home when [they are] sick, and to practice good hand hygiene.”
She added productive methods to maximizing safety. For example, people should know their risks, and make the responsible choice before attending an event. Wear a mask when in large groups, and maximize physical distance from one another.
Other than physical health, the administration also recognizes the mental and emotional impacts the pandemic has had on students. Ms. Quigg mentioned that “not leaving your home can be detrimental to your mental health.”
The school has the challenge of balancing the physical and mental health’s of students during these unpredictable times. Vice Principal Jake Hollin said virtual school “would only come if the Maryland State Department of Education, the Health Department, or the Governor’s Office required closure.”
Mr. Hollin added, “Thankfully, at this point [closure] does not appear to be the case now the way it was about two years ago. We are committed to working collaboratively to provide the best school experience possible for our students and staff.”