As confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the country due to the delta and omicron variants, an increasing number of schools and school districts are closing ahead of their holiday breaks, making many parents fear that another round of remote learning is here.
Currently, a total of 877 classrooms in the New York City public school district have closed, their students transitioned to at-home e-learning, due to confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the New York City Department of Education website. That number is more than triple the number of classes that suspended in-person learning a month ago. New York City's COVID positivity rate has doubled in three days — Dr. Jay Varma, senior health advisor to mayor Bill de Blasio, tweeted, "Um, we've never seen this before in #NYC."
“This is a massive in-school transmission rate far exceeding anything we’ve seen thus far."
Oxford School District in Maine
On Wednesday, Oxford School District in Maine announced it would close Otisfield Community School, about 35 miles north of Portland, and transition students and teachers to remote learning for at least the rest of the week after the in-school transmission rate hit 70%. “This is a massive in-school transmission rate far exceeding anything we’ve seen thus far in any of our outbreak schools,” a statement from the superintendent of schools read. "Parents, please get vaccinated and vaccinate your children who are old enough."
In upstate New York near the Canadian border, the Oswego City School District transitioned to fully remote learning after 60 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in one week and at least 75 people were asked to quarantine, with more pending. The district plans for teachers and students to remain remote until Dec. 23, when they break for the holidays, and return in-person following the break.
It's not just East Coast schools: Students are going remote again across the country.
In Minnesota, East Grand Forks Public Schools announced the senior high school would switch to remote learning until at least Dec. 20, after nearly 200 students were absent. “There is a need to have students stay home and get healthy if they are sick,” Superintendent Mike Kolnesss wrote in a statement posted on the East Grand Forks Public Schools website.
In Texas, Big Springs Elementary School near Dallas transitioned on Dec. 14 to virtual instruction for the remaining two days of school prior to the winter break, after 24 positive cases were confirmed in a single day and 17% of the students and 30% of the staff were absent.
Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant."
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
In November, Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti announced all students and staff would transition to remote learning every Friday in December. The shift came after teachers, staff, students and families shared concerns for "the need for mental health relief, rising COVID-19 cases, and time to more thoroughly clean schools," the announcement said.
On Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said the number of new omicron cases are doubling every day, though the delta variant remains the most prevalent among positive COVID-19 cases. Currently, the omicron variant has been detected in at least 36 states.
"Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization.
Experts believe colder weather and in-person holiday festivities are contributing to the rise in COVID-19 and breakthrough cases. On Wednesday, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole asked residents not to gather with others outside their household or hold holiday parties indoors, citing both a surge in delta cases and the rapid omicron spread.
I have to say it. Please do not hold or attend holiday parties indoors.”
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole
"As a mom, as a friend, as a community member, I don't want to say this. But as a health commissioner, and as someone who cares deeply about the people who will get sick ... I have to say it," Bettigole said. "Please do not hold or attend holiday parties indoors."
While COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11 were approved in late October, only 18% of children in that age range nationwide have received at least one dose, according to the most recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) data. Acoording to the AAP, 61% of kids between 12-18 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
On Dec. 15, parents in London, England were urged to prepare for a return to remote learning following the holiday break — a possible sign to parents in the U.S. of what's to come.