As the cold months approach, much of life will be moved inside. While at the beginning of the year students at the high school were able to eat lunch and move from classroom to classroom outside, but as the temperatures drop students and faculty retreat back into the brick confines of the high school. With the challenge of limiting the spread of COVID-19 in a closed-off environment, the transition from outdoors to indoors also presents another issue: the spread of the common cold and other common illnesses.
“Our main concern at the moment is indoor lunch,” said high school nurse Shari Johnson. “Taking off your mask to eat and spend time with your friends during the lunch block outside isn’t as much of a problem, but as soon as we reduce the distance between students, cut off air circulation, and increase the number of students in an enclosed space, the risk of spreading illnesses becomes much larger.”
To mitigate the risk of spread, students and faculty are asked to be conscious of social distancing protocols, especially around people they are comfortable with. This includes staying six feet apart from others as much as possible, putting masks on immediately after eating, and avoiding any large crowds in the cafeteria.
“Another thing that we ask students and staff to do is to participate in the pool testing, so that we can make sure that everyone is healthy and safely open school. It’s one thing to wear your mask and social distance when you’re at school, but you have to do your part outside of school, too. Wearing your mask all day when you’re in public is what you need to do to keep everyone at school safe,” said high school nurse Pamela Sheridan.
However, while wearing a mask and staying six feet away from others may not be the ideal way to socialize, the high school nurses foresee some benefits to the new COVID-19 social distancing measures.
“We think that because of the masks and other efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, we have simultaneously reduced the spread of the common cold and other illnesses that usually run rampant around this time of year,” said Johnson.
Due to this unexpected benefit, the high school nurses speculate that the methods used to keep students and staff healthy and socially distanced this year may have a permanent effect.
“I think our experiences this year will definitely change our culture going forward. Many other cultures wear masks to protect their lungs from pollution or to keep others healthy when they’re sick, but in American culture it’s very rare that someone stays home from school or work unless they have such a severe ailment that they physically cannot go,” said Johnson. “I think it’s very possible that we can use masks and social distancing in the future to keep each other healthy in a post-COVID world during the flu season.”
Considering the new opportunities to attend class or work through Zoom, the “sick day”, similar to snow days, could very possibly be changed forever. The ability to attend school from home when sick or restricted by bad weather could mean the end of make-up work and make-up days at the end of the year.
However, in order to benefit from any of the hardships endured over the past many months, the nurses ask that members of the community be mindful of their actions outside of school and to stay home following any symptoms of COVID-19.
“Being mindful of what you’re doing with your friends when you’re comfortable is so important because how you socialize and with who can affect the whole community, whether that be in a negative or positive way,” said Sheridan.