With COVID-19 case counts rising again and another winter season approaching, some public health experts believe the United States is entering another uncertain phase of the pandemic.
“It’s difficult to predict what will happen next with this virus,” said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech researcher who studies the coronavirus’s airborne spread. “We thought we knew what was going on, but Delta really surprised us.” We thought the vaccine would help put an end to it, but it hasn’t.”
According to a Johns Hopkins University data analysis, Vermont set a record case count on Thursday, and 23 states are reporting rising cases. Meanwhile, cases in Europe have increased by more than 10% in the last week, with the World Health Organization declaring the continent to be “back at the epicenter of the pandemic.”
As lockdown measures are no longer used in many countries, some countries are considering tighter social restrictions. The Dutch government is widely expected to declare a partial state of emergency. Austria is considering imposing a lockdown on unvaccinated people on Friday, and Denmark has reintroduced a digital pass displaying vaccination status to enter restaurants, bars, and large outdoor events. However, health experts believe that the combination of vaccines and improved therapeutics will put European countries in a better position than in previous outbreaks.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, the United States has recorded more than 46 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 759,000 deaths. More than 251 million cases and 5 million deaths worldwide. According to the CDC, more than 194 million Americans–58 percent of the population–are fully vaccinated.
School districts across the country are temporarily closing or reverting to remote learning as administrators deal with empty classrooms, driverless buses, and understaffed cafeterias as a result of widespread teacher exhaustion caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Because of staff shortages, at least eight Michigan schools have closed or returned to online learning in recent weeks. Brevard Public Schools in Florida announced Wednesday that it would extend its Thanksgiving break, while public schools in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, provided teachers and students with an extra day off for Veterans Day.
Administrators acknowledge that last-minute schedule changes are forcing parents to reschedule their own plans, and it’s the latest stumbling block for students trying to catch up on missed learning after widespread pandemic school closures. According to experts, missing more school means that some children, particularly those from low-income families, will fall further behind their peers.
The last three Florida school districts that required at least some students to wear masks are abandoning their requirements for student facial coverings.
If they have their parents’ permission, grade school students in Miami-Dade schools can opt out of wearing a mask on Friday. Masks were already optional for high school students and some middle school students.
Beginning Monday, Nov. 21, all students in neighboring Broward County will be able to go without masks. According to Miami newspapers, there is no need for parents to sign an opt-out form, but the school district strongly encourages students to wear facial coverings. Masks were already optional for students in high school and technical college. Masks will be optional in Alachua County, home to the University of Florida, beginning in early January when students return from winter break, according to The Gainesville Sun.
The three school districts were among eight in Florida that had implemented mask mandates in defiance of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration.
The state’s health department imposed a rule requiring districts to give parents the option of allowing their children to wear masks or not.
Tennessee’s governor announced Wednesday that he intends to sign a comprehensive legislative package that limits the authority of public schools, local health agencies, and businesses over COVID-19 restrictions. The legislation was passed in the early morning hours of Oct. 30 during a whirlwind special session called by lawmakers for only the third time in state history to oppose COVID-19 restrictions that many Republicans felt infringed on personal freedom.