COVID cases in the capital’s school district have steadily decreased week to week as staff receive second dose of the vaccine

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By Hec­tor Cruz-Rodriguez
March 23, 2021
Newswrit­ing II, Uni­ver­si­ty of Connecticut

HARTFORD — After a spike in expo­sures and cas­es dur­ing the month of Decem­ber, con­firmed cas­es have been see­ing a steady decline in recent weeks, with staff expect­ed to get their sec­ond dose of the vac­cine on March 25.

This spike in cas­es could be attrib­uted to many fam­i­lies choos­ing to have gath­er­ings and par­ties over the holidays.

Even with the num­ber of trav­el­ers scanned by TSA on Christ­mas Day being 23% of the total num­ber screened one year before, many dis­tricts around the coun­try saw spikes in cas­es and hospitalizations.

Fol­low­ing the week of Jan­u­ary 4, which saw a rise in the num­ber of con­firmed stu­dent cas­es to 42, the num­ber of cas­es halved to 19 the fol­low­ing week.

After three weeks of plateau­ing, the num­ber of cas­es declined con­sid­er­ably, with only 1 con­firmed stu­dent case being record­ed for the week of March 15.

Com­ing out of the hol­i­day sea­son, Hart­ford Pub­lic Schools went through with the deci­sion to return to in-per­son learn­ing 5 days a week, a change from their pre­vi­ous hybrid schedule.

Genevieve Cordier, moth­er of Aleena, 12, described the hybrid sched­ule at her daughter’s school, Noah Web­ster Microso­ci­ety Mag­net School, in a tele­phone interview.

“Her class was divid­ed into two groups. One group would attend class in per­son on Mon­days and Tues­days, and one group would go on Thurs­days and Fri­days, with Wednes­days being asyn­chro­nous for every­one,” Cordier said.

Cordier then described the poli­cies put in place for pre­vent­ing the spread of COVID-19 among students.

“All the desks are spread 6 feet apart, and to min­i­mize con­tact while in per­son the stu­dents stay in one room. Nor­mal­ly they’d walk in lines to dif­fer­ent class­rooms through­out the day, but they instead do their lessons over Zoom when their home­room teacher isn’t the one leading.”

Cordier men­tions that at cer­tain times, the kids will have “mask breaks,” where the kids are allowed to take their masks off to relieve the strain on their face. The chil­dren are not allowed to leave their seats dur­ing this time, and can only look ahead to avoid spread­ing germs.

“At one point, Aleena was exposed to a friend that caught COVID, and the school was alert­ed right away. They escort­ed her into an iso­la­tion room in the nurse’s office, until I picked her up and took her to get test­ed,” Cordier went on to say.

Even with an ini­tial neg­a­tive result, the dis­trict still required 2 weeks of quar­an­tine for Aleena, and a neg­a­tive test result at the end of the iso­la­tion period.

As the sec­ond half of the school year rolls on, the focus now shifts to achiev­ing nor­mal­cy and receiv­ing the vaccine.

Deb­o­rah Zim­mer­man-Herz, coor­di­na­tor for the Hart­ford Pub­lic Schools com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment, expressed grat­i­tude and opti­mism for the stu­dents and their fam­i­lies mov­ing forward.

“With fac­ul­ty get­ting their sec­ond vac­ci­na­tions soon, and stu­dents mov­ing back to in-per­son learn­ing full-time, I’d say we’re def­i­nite­ly head­ed in the right direc­tion. We’re not out of the woods quite yet, but we’re get­ting there.”

Zim­mer­man-Herz went on to say that she hopes that things will some­what resem­ble nor­mal by the new school year in the fall.

“We’re thank­ful for the coop­er­a­tion of all of our par­ents and fam­i­lies dur­ing this time, but this home stretch is going to be the most dif­fi­cult part,” Zim­mer­man-Herz said.

“Peo­ple will start to get excit­ed and anx­ious, espe­cial­ly with the weath­er start­ing to heat up and every­thing… if we’re all patient and cau­tious like we’ve been doing, it’ll be over sooner.”

With Gov. Lam­ont announc­ing that indi­vid­u­als 16 and old­er will be able to reg­is­ter for the vac­cine start­ing April 5, the hope is that a major­i­ty of peo­ple will receive it dur­ing the summer.