Editorials, Opinion

A tale of two counties: COVID came to class, too

It’s not a surprise COVID came to class when kids came back to school. But now the Delta variant, which is much more infectious for children than COVID Classic, is making its rounds through the student body.

It’s a problem across the nation, but just here in north-central West Virginia, we’re setting up an unintentional case study of what happens when your community takes COVID seriously — and when it doesn’t.

In Monongalia and Preston counties, students are required to wear masks in school. Both mandates were met with resistance, though in one county more than the other.

While masks are an effective way to slow the spread, vaccines have proven to be the most effective method to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And our unintended experiment happening in real time shows why.

As of Tuesday in Mon County, 55 students tested positive for COVID while another 356 were on quarantine for exposure; among staff, there were 16 positives and 20 out for quarantine. That’s a grand total of 71 cases and 376 cautionary quarantines.

Also in Mon County, almost 62% of residents 12-and-up have had at least one vaccine dose, with just shy of 56% being fully vaccinated.

As of last Friday in Preston County, 62 students tested positive for COVID and 153 were on quarantine; only two staff were positive, but another six were quarantining. And then Monday came, and schools were unexpectedly closed and set to go remote. Because on Monday morning, the Preston County Board of Education received notice from the county health department that there were an additional 60-plus positive cases among students, with more results still pending.

Also in Preston County, only 47% of people eligible to be vaccinated have gotten at least one dose, while less than 43% are fully vaccinated.

In this tale of two counties: The county with a higher vaccination rate has fewer cases of COVID in schools and is still having in-person learning. The county with the lower vaccination rate has many more student positives and is now back to remote learning.

More than 120 children in Preston County have COVID-19 — a disease that has proven to be far worse for the unvaccinated, with its most prominent variant now affecting young people, that has also been shown to have long-term health effects — and yet 30 people still showed up at the emergency school board meeting to protest mask mandates and vaccines.

At what point does it become real?

At what point will people realize that the best way to protect our children is to have them vaccinated and to vaccinate ourselves so we can all protect kids too young to be inoculated?

When a child ends up on a ventilator?

When a child dies?

When it’s your child?

We hope it doesn’t get that far.