As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States, Ohio has been reporting a record number of cases with 7,101 cases on Thursday and an average of 4,001 cases a day over the past 3 weeks according to the Ohio Board of Health.
On November 12, Head of School Ms. Kathy Kenny addressed the Gilmour Upper School staff and student body via a Zoom during advisory. She praised the students and teachers for their use of hand sanitizer and exemplary mask wearing, but she was concerned with social distancing. Ms. Kenny said that students need to create a “firewall” around themselves, especially outside of the classroom, or there is a possibility that the school may have to go 100% virtual.
The day before, Governor Mike DeWine (R), elected in 2018, addressed the state of Ohio in a similar way. In this conference, DeWine reinstated the Ohio mask mandate in response to the surge of COVID-19 cases, therefore masks are required inside any public space. He especially emphasized the wearing of masks in retail stores. DeWine says, “”Every retail employee has the right to work in an environment that is as safe as can be, which means all customers must wear masks.” The remainder of the 25 minute release focused on mitigating spread and the responsibility of Ohioians. He continues to push masks, social distancing, hand washing, and less than 10 person events as vital measures. DeWine ended by encouraging Ohioans to remember what we have to live for after this virus when putting on your mask.
In July, Governor DeWine introduced the Public Health Advisory System in order to map the severity of Covid in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. The system color codes each county as Yellow, Orange, Red, and Purple. Yellow indicates that the county is meeting 0 or 1 of the qualifiers. Orange is 2 or 3, Red 4 or 5, and Purple is 6 to 7 seven for two weeks. The qualifiers include:
- 50 cases per 100,000 over a two week period
- Consistent case growth over 5 day period
- 50% or more of cases come from “non-congregate” sources
- Consistent increase in emergency room visits over a 5 day period
- Increase in non-hospital medical visits with Covid symptoms over a 5 day period
- Consistent increase in Hospital admission over a 5 day period
- ICU is at 80% or greater capacity for 3 of last 7 days
Cuyahoga County, home of Gilmour Academy, is one of the most harshly affected counties in the state. It has been Red for weeks now and approached Purple at the end of October, however it never made it past Red. The county has the second most cases and the most hospitalizations and deaths in the state according to the Ohio Board of Health.
As local COVID-19 infections appear to be worsening,, what could this mean for the Gilmour community? Gilmour offers a hybrid model that gives students the option to be 100% virtual, in school every other day, or in school every day using the Virtual Learning Zones. Students are enabled to participate in “normal” school activities during the pandemic.
Mackenzie Palinski (‘21) noted that going 100% virtual has helped her become a well-rounded student developing time management and communication skills. Palinksi said, “Having the flexibility to study from home and still get a great education led me to go 100% virtual.” Next semester, Palinski plans to return to campus. As a graduating senior, she hopes to enjoy her last semester on the grounds of the Academy.
Nick Barone (‘22) chose the hybrid option. He said that he works and learns more efficiently when he is at school, and he wanted to see his friends again. Robert Sullivan (‘22) decided midway through the semester to return to in-person learning. Sullivan’s main reason for returning was to see his friends and teachers again.
As cases continue in Ohio, the Academy and Gilmour families will face decisions of how students can best learn during this pandemic. One thing is for sure, continue to follow the procedures. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and establishing a “firewall” like Mrs. Kenny described will not only protect you, but also the greater Gilmour community.