Delta Variant Upends 5-Day In-School Plans

Photograph by Jeremiah Seng ('23)

As students emerge from a year of pandemic related quarantines, many still have questions about their safety, along with how things will be run from this point forward. With HBA now having its students attend in-person school all together, and the rapid spread of the COVID Delta variant, a variety of concerns have risen about how the school will handling this new outbreak.

What makes the Delta variant concerning, according to scientists, and confirmed by the CDC, is that is that is it “much more contagious, more likely to break through protections afforded by the vaccines and may cause more severe disease than all other known versions of the virus”. Delta is now the predominant strain of Covid in the United States, with it making up around 80% of cases in Hawaii. Fortunately, the vaccines continue to provide protection against the Delta variant, with them being 60% effective against symptomatic disease and 93% effective against hospitalization

At HBA, there is a bit of a split when it comes to peoples’ level of anxiety regarding the spread of the Delta variant. English teacher Ryan Frontiera writes that “Delta makes me nervous because it seems to be causing so many infections so quickly; I get concerned about hospitals getting overloaded. Although I’m vaccinated and not a high risk demographic for Covid, I worry for those who will be impacted in that situation and may not be able to receive appropriate medical care.” A year and a half after the start of the pandemic, the perceived threat of COVID 19 has both diminished and become more real for different people. “I am more concerned about the pandemic now than a year ago,” writes junior John Yamamoto. “However, my concern is due to an experience I had with the virus recently (getting tested due to a possible exposure). A year ago the virus seemed almost like a myth to me, as it wasn’t affecting the people around me, but this year the virus is hitting a lot closer to home.” 

As for new protocols at HBA dealing with the Delta variant, they are the same as last year. “Wash/sanitize your hands regularly, wear a face mask covering your mouth and nose, keep socially-distant from others, and if you feel sick—stay home” writes high school principal Marsha Hirae. “Temperature checks at our scanning stations and wearing contact tracing discs will continue to be required for all students, faculty and staff,” she added. In the event that the pandemic takes a turn for the worst, the school will need to comply with any new restrictions or mandates given by the government. HBA has elected to switch to a four-day in-person week beginning on Monday, with students now having the option to switch to a half online, half in-person schedule, or to stay online full time. Junior Elisha Lum did not take up the online option. He said, “I am not very happy about the sudden change, but I understand that this change can help relieve some stress for some families who are worried about COVID 19.” Junior Timothy Shimizu feels that the change was unfortunate but necessary. He writes, “I honestly think it was a much needed change of pace. I was getting concerned about the crazy case numbers recently, especially given that we already had cases in our school within the first two weeks of full in-person [classes], so the school making this safer decision of giving students the choice between in-person and online, I think, was a good choice.” 

It remains uncertain if the state or local government will call for another shutdown, even as ICUs at hospitals fill up and officials talk about the possibility of a curfew.  However, many HBA students express their desire to get on with their lives no matter what. “I feel that my life right now is comfortable” says Lum. “I don’t think I am living in a different way than I was a month ago.” As for Lum’s plans for the rest of the year, he said, “My plan for the rest of the year is to just keep up my school work but not push myself too much.” Yamamoto writes, “My plans for the rest of the year are to continue going to in-person school as much as I can and to continue doing the things I love doing that are COVID safe: fishing, surfing, and playing tennis.” 

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