By Disha Chakraborty and Shohom Chakraborty
The United States is currently experiencing a sudden, sharp increase in cases of COVID-19 as vaccines are being distributed at a rate lower than expected, pushing the capabilities of America’s modern healthcare system to their limits. Amidst this crisis, another serious threat faces the country: a new, more contagious coronavirus variant. This extremely dangerous strain is becoming increasingly prevalent in Nassau County, and this may heavily affect life at New Hyde Park.
Traced back to its first case in September 2020, a new variant of COVID-19 called B117 became widespread in England by December. This new strain could be over 70% more contagious than the novel coronavirus. In late December, the first case of B117 in the United States had been confirmed in Colorado. As expected, the new strain continued to spread rapidly across the country. The CDC now warns that due to its high contagiousness and large number of mutations, B117 may become the dominant variant of COVID-19 in America by March of 2021. With overwhelmed hospitals, a delayed initial rollout for vaccines, and the threat of an extremely contagious COVID-19 mutant, Nassau County and the rest of the state is now in a difficult situation.
Artwork by Saffah Azeem and Sabeena Ramdarie
The new COVID-19 strains are spreading quickly spreading across the globe and will affect life at NHP.
The current crisis the county is facing may bring about further changes to an already unique school year at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. Recently, the school has allowed students to attend in-person school every day, while hybrid and remote learning will continue as normal. If a student or staff member at NHP contracts the B117 variant of COVID, people at Memorial would be at risk. Even if proper mask-wearing and social distancing are used, the risks of others catching B117, especially for those regularly attending school, would not be completely eliminated.
"The new COVID variant does worry me because it probably means I won't be returning to school this year. I'm a senior so this is unfortunate because I won't be able to hang out with my friends very much," said senior Sakib Azgar.
“...I worry that it might extend the time we must stay at home, and we’ve already missed quite a few opportunities and activities from our current lockdown...”
However, not all students are concerned in particular about the rise of B117, especially because of its relatively low number of current cases.
"In my opinion, this new virus brought from the UK might not make a huge difference to our lives, since it doesn’t sound too different from COVID-19 itself. However, I worry that it might extend the time we must stay at home, and we’ve already missed quite a few opportunities and activities from our current lockdown,” said seventh grader Andrea Ross Pineda.
The new COVID-19 strain may affect life at Memorial in many ways, such as leading to the cancellation of even more programs and planned events. However, people in school, as well as the general public, can take action to mitigate the spread of this new variant and COVID-19 itself. This extremely contagious strain spreads easily through air droplets, meaning that a good mask is more crucial than ever before. The CDC recommends any mask that fits snugly and has at least two layers of breathable fabric, such as a cloth or surgical mask.
NHP has been extremely cautious in order to keep all students and faculty safe from the virus, and strict protocols have been successful in keeping the number of infections down. Now with the variants, the public is encouraged to do their part as vaccines are on the way to reduce the spread of the virus and make it much easier to return back to normal life.