COVID-19 surges put state, schools in bind

While vaccine distribution hits a national high, Michigan’s battle with COVID-19 has taken a grim turn. The state is home to some of the worst outbreaks in the country, with hospitals near Detroit crowding due to the new surge.

Stuck with the decision to either enforce another lockdown or keep voters and local businesses pacified with the current relaxed guidelines, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is pinned between political upheavals as her path splits. 

On one hand, she enforces another lockdown onto a population largely sick of the pandemic. On the other, she continues to push for vaccination and holds policy where it is. 

Ultimately, her decision was to issue an optional recommendation to schools and businesses, which has already gotten pushback from the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, school districts and more. While some, such as Grand Haven high schools, are locking down for two weeks – cutting everything in-person from learning to athletics – others are not so keen on the idea.

The rise in cases, ongoing vaccination efforts and Whitmer’s recommendation forces schools to decide whether or not they will return to remote learning

On one front, we have to acknowledge the significant vaccination efforts made both in Michigan and around the country. Michigan is pushing 40% vaccination on adults as of April 8, with Kent and Ottawa counties in the mid 40s for adult vaccination. Those numbers are encouraging and give residents some hope that the pandemic’s strain may end soon. 

But despite that, schools are still seeing COVID-19 clusters pop up. East Grand Rapids High School is reporting more cases and Grand Valley State University has been seeing daily new cases increase throughout March.

 There’s just under a month left of classes on GVSU’s campus, and more for other local schools. Parents, students and leadership seem to have a “finish strong” mentality as they push for the finish line, and schools seem to be generally following along.

It’s a fair stance to take, but if schools are to remain open, there has to be increased efforts to curb the spread in these communities. Whether it be more rigorous testing, reporting and quarantining efforts or other means, schools across the board must display that they are actively fighting the upward trend in cases we’re seeing around the state. Charting forward as is underserves students and opts for an irresponsible “ignorance is bliss” mentality.

Universities like GVSU are making strong strides in increasing testing and vaccination rates, but students are still traveling and cases are still rising. It feels as if sweeping closures are the only option for many schools.While it may be the most effective option, it may be more unpopular. 

Keeping in-person learning available for students is a testament to our collective efforts to fight the pandemic, but it’s not something we are entitled to. Schools and their communities, now is not the time to give up. At the very least, if we’re resisting widespread closures, we must prove that we’ve learned from our past mistakes.