DALLAS — As students, teachers and staff prepare to return to school campuses following winter break, safety is top of mind for many.
It’s the first week of a new year. The ongoing surge of coronavirus cases, in communities across Texas, has people concerned.
“We have staggering numbers here during this omicron surge already,” said Dr. Jim Versalovic of Texas Children’s Hospital.
On Monday, Texas Children’s Hospital announced it saw a surge in record positive COVID-19 cases, with nearly 70 hospitalizations in the past two weeks. Most of the current patients are unvaccinated, according to workers.
“It’s gone from 15, double that 30 last Monday, to now close to 70,” said Natasha Barrett, of Texas Children’s Health public relations.
The current Omicron variant surge is top of mind, especially as families prepare to return to school.
Staffers from Dallas Independent School District formed a long line outside a COVID-19 testing site at a district operations facility in South Dallas on Monday.
A few miles north, Richardson ISD hosted COVID-19 testing for students and staff in Lake Highlands High School.
Across town in Lancaster ISD, dozens of adults and children waited their turn for COVID-19 vaccines or boosters at a pop-up clinic in the high school’s gym.
“What we learned over the holiday break was the fact that individuals simply could not get in to receive a COVID 19 test or a vaccine, due to the high rise of COVID numbers within our local community,” said Kimberly Simpson, Lancaster ISD’s chief of communications.
Lancaster ISD is among the first school districts in North Texas to announce plans to return to virtual instruction when school reopens Wednesday.
Administrators say the proactive decision was based on student and staff safety.
“Our pivot to instructional learning is just that. A pivot. With the hopes of returning on Monday,” explained Simpson.
Lancaster ISD will continue making vaccine clinics and COVID-19 testing sites available to the public this week. As will Dallas ISD.
“We’ve learned most from this pandemic the ability to be flexible, and nimble and pivot,” said Robyn Harris, Dallas ISD executive director of communications.
Dallas ISD is planning for students to return to in-person instruction this week.
“Dallas ISD has felt in the best interest of its students and staff to continue with its mask protocol that has been in place since the Fall semester,” added Harris.
Sanitizing and cleaning measures will also continue across Dallas ISD campuses.
As students return to class, doctors are urging families to be proactive.
“In general, if children are healthy, feeling well, and certainly if they’ve been vaccinated, and now fully vaccinate, they should feel very confident about going to school,” said Versalovic.