What impact could the new COVID variant have on schools

Schools monitoring spread of COVID variants

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The CDC continues to monitor for spread of COVID variants - which are essentially new forms of the COVID virus. They’re monitoring one in particular that’s already showing up in the U.S. and it’s considered more contagious.

Right now the variant is only in a few states, but its expected to become a predominant source of infections by March. The state superintendent already expected the next few months to be difficult for schools to maintain full in person learning, so education leaders are concerned about what this additional form of the virus will bring.

“Alabama submits samples to the CDC every week for analysis to look for forms of the variant and we have not found it yet, but it’s only a matter of time,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama Department of Public Health.

The B.1.1.7 COVID variant is now in states as close as Georgia and several other states in the U.S according to the CDC. What we’re learning about this form of the virus could complicate efforts to flatten the curve.

“I think the fortunate thing is that it is no more deadly, but it does seem to be more infectious,” said Dr. Harris.

A study released by British scientists this week found the new COVID variant is 56% more transmissible and they noted that closing schools might be a necessary step to control outbreak in a community. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

State health leaders say there is always a concern about schools when dealing with contagious viruses.

“Schools are just like every other place in society. The more people we have people back together and doing things in groups, the more likely for a transmission event,” said Dr. Harris.

Local school leaders say the COVID variant is already on their radar.

“Our nursing staff is aware,” said Mike Howard, St. Clair County Superintendent.

Saint Clair County’s Superintendent says the mutation brings concern about more student and staff quarantines. Medical leaders say at this point safety protocols are still the same - masks and social distancing, so school leaders are preparing as we learn more about the impact.

“We’re continuing doing what we’re doing and ramping up our sanitizing methods,” said Howard.

Doctors say another crucial element to combatting significant spread with this variant is trying to get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible.

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