Upon first entering the office at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, numerous children are drawn to the glass fronted trophy cases holding many of the large, shiny trophies won by OLMC athletic teams over the years. Impressed Little Falcons often stand and gaze as if The Vince Lombardi, The Commissioner’s, or The Larry O’Brien Trophies sit on those shelves! Team sports play has always been a very important part of the OLMC school culture. While pandemic restrictions prevented sports play last year, this year--sports are back! Judging by student response (over 100 have signed up) our Falcons are eager to get back to the courts and fields.
While achieving a winning record is admirable, the goal of team play is to build friendships, foster loyalty and school spirit, inspire healthy competition, and teach team members to work together to achieve a common goal. We, Home & School, share a common goal--the formation and education of our children spiritually and academically in an environment that is as healthy as possible. The ongoing pandemic has NOT changed our goal, it has only changed the circumstances in which we must work to accomplish it.
The current 7-day average for new cases of COVID in Maricopa County is 1,793 (Maricopa County Epi-Curve), about the same as November 16, 2020, preceding the winter surge, which had a peak 7-day average for cases on January 9, 2021 (6,063 cases). Last school year, we worked together taking measures to prevent the spread of illness to those who were most vulnerable--the elderly, those in care facilities and those with underlying conditions, especially during times of “substantial or high transmission” within the community. While the risk of illness did not appear to be as great among school-aged children, nonetheless, we implemented mitigation strategies to prevent children from getting infected and transmitting the virus to vulnerable members of their families.
Today, more than 98% of all new COVID cases are in those who are not vaccinated and 75% of these infections are due to the Delta variant, which has decimated India for months and is about twice as infectious as previous strains (Delta Variant). The reality is, we do not know what lies ahead for our community in this pandemic. We do know that children under the age of 12 are those that are now considered vulnerable. In fact, of 769 school (K-8) outbreak associated COVID-19 cases, 66% are in students and 34% are in staff (School Dashboard/MCDPH).
For these reasons, we have chosen to follow the guidance of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. We will continue to ask that a mask be worn, by everyone, when indoors and in close proximity to others and we will continue to implement mitigation measures which lessen the chances of transmission and illness in our school and community. Additionally, quarantine guidance was recently updated for those identified as a close contact of someone who is COVID+. Now, when doing contact tracing, students in classroom settings who have been wearing masks at the appropriate times may not have to quarantine. (K-12School-and-Childcare-Facilities) Though there are many unknowns, we know what actions contributed to our success last year and we know that, in large part, our success was because we approached the challenges as a team. Like our student athletes, we must realize that the good that comes from being part of a team is only realized through a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to work together. As God is merciful to us, may we be merciful with one another!
*An excellent article, published in The Linacre Quarterly (August 2020), the official journal of the Catholic Medical Association, is linked here: COVID-19 Policy MakingBACK TO LIST