COVID-19 Update: Vaccines, Variants, and Reopenings

With vaccine distribution making headway across the globe, businesses reopening, and schools resuming in-person learning, many aspects of people’s lives are finally returning to normalcy. However, though we may be at the beginning of the end of this pandemic, it is still critical that everyone continues to take precautions to stay safe from new variants.  

Vaccines: The Do’s and Don’t’s

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer, Moderna, etc.) or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson). If you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends continuing to not visit people at risk for COVID-19 while not wearing a mask. The department also recommends avoiding medium or large gatherings.  

However, the CDC’s guidelines do dictate that it is safe for those fully vaccinated to visit a private setting unmasked if others are also completely vaccinated. If people in the setting are unvaccinated, it’s only safe to visit them if they are not at risk for a severe illness and are from a single household. The recommendations also state that it is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel domestically and internationally without quarantining afterward. Additionally, domestic travel does not require a pre- or post-travel test, though international travel may.  

What to Know About COVID-19 Variants

When COVID-19 infects human cells, errors can occur when the virus’s genetic code is copied over, leading to mutations. Occasionally, mutations will make the virus more harmful by making it avoid the immune system’s defenses or strengthen its ability to spread successfully.  

Over the past year, multiple variants of the coronavirus have emerged. Some mutations are more infectious, and have therefore caused widespread concern. Though COVID-19 variants are indeed a public health concern, experts insist that the available vaccines have worked extremely well at preventing infections, despite the emergence of new variants. 

“[The variants] are all the more reason to get vaccinated,” says Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “… the vaccines we are using very well protect against the most dominant variant we have right now, and to varying degrees protect against serious disease among several of the other variants.” 

All of the major vaccines in use have been proven effective against B.1.1.7, the COVID variant that originated in Britain, which is the most common source of new infections in the United States. The CDC is continuing to track over a dozen variants, though only a few are regarded as “variants of concern.” Besides B.1.1.7, these variants account for approximately 2% of U.S. cases. 

What’s critical to remember is that although no vaccine is completely infallible, the COVID-19 vaccines are still highly protective. Breakthrough cases in which vaccinated people get infected are extremely rare.  

 A Post-Pandemic World

COVID vaccine passports might be used as a way to verify vaccinations. Photo by Lukas on Unsplash.

Since the coronavirus began to spread across the globe over one year ago, numerous aspects of people’s lives were upended. Schools transitioned to online learning, and institutions and infrastructure were put under strain. Though schools and businesses are beginning to reopen and more and more vaccines are being distributed, it’s still likely that we’ll never truly go back to “normal” post-pandemic. 

After the pandemic, vaccine passports might become commonplace in order to help businesses reopen and allow for safe international travel, as well as booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, with regards to work and school, virtual meetings via Zoom, Google Meets, etc. might become standard practice.  

What do Quarry Lane Students Think?

Trisha Navelkar, a 9th grader at Quarry Lane, shared her thoughts on businesses and schools beginning to reopen. 

“I’m excited to have started dining in every now and then rather than having take out,” she says. “It’s really nice being able to sit at a table and order off a menu with my family.” 
Regarding school, Trisha is really looking forward to going back to in-person learning, as she’s never been to the QLS campus before. 

“Often, online school limits or just brings down the experiences that make learning so fun and engaging, such as doing hands-on activities and having class discussions,” she says. “It’s exciting to be so close to having those formats again. I also hope to meet with some of my friends in-person, one-on-one, and with masks. I haven’t seen some of my close friends in months, if not a year, so I can’t wait to see them again as it becomes safer to do so.”

Michelle Pan, another freshman at Quarry Lane, has similar thoughts.  
“It really is quite interesting to think that although I’ve befriended some of my ‘new’ classmates online, and have actually gotten to know them quite well, I have never met them in person yet,” she says. “I’ll definitely be looking forward to getting to know everyone in person when the COVID-19 cases decline and the situation becomes less severe.” 

Though Michelle is excited to return to school once things are safer, she emphasized how important it is to remain cautious. 

“The only concern I have about reopening is that there may be another wave or mutation of the virus,” she continues. “I personally believe that it’s extremely important for everyone to still be aware of the importance of cleanliness and to remain vigilant about COVID-19.”

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