COVID-19 continues

An informational piece of the status of COVID-19 within the LM community as well as the greater Philadelphia area. Many hospitals are being filled to capacity once again and the rise in cases is threatening the nation as the holidays near.

While the holiday season is usually filled with fun festivities, joy is not the only thing spreading around this time of year. As the winter months approach, COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in our area and show no signs of slowing down. On December 10, 629 new cases were reported, bringing the total case amount to over 25,000 in Montgomery County. Lower Merion, Bala Cynwyd, Wynnewood, Narberth, and Ardmore all have 100-500 cases with more probable cases listed in each community. The average number of hospital beds in Montgomery County remains at 208.9 and this number only shrinks as case numbers rise. When considering the 830,000 residents of the county, the stability of the hospital system becomes much more of a question. If daily case numbers continue to hover around 600 and hospitals remain at high capacity, the ability to keep schools open could be called into question. LMSD’s high schools have already returned to full virtual instruction soon after the return of students to the building. As of right now, the continued growth of cases in Montgomery County is alarming if any sense of normalcy is to creep back.

In an effort to mitigate the spread on a statewide basis, restrictions are being implemented such as a statewide mask mandate and social restrictions. Even more constraints  include a ban on indoor dining, gym activity, and the new, more shocking restriction to LM students: a pause on winter sports. As a result of the rise in cases seen among school aged children, the Pennsylvania Principals Association recommended the postponement of winter sports which ended up being approved by the governor. The main reason behind the ban was the state considering the rate of spread that could occur during not only games, but post-game meals and locker room interactions. Locker room interactions are not the only gatherings worrying public health officials as the holiday season begins.  With Hanukkah having already started and the Christmas season approaching, people will likely gather despite restrictions. Although there is currently a limit of indoor gatherings of ten, this regulation is likely to be dismissed by many in an effort to spend time with family. Following the holiday season, a return to conditions similar to the restrictions of the spring of 2020 cannot be ruled out as there are only a certain number of cases the hospital system can manage. 

A rising concern is that individuals may not head to regulations or CDC recommendations because a vaccine was approved by the FDA. Some believe that this light at the end of the tunnel is already providing sufficient guidance for the current dark path, however the vaccine is still a distance away. While not all will elect to receive the vaccines, which have proven to be 90 percent effective, many see it as the way out of this unprecedented pandemic. The timeline for distribution is still pushing the date of the arrival into later next year.  Hospital workers and those in long term care facilities will be prioritized, receiving the first batch on December 14. It is unlikely for the general public  to see any vaccination programs until at least the spring or later. Even as more vaccines become available, measures such as universal mask wearing and social distancing should still be practiced. Despite case numbers rising with each passing day, each day brings more good news regarding the arrival of normalcy.