Henry Hofferth

Back in school, students and teachers watch more students disappear from seats

New mask, quarantine and social distancing policies are set in place as COVID-19 cases climb

The time is September 2 at 4:42 p.m., a familiar monotone voice droned through phones announcing MHS has entered Stage 3. With all of Lake County reaching over 200 new cases on Aug. 31, the school had no option but to act. According to the CDC, children and adolescents are more likely to be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, their contraction rate is on par with and can sometimes exceed those of adults. Due to this, the school’s safety net requires at least a 10 day quarantine for those who come in close contact or test positive.

“I have already had two verified absences,” Mrs. Kathleen LaPorte, social studies teacher, said. “Attendance was spotty—sometimes the student showed up in (Blackboard) Collaborate and other times they wouldn’t. This year we hope that virtual learning will be used properly and only for true covid necessities.” 

New cases of COVID-19 in Lake County have passed the 100 average mark for each day and MHS has reached Stage 3, requiring everyone to wear masks and perhaps hybrid learn at a later date. In-person instruction will be available and remote models are available for those who are uncomfortable with in-person. Prior to the announcement, the school required masks for unvaccinated adults, otherwise it was encouraged, per the policy. For some, masks should have been mandatory from the start. 

“People don’t think masks need to be required, but acting like you don’t have to wear a mask doesn’t make everything fine,” Catherine Cronin, junior, said. 

Though inconsistent use of masks may have led to outbreaks in school, the Mayo Clinic reports that 46 percent of people in Indiana are fully vaccinated and 50 percent have received their first dose. Additionally, Munster has reported less than five new COVID-19 cases to the Department of Health since Aug. 27 and has had 59 positive cases since the start of the 2020-2021 school year. This has others wanting mask-optional since they find it an effective middle ground. 

“I think the mask policy is fine because if they push masks too hard or they are more lenient people would feel the need to stay home,” Finn Manion, senior, said. “This is the best way to be in between the two and not take any political side. It is sad that it became a political thing, but that is what happened. So it is better to be in the middle than too far to the left or right.” 

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, countries that did not have a mask mandate had 7.5 times higher transmission rates. In the United States, states with mandates had daily growth rates 2 percentage points lower than those without. Many at least wish to encourage mask use due to their 70 percent effectiveness. 

“Masks will prevent cases, not all of them, but many within the school,” Mrs. LaPorte said. “I selfishly hoped everyone would be vaccinated, which would have made mask wearing—pre-Delta—less of a need, but unfortunately, the Delta variant is here and circulating among us.”

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