COVID-19 Updates from the writers of The Purple Sage

Sydney Jezik, News Editor

CORONAVIRUS AND WAUNAKEE UPDATES 3/30/20

March 30th, 2020, marks the launch of online school for over a thousand students in Waunakee Community School district as a result of school closure from COVID-19. Teachers each posted a week’s worth of homework, and many have already scheduled office hours. For AP students, most of what remains is studying for exam dates that have not yet been released. For other classes, including physical education and language classes, online work has been published.

Musical instruments and other essential items left at school may be picked up on April 1st, 9 AM to 11 AM.

Online Contact Times have not yet begun. However, a virtual Homeroom has been scheduled by all teachers for their respective homerooms the first Monday of April. Look for the invite to Google Meet or Zoom in your inboxes.

As of this time, there has been no change in WIAA athletics or other Waunakee extra-curricular scheduling.

In addition to school changes, the “Safer at Home” order enacted by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has restricted all non-essential work and travel (but many restaurants, including Culver’s are still open for delivery—don’t worry!). Social distancing and other safety policies outlined by the CDC (see “The Cure” below) remain in force throughout Wisconsin and indeed, the rest of the United States. As a result of the thousands of Americans and American businesses currently out of work because of these measures, Congress has signed into law a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill. This bill will partially go to unemployment benefits. 

While businesses like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are set to begin human trials on a coronavirus vaccine in summer and early fall, the case total in the US continues to rise, surpassing that of any other country in the world at 122,653 (as per the CDC’s March 30th, 2020 estimate). 

In response to data from top White House medical advisors, including national infectious

disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, showing that deaths in the US could rise as high as 200,000 if stringent safety measures are not taken, Trump stated that social distancing and work and travel restrictions will extend through April, if not June.

CORONAVIRUS AND WAUNAKEE HIGH SCHOOL

March 2020 has been a whirlwind of change for students at Waunakee High. From March 13th, when Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers mandated the closure of high schools across the state, to spring break being extended, to all extra-curricular activities being postponed or cancelled, to the expensive prom dresses now sitting in closets and the hope expressed by many students that current events will later become an essay question in AP US History exams… all these developments and more can be credited to the 2019-2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

For need-to-know information summarized and prioritized for Waunakee students, please check out the headings below. Information discussed there is of a global and general nature and includes the symptoms and infectiousness of COVID-19, the history of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics about the pandemic, scientifically proven methods of defeating the illness and the future of COVID-19 and society.

But how is COVID-19 (or, as it is more commonly known, coronavirus) affecting Waunakee High School, the students and Waunakee as a whole?

Here’s the run-down: 

Spring break has been extended by a week. School will begin again on March 30th, and will primarily continue on Schoology, Zoom and Google Hangouts. 

“The governor would have to lift the order [for schools to reopen,” said Principal Brian Borowski. “Right now, if you were to ask me… we’re not going to return to school [this school year].”

What will students do instead? “I’ve asked all teachers to… use Schoology. It’s definitely going to be different,” he said. “Rather than resources and materials, five days of work will be uploaded to Schoology weekly so that students can log in and complete schoolwork from home. Teachers will be able to track attendance using Schoology. However, virtual test options are still being decided.”

“This is the time that we want our staff to be consistent,” said Borowski. “Virtual instruction and testing methods will largely be decided and differentiated by department.” 

“A contact time option is being discussed for virtual meetings with teachers,” said Borowski. This contact time option would be virtual as well. Borowski advised it could serve as a way for clubs to continue to meet and teachers to hold meetings with students.

“It needs to be flexible… but once we start living with this, we may start a more traditional period [schedule].”

AP exams are being pushed back (to a date not yet disclosed) as well as scaled down to a 45-minute period of free-response questions only. Because the College Board has a unit-by-unit schedule followed by most schools, the AP exams will only test the units covered so far in the year. However, if a student’s AP class deviated from the College Board schedule and taught one unit before another or mixed units, they may not yet have learned everything covered on the exam. 

Further, beginning March 25th, the College Board will begin to hold free, live and online review lessons for AP students, taught by AP teachers around the country. 

“I’ve heard about [the] online AP exams, and honestly I think there are a lot of things to consider about it. It would ensure that everyone gets the chance to take the exam, but it also opens up opportunities for dishonesty,” said junior Claire Borgelt. “I hope… these changes don’t make the work students have been putting in less valuable.”

A major concern for a quarter of the school is senior credit and graduation. Principal Borowski has given his assurances that all students will receive credit for this last semester of the school year. However, a full graduation ceremony does not seem to be an option at this point. He said that nothing has been finalized yet, but a virtual graduation ceremony along with delivery of diplomas and cords is currently being explored.

“I’ve gone to a number of… graduation ceremonies in the past and they are always so special for the graduates. It worries me to think that I might miss out on my own,” said senior Peyton Meyer.

A final impact to Waunakee students is the cancellation or postponement of all extra-curricular activities. The spring musical has taken to using online platforms to keep students practicing dances and songs, but cannot practice in-person. Spring sports are largely cancelled. Prom is cancelled.

“[COVID-19’s] biggest impact on me has been the fact that the remainder of my Forensics [Waunakee High School speech team] has been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. That was incredibly hard to deal with… Forensics is one of the biggest, most meaningful parts of my life, and having to suspend it is really sad,” said Borgelt.

“[Prom being cancelled]  sucks. Really sucks. I look forward to that [kind of] stuff. It’s the play, it’s the prom, it’s all the sporting events… different things kids worked really hard to be involved in,” said Borowski.

In terms of the community as a whole, COVID-19 cases have been identified within the Village. The total tally has not been released. However, parents of students were informed that one case is a bus driver for the school district. 

As of March 22nd, 61 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Dane County. On March 17th, “community spread” was announced, meaning the disease’s path of travel is no longer traceable but that it is spreading anyway. 

The state of Wisconsin has over 300 confirmed cases, with the number increasing daily as more people are tested.

With community spread on the rise and social distancing being stressed more than ever, Waunakee High School students are finding ways to prepare for upcoming exams and tests without actually being in class.

“While school is shut down, I’ll spend a lot more time reviewing independently… Online tools like Quizlet will be a big help, and being able to collaborate with friends will be nice too,” said Borgelt.

“Getting all of my schoolwork done from home is definitely going to take a lot more personal accountability,” said Meyer. “I plan to stick to a fairly normal schedule and keep my study time separate from the other parts of my day.”

Many teachers are spending spring break finding ways to stay in contact with their students. Science instructor Jason Rotzenberg has begun to employ Google chat services for question-and-answer sessions with his AP Chemistry students. Math instructor Brian Lussier said that he intends to use both Zoom and Schoology to stay in touch with students.

Teachers are working from home; the few faculty remaining at the school include Principal Borowski and administrative assistants Cindy Richardson, Pat Harrison and Deb Paulson, as well as several members of the custodial staff. 

“I’ll work as long as I can,” said Borowski, before adding that the school Wi-Fi worked even better with so few people on it.

Students are not permitted to enter the school. Instead, they may contact remaining faculty or call the school to arrange a curbside pickup of essential items. Essential items, according to an email from Principal Borowski on March 23rd, have been classified as musical instruments, medication, Chromebooks and Chromebook charging cords.

“I’m missing kids,” said Borowski. “I didn’t do [teaching] to sit in an office by myself. [Teachers] like the energy students bring and the conversations we have… It’s just super hard to do this work without actually connecting with them.”

So Borowski took the opportunity to speak directly to the students, not just in terms of administrative advice and regulations—but as a teacher: 

“Be calm. Be good to each other. Continue to connect… not in person, take that part seriously. Don’t place any blame on anybody. This is just happening, and it’s nobody’s fault… we’re truly connected to everybody in the world and we need to appreciate that. Take care of each other.”

 

TERMS

pandemic (n): a disease or outbreak prevalent over a whole country or the world

COVID-19 (n): stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019; coronavirus variant; the subject of the current pandemic; also known as SARS-CoV-2

coronavirus (n): a family of respiratory diseases that primarily affects animals; also a slang term for COVID-19

SARS (n): stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

essential (adj): used in reference to a service or item; a service or item necessary to

function. Includes food, water, medical tools, health services, electrical and sewage services, hygiene supplies and the shipping of essential supplies

 

IN PRACTICE

A student in Waunakee should understand that the coronavirus physically comes across like a bad case of the flu. Symptoms include fatigue, dry coughing, fever and, in more severe cases, difficulty in breathing. Symptoms reported in younger age groups have generally been milder, and can include a runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea. Because of the expulsive nature of some symptoms, the coronavirus is also extremely contagious. According to health expert Hugh Montgomery from the University of London, the coronavirus is three times more contagious than the flu. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average person with the coronavirus contaminates between 2 and 2.5 other people. 

If you are sick, regardless of what illness you have, you should take extra caution in avoiding infection. The coronavirus targets the respiratory tract. A weakened immune system or lungs still in recovery from a cold are less able to fight off the coronavirus. Extra caution appears in the form of social distancing: staying away from others and, in particular, staying home.

If you have the coronavirus, you need to practice quarantining or isolation. This means you and your family should stay home and treat symptoms until contagious symptoms have disappeared. Even then, you should practice social distancing to prevent others or yourself from getting sick.

 

THE HISTORY

COVID-19 has been traced back to bacteria in live animals in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, located in the city of Wuhan, China. While animal-to-human transmission is uncommon, after making the leap, COVID-19 quickly spread. In January 2020, Wuhan doctors identified COVID-19 as a variation of coronavirus. The city of Wuhan began to limit travel and employ quarantining techniques. It was a tad too late, however: the illness had begun its global journey.

 Italy has been one of the worst-hit European countries, experiencing a higher fatality rate than any other nation yet. This is in part due to Italy having a larger demographic of seniors than most nations—but also, according to health experts and citizens, due to Italy failing to implement drastic social distancing and quarantining.

Hong Kong did implement these drastic measures, but withdrew them after experiencing a sudden relief in infections. Shortly after ending social distancing, the coronavirus resurged in Hong Kong.

South Korea implemented drastic social distancing and quarantining and tracked infected citizens with security cameras to take control of its outbreak, and as a result has successfully limited the spread of the coronavirus within its borders, according to experts. Security camera tracking is illegal in the US.

At this time, New York City is one of the most critically affected areas in America, with most public places closed for an indefinite period of time and all nonessential services closed.

 

THE STATISTICS

At this stage of the pandemic, older age groups, particularly seniors, have been more critically affected and have a higher fatality rate. This does not mean a high fatality rate: in the US, the fatality rate is holding around 1%. However, the apparent lack of risk is deceptive. The population, and younger demographics specifically, should not be complacent. Millennials, teenagers and children have all been known to catch the illness, and in some cases, severely. Fortunately, no US deaths have been reported for people under age 20. 

 

THE CURE

On March 16th, 2020, the White House issued a plan called “Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread.” As its name implies, the nation intends to decrease the rate of new cases (“flatten the curve” of growth). The plan revolves around social distancing, a phenomenon adopted by Hong Kong that allowed them to drastically reduce new infections and take control of the pandemic. Social distancing involves staying at least five feet apart from non-family members. But the most important method is, as stressed by the White House, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), WHO and nations who have begun to control their outbreaks: staying home

The globally acclaimed “cure” for COVID-19, the way to defeat the coronavirus, how to keep loved ones healthy and prevent the world and especially Waunakee from catching a critical disease—stay home. Skype and call friends rather than visit them in person. Practice caution and prudence in purchasing supplies. 

While a case of the coronavirus in India was successfully treated by a mixture of medications, the coronavirus so far has no known cure nor vaccination. Though several vaccinations are currently under development, designers predict that the soonest they could be ready is 12 months. 

This means that preventative measures are most important for students at Waunakee, and indeed the population of the nation, right now. Social distancing is a preventative measure. The CDC also advises washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds in order to kill bacteria, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and avoiding touching one’s face.

If a person is sick, they should practice social distancing, quarantining and isolation, as already described under “In Practice.”

 

THE SIDE-EFFECTS

Being a global pandemic has other effects than getting people sick. A number of national and global issues affect students at Waunakee High. 

Primarily, school is shut down across the nation, and online options like Zoom and Schoology are being used to replace it. Also extremely significant to the life of high school students is that Governor Tony Evers has banned all gatherings of 10 or more people and will penalize those who break the ban.

International travel has been restricted to only “essential” travel—meaning overseas vacation plans for students have, sadly, been cancelled. Travel within the nation has not yet been limited, but travellers should continue social distancing as well as note state rules for gathering size limits. A number of private locations, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, as well as all church meetings for the Church of Jesus Christ, have been shut down for an indefinite period in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Also heavily affecting many high school students is the closing of many places of work. Across Wisconsin, lobbies of many businesses have been closed. Grocery stores have remained open as an essential service, but excessive purchasing (“panic-buying”) has led to many stores placing limits on the number of an item one can buy at a single time. Nonessential services are largely closed and their workers, if possible, are working from home.

While closing nonessential services is a drastic step, and one that may hurt the economy, state leadership has judged that it is worth the risk to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Examples from Hong Kong, which ended social distancing and experienced a resurgence of the disease, and Italy, which did not put into effect drastic measures and experienced a higher fatality rate than any other nation so far, could have influenced the state’s decision to close nonessential workplace.

The period of time work shutdowns will continue has not yet been identified.

A final significant issue impacting Waunakee students is an ethical one. The origin of COVID-19 in China has led to an increase in xenophobia and racism across the globe. Moscow, Russia, reports that Chinese nationals were targeted by quarantine enforcements, and the Chinese Embassy in Germany reported a rise in hostility cases against its citizens since the outbreak. Children of Asian descent in middle schools near Paris have reported bullying and isolation as a result of the pandemic. WHO has issued a statement calling for an end to discrimination and divisiveness in the wake of a pandemic that, ultimately, is no demographic’s fault.

 

CORONAVIRUS AND THE FUTURE

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) projects that cases of the coronavirus in the US will increase exponentially in the next several weeks as a result of citizens failing to practice social distancing and adequate quarantine caution. 

As for the peak and duration of the pandemic, estimates vary. If CDC and WHO advice is followed, experts say that the pandemic could be finished by June. If not, the pandemic will probably spike by that time, and then take several more months to finish. Health experts William Schaffner and Adam Kucharski say that the disease will likely linger for a year or more, and require extensive social distancing during this time. Further, the disease may continue to flare seasonally, like the flu. 

A common misconception that many experts are attempting to decry right now is that life will soon go back to normal. The expert consensus right now is that it will not. This does not mean a scary, permanent new way of life—just a change for a while. Many colleges have turned to online school for the remainder of the semester and may continue to do so in the fall if necessary. Many high schools, middle schools and elementary schools are holding online classes for at least the rest of the year. AP exams are being delayed and altered to be taken at home. Working from home has boomed with the help of social media platforms like Zoom and Skype. Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, pouring millions more dollars into family leave, sick leave, food assistance and COVID-19 testing. More financial aid and coronavirus response acts are currently being discussed by Congress. Certain industries, like the movie theater industry and the restaurant industry, both ones that depend on people coming in person to their businesses, have received government bailouts to prevent excessive layoffs of employees who depend on that income. Finally, private-sector manufacturers have begun to dispense free hand sanitizer, or repurposed their equipment for manufacturing ICU units and nose-and-mouth masks.

Vaccines are currently in development for COVID-19. However, according to developers, the earliest it could be ready is a year from now, while the latest it could be ready is two years. The current solution is to use social distancing and quarantining to end the spread of the disease, then treat symptoms until patients have recovered.

This pandemic will end eventually, and the US will make it through successfully. These two points are in no contention by any experts or leaders. The maximum estimate for the duration of social distancing is two years.