With the WSSD board planning to reconsider its Covid mitigation strategies, its time to look at the state of Covid here. First, a look at some numbers from the state.
The Covid rates in the county remain largely unchanged from the start of the school period, with about 100-200 cases per day still. Last year the fall surge did not abate until February, so if it follows patterns we still have some time before a change. Its still too early to see the impact of a return to the usual busy holiday travel from last week.
Vaccinations in DelCo have also largely remained plateaued since May, although there’s a small recent bump due to school children. The state reports a county vaccination rate of 56%, although it doesn’t include all vaccinated residents. From the case rate data above, its clear the vaccination numbers are too low for herd immunity to protect the community as Covid continues to readily spread throughout the state.
There were claims at the recent school board meeting that treatments have made Covid less dangerous. Last fall, about 2% of reported cases ended in death. This year that rate is about 1.25% and hasn’t significantly changed over the course of the fall. So its less, but its not even 50% lower – Covid is still lethal, not to mention the long-term damage it can do to survivors. New treatments are being touted in the press, but the second round of results from Merck’s much heralded Molnupiravir’s test showed it performed worse than a placebo. Why the first and second rounds of testing differed so significantly is worrying, but it shows that early marketing pronouncements need to be followed up with rigorous testing to determine benefits. Let’s hope Pfizer’s new treatment shows better results, but be wary of the early hype.
The mitigation strategies employed by the schools, including the recent test to stay program, have allowed students to remain learning in person. Swarthmore College employs even stricter protocols, and I’ve been told by students that campus life has largely returned to normal thanks to the precautions taken. Judging from what you hear from the schools, it appears much of school life in the district has returned as well. Let’s not lose what we have achieved to satisfy the most radical elements of our community. We are just beginning the coldest months and it seems likely the worst time to be rethinking safety measures. The WSSD board should wait to revisit the safety precautions until after the impact of the holidays is seen in mid-January.