Editorial: Easier to choose business as usual in 2021

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 26, 2021

With more experience and vaccines, it’s easier to choose business as usual in 2021.

Proof of that truism lies in the debate Rowan-Salisbury Schools and North Carolina were having last year.

With COVID-19 still relatively new, the debate in September and October 2020 focused on whether it was best to send public school students into the classroom full-time. RSS was using a hybrid schedule, with students coming to school buildings based on their last name. While Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 18 said K-5 students could come back to class five days per week, RSS stuck with its hybrid schedule during an early October school board vote.

We’ve learned since then that schools pose little danger for COVID-19 spread if proper precautions are followed, including mask wearing. As a result, educators, administrators and state officials judged the benefits of being in school outweigh dangers of students gathering in the classrooms. That vaccines are widely available for COVID-19 helps significantly.

Business as usual may continue to include masks, but that’s OK if our community’s children are more easily learning new information.

Any event of significance was called off in 2020. Gathering restrictions usually forced those decisions. Between face masks and the fact that vaccines are widely available, however most outdoors events are OK in 2021. The Cheerwine Festival and Pops at the Post are notable exceptions because of the size of the crowds expected to gather.

Time will tell, but the Rowan County Fair and Autumn Jubilee seem like OK events to keep on the calendar with common COVID-19 alterations. It’s fine for people to gather outdoors at Catawba College for a state pickleball tournament. Particularly because of changes made this year to the fair, none of the three events involve the same kind of sustained contact that make events like the Cheerwine Festival worrisome.

Indoor events still seem dicey because of the relatively small percentage of residents fully vaccinated in the county — 46%. It’s the vaccination percentage, too, that could produce another spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths when another variant arises. About 66,000 people in the county are fully vaccinated and nearly 25,000 people have tested positive during the pandemic. That still leaves about 56,000 people who have no protection from the virus.

The vaccination percentage must improve if people hope to completely return event calendars to pre-pandemic times. Face masks are probably here to stay for a while, too.