Blair COVID numbers rise but B-A remains relatively unaffected

Civics+teacher+Mr.+Matthew+McNaul+takes+the+temperature+of+Chance+Schreier+as+part+of+B-A%27s+COVID+19+safety+guidelines.

Haley Campbell

Civics teacher Mr. Matthew McNaul takes the temperature of Chance Schreier as part of B-A’s COVID 19 safety guidelines.

Joe Dorminy, News Editor

Even though a number of schools opened back up in the beginning of the school year it doesn’t mean they are immune to COVID-19.  In the past few weeks Blair county has seen multiple school districts shutting down or not being able to participate in things like sports because of positive tests within the schools.

Blair County has certainly had its fair share of positive cases of late, with each day seemingly producing a record number of confirmed infections. On October 3, Blair County reached a new high of 38; on October 31 there were 78 new cases in a single day.  In its last three reported days, Blair County was over 70 infections each time.

The decision on sports would be dependent upon the number of positive cases and the ability to maintain the safety of students and staff.”

— Mr. Schreier

Neighboring counties have had similar numbers, as Cambria county and Huntington county.  Schools around the area have experienced numerous shutdowns due to positive cases.  One such school is Roaring spring Middle school, which in September sent home about 50 students and recommended they go into quarantine for 14 days.  Claysburg-Kimmel Elementary took similar steps in October.

With numbers in the county rising, the question now becomes what is Bellwood’s plan if the school district has too many positive cases? If the school shuts down, how long will it be shut down for? Will students be required to test for COVID-19?  There are a lot of unknowns right now but the school is still prepared to do what it needs to do to keep its students safe.

“In-person learning could be converted to temporary remote learning depending on the number of positive cases within a 14 day period,” reported high school principal Mr. Richard Schreier.  Mr. Schreier referred to the chart released in September by the Pennsylvania Department of Health detailing the amount of reported cases it would take to shut a school down. Five reported cases in one building during a 124-day period would be enough to force a school to close its doors for two weeks.

“The guidelines refer to individual building level closures,” he said.  “However, if community transmission levels are also high, then it would be possible for K-12 closure.”

The thought of shutting down the school is somewhat daunting to many students, especially for athletes. Due to the fact that no one can accurately predict what will happen next, winter sports may be at risk especially coming into the height of the flu and cold season. 

Schreier was asked what would happen to winter sports if more positive cases were to arise, to which he responded, “The decision on sports would be dependent upon the number of positive cases and the ability to maintain the safety of students and staff.”

Teams are planning to continue with their regular schedules as of now, said athletic director Mr. Charles Burch.

“As of now, we are continuing on as planned with restrictions on crowd size in the gym,” said Mr. Burch.  “PIAA has sent out guidelines to follow to try and be as safe as possible.”

One student who is hoping all goes well this upcoming winter season is senior Zach Miller, who is looking forward to playing his final season on the Bellwood boys basketball team.

“We’re trying to accomplish some of the goals we couldn’t accomplish last year,” said Miller, who said he would feel “terrible” if COVID would alter or end the season as it did last year, when the girls basketball teams’ chance at a PIAA three-peat was doused by the shutdown in March.

He was then asked how he would feel if it were to get cancelled to which she said, “Terrible. The seniors have worked so hard over the years and to have all that work thrown away our senior season would be awful.”

The uncertainty of these times is something no one could have ever truly been prepared for.  In these upcoming weeks and months, normality at Bellwood (or anywhere for that matter) is not a guarantee and it is for this reason that students and staff alike feel a certain level of unease and anxiety at what the future might hold for not only our school but our country as well.