As a McHenry County resident I have been keeping up to date with the various debates and school board battles over whether or not children should wear masks in schools. The more I look at the McHenry County Department of Health’s dashboard, the clearer it becomes to me that these debates are pointless.
The McHenry County Department of Health metrics for children returning to school include positivity rate, hospital admissions, incidence rate and the weekly count of new cases increase. These metrics are encouraged to be used together, meaning we should not let one metric and one metric alone influence whether or not children should go back to school.
Let’s look at our positivity rate. The school metrics say if the rate is less than 5%, children can go in person. If the rate is 5% to 8%, the children should be in hybrid learning, and over 8% the children should be learning remotely.
On July 10 McHenry County had a positivity rate of 1.4%, one week later on July 17 the positivity rate was 3.7%. That is a 164% increase in one week. Let’s assume the positivity rate will increase by the same amount each week due to lower amounts of residents getting vaccinated and little to no new social distancing practices in place. That means on July 24, we will likely have a positivity rate around 6.1% which will increase to 9.9% by July 31. According to the positivity rate metric alone, children would be in hybrid learning by July 24 and learning remotely by July 31.
Fortunately as of writing this letter, hospital admissions are not increasing but as we can see with the positivity and incidence rates increasing, the weekly count of new cases increasing is inevitably going to increase.
Unless McHenry County residents take it upon themselves to help keep these metrics down, children will not be able to go back to in-person learning. The science tells us there are two ways of doing that: getting vaccinated and wearing masks.