Will vaccinated kids be able to go to school without masks by the end of the year? The question, posed by Supervisor Juli Briskaman (D Algonkian) seemed innocuous enough. The answer, from the County health director, Dr. David Goodfriend, caught Briskman — and probably many of the people listening in — off guard.
Goodfriend responded that by March the level of COVID-19 transmission could be low enough to allow for vaccinated students to attend school without a mask.
And it’s not hard to see why Briskman was surprised to hear that. Just minutes before Goodfriend’s somewhat cautiously optimistic prediction, the supervisors, along with the rest of us, learned that there were more people being treated for COVID-19 at Inova Loudoun Hospital on Tuesday than at any other point in the pandemic.
Not only that, but 15% of the workforce at StoneSprings Hospital Center in Dulles have contracted the disease over the course of just two weeks. Those revelations, coupled with the stunning increase in the rate of transmission seen in the county, painted a disheartening picture.
“I’m assuming one person in this room is contagious with COVID,” Goodfriend said to the board. “It’s everywhere right now.”
With the current 7-day average of new daily infections in Loudoun at 810 cases — three times higher than the previous high we saw last winter — it’s clear the virus will spread unabated if we resign ourselves to that possibility.
None of that, of course, is cause for panic. Concern, sure. What’s really needed is the resolve to continue to exercise mitigation measures, such as mask wearing in public settings. That, and more testing capacity.
That each of the county COVID-19 testing events over the last two weeks has reached capacity and had to turn people away demonstrates the need to scale up testing. We hope county officials are able to do that soon.
If one of our top priorities is to see transmission levels low enough for our kids to be able to attend school without a mask, we need to resolve to use every tool available in that endeavor.